IRL: Pike's Peak Preview

LOADED FIELD READY TO ROLL AT PIKES PEAK FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 4, 1998 - As the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season enters its final stretch, there will be no easy victories. A handful of drivers still have the series championship...


FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 4, 1998 - As the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season enters its final stretch, there will be no easy victories. A handful of drivers still have the series championship and the Pep Boys Million in their sights, so the competition will be fierce. There will be no gimmes. Take a look at the entry list, and it's easy to see why the second annual Radisson 200 on Aug. 16 at Pikes Peak International Raceway could be one of the toughest races of the year. The 200-lap race starts at 2 p.m. (MDT) on the 1-mile oval at picturesque PPIR. Quite simply, the lineup for this race is loaded. Many prominent drivers will return to racing at Pikes Peak after missing races last month at Dover, Del., and Charlotte, N.C. This is the eighth of 11 races in the series this season. Billy Boat leads the list of prominent returnees. Boat, from Phoenix, missed the Pep Boys 400K at Dover Downs and the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway due to a broken left leg and broken pelvis suffered in a crash during the New England 200 on June 28 at New Hampshire International Speedway. He will be back in the cockpit of the Conseco-A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear at PPIR. Before his accident, Boat contended for the Pep Boys Million. He won the True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway to climb into third in the season point standings. He has fallen to 12th, with 122 points, during his two-race hiatus. Boat showed almost no rust during a test session July 28-29 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, turning a fast lap of 220.955 mph. It was the third-fastest lap among all drivers at the test. Another top driver returning at Pikes Peak is Robbie Buhl in the Johns Manville-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. He missed the last two races when team owner John Menard decided to field a car only for defending event and series champion Tony Stewart. One of the most famous names in racing will return to Pikes Peak, but this time at PPIR. Robby Unser, eight-time winner of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, will resume his outstanding Pep Boys IRL rookie season in The Children's Beverage Group-Team Cheever G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. Unser, from Santa Fe, N.M., missed the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after suffering a broken foot in a crash while running in the top five at the Pep Boys 400K at Dover Downs. He has finished 11th or better in all four IRL events he's entered this season, including fifth in his debut at the Indianapolis 500. Another driver who produced an outstanding finish at Indy, Steve Knapp, will make his comeback to the league in the Earl's Performance Products G Force/Aurora/Goodyear at PPIR. Knapp finished third at the Indianapolis 500, earning Bank One Rookie of the Year honors. He was headed for a strong finish at Dover before crashing and missing the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte, N.C. Veteran Roberto Guerrero will return to the league at PPIR with a new team, CBR-Cobb Racing. Guerrero started the first four races of the season with Pagan Racing before being replaced by Stevie Reeves. Another veteran, Stan Wattles, will be back in his Metro Racing Systems Riley & Scott/Aurora/Goodyear after missing the last two races. Denver native Buzz Calkins also will make a homecoming of sorts during the Radisson 200. Calkins skipped the VisionAire 500 at Charlotte after the team had mechanical problems at Dover. But Calkins finished fifth at this event last year in his Bradley Food Marts/Sav-O-Mat G Force/Aurora/Goodyear, making PPIR the perfect place to launch a comeback. Calkins is just part of the Colorado connection to this event. The winners of two of the last three Indianapolis 500's have ties to the Rockies. 1996 winner Buddy Lazier lives in Vail, and this year's winner, Eddie Cheever Jr., formerly lived in Aspen. Both drivers produced strong finishes at their "home" track last year, Cheever finishing fourth and Lazier eighth. While the strong cast of returning drivers and the Colorado connection will attract attention during race weekend, the battle for the Pep Boys Million continues to rage. Scott Sharp leads Stewart by just eight points, 214-206. Idaho native Davey Hamilton just behind in third with 189. It's safe to say that the top three are looking in their rear-view mirrors at Kenny Brack and Scott Goodyear, tied for fourth with 182 points. Brack won the VisionAire 500 on July 25 at Charlotte for his first career Pep Boys IRL victory and carries plenty of momentum into this event in his A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Goodyear has been a model of consistency the last two months in his Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. He has finished fourth, second, sixth and third, respectively, in his last four races to climb from a tie for 14th to a tie for fourth.


Event schedule: The second annual Radisson 200 is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. (MDT) Aug. 16. PPG Pole qualifying starts at noon Aug. 15. Pep Boys IRL practice sessions will start at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Aug. 14, and 9:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Aug. 15.

*** Broadcast schedule: The Radisson 200 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 16. PPG Pole qualifying will be televised live on SpeedVision at 2 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 15. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 4 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 16, with a prerace show starting at 3:30 p.m. A 30-minute qualifying highlights show will start at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 15.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Billy Boat , Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero , Kenny Brack , Steve Knapp , Stan Wattles , Robby Unser , Stevie Reeves , A.J. Foyt