IRL: Olds Phoenix Race Report

Scott Goodyear Scores Breakthrough Victory in Phoenix, Notches IRL Aurora V8's 21st Consecutive Win PHOENIX, March 28, 1999 - It wasn't the OK Corral, but when the smoke cleared and the dust settled after a 200-lap shootout at ...

Scott Goodyear Scores Breakthrough Victory in Phoenix, Notches IRL Aurora V8's 21st Consecutive Win

PHOENIX, March 28, 1999 - It wasn't the OK Corral, but when the smoke cleared and the dust settled after a 200-lap shootout at Phoenix International Raceway, Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 was still standing tall as the top gun in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Scott Goodyear outgunned a field of 26 rivals to score his breakthrough first IRL victory in the MCI WorldCom 200 with his Oldsmobile-powered Pennzoil Panther G-Force.

For the third straight year, Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 was the "Best in the West" on the fast one-mile Phoenix oval. Goodyear notched Oldsmobile's 21st consecutive IRL race win in the heat of an Arizona afternoon. Jeff Ward trailed Goodyear across the finish line stripe by 4.7 seconds in his first start with the revamped Pagan Racing team's Oldsmobile-Dallara.

Oldsmobile withstood Nissan's strongest challenge yet to the IRL Aurora V8's dominance in IRL competition. Third-place Robbie Buhl posted Nissan's first podium finish in more than two years. Local hero Billy Boat ramrodded A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile-Dallara from the 23rd starting spot to fourth at the checkered flag, and Scott Harrington rounded out the top five in an Infiniti-equipped entry.

"I'm elated!" Goodyear exclaimed. "My Oldsmobile engine was very strong at the end. We used the same engine all weekend in practice, qualifying, and the race. We could run 21-second laps at the finish."

Goodyear demonstrated the power of his IRL Aurora V8 engine built by Indianapolis-based Speedway Engine Development when he broke away from the field after the final caution period ended on Lap 196. "The guys at Speedway, from (co-owner) Rick Long on down, have done a great job," said Goodyear. "They worked hard over the winter and they stepped up the engine program. I probably drove them nuts looking for little improvements in the electronics and fuel management, but it paid off."

Goodyear, 39, a Toronto native now living in Carmel, Ind., turned the fastest lap of the race at 167.428 mph. He led 134 of the 200 circuits and averaged 102.856 mph over the 200-mile distance. He took command of the race on Lap 149 after a pair of Indy 500 champions, race-leader Eddie Cheever, Jr. and Buddy Lazier, tangled in Turn 3.

Goodyear finally tasted victory after four runner-up finishes in IRL competition. His long-awaited win was even sweeter when he moved to the top of the championship standings with 93 points, an 18-point advantage over No. 2-ranked Ward. Oldsmobile racers now hold the top six spots: Orlando winner Cheever is third with 63 points, followed by Scott Sharp (61), Mark Dismore (56), and Boat (54).

HOW THE WEST WAS WON

Twenty-eight IRL teams convened in the Valley of the Sun after a nine-week break following the season-opener in Orlando. Twenty-four of the 27 starters (88% of the field) used IRL Aurora V8 engines. Five Oldsmobile drivers - Goodyear, Cheever, Dismore, Donnie Beechler, and Boat - combined to lead all 200 laps in the MCI WorldCom 200. Fourteen cars were running at the finish - 12 of them powered by IRL Aurora V8s.

Oldsmobile engines had a perfect reliability record in practice and qualifying for the MCI WorldCom 200, with no reported mechanical engine problems. Accidents during the race sidelined several front-running Oldsmobile contenders, including Cheever, Lazier, polewinner Greg Ray, John Paul, Jr., reigning IRL champion Kenny Brack, Steve Knapp, and Robby Unser. On-track incidents brought out the yellow flag eight times for a total of 61 laps, but there were no serious driver injuries.

"Accidents involving Oldsmobile drivers certainly affected the outcome, but that's the nature of oval-track racing." commented Joe Negri, GM Motorsports IRL/Road Racing group manager. "Two Nissan entries ran well enough to stay on the lead lap, so obviously their program is making progress, which is good for the series."

Traffic was heavy on the fast Arizona oval. "The race today was tough," observed runner-up Ward, whose last chance to chase down Goodyear on the final restart was thwarted by lapped cars. "I had some close calls, and I was right behind an accident on the front straightaway. I had a good run going, but Scott had the car today. It would have been very difficult to beat him."

QUALIFYING: RAY OF LIGHT

Greg Ray won his first career IRL pole in Phoenix, setting the PIR track qualifying record for new-formula IRL cars at 177.139 mph in Team Menard's Oldsmobile-powered Dallara. Ray's record-setting run raised the mark set last year by Jeff Ward at 172.753 mph by more than four mph.

"Fabulous!" Ray exclaimed. "This is what it's all about, this is what we work for. Last year we qualified second several times, and we were always the bridesmaid. The car has been very consistent. I've never started a year when I've been so pleased with the equipment, the personnel, and the team chemistry."

Ray's promising start ended on Lap 94 when he had contact with John Paul, Jr., who slowed after getting loose in the "marbles" above the racing line. "We had nowhere to go," said Ray, who was running in second place at the time of the incident. "I just couldn't get slowed down quickly enough."

Butch Meyer, head of Team Menard's in-house engine shop, built Ray's record-setting IRL Aurora V8. "Our race engine was very close in performance to the qualifying motor," Meyer revealed.

MCI WORLDCOM 200 RESULTS

Top Five Finishers: Driver Entrant Engine Laps 1. Scott Goodyear Panther Racing Oldsmobile 200 2. Jeff Ward Pagan Racing Oldsmobile 200 3. Robbie Buhl Sinden Racing Svc. Nissan 200 4. Billy Boat A.J. Foyt Ent. Oldsmobile 200 5. Scott Harrington Harrington Mtrspts. Nissan 200 Pole: Greg Ray/Oldsmobile, 177.139 mph (track record for new-formula IRL cars) Fastest Lap: Scott Goodyear/Oldsmobile, 167.528 mph

Next Event: The Pep Boys Indy Racing League will be back in action on the high-banked Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte, N.C., on Saturday night, May 1.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Donnie Beechler , Kenny Brack , Steve Knapp , Scott Harrington , John Paul , A.J. Foyt
Teams Panther Racing