IRL: Pikes Peak race day trackside reportS

SUNDAY, JUNE 29 Race Day - DAY 3 The Indy Racing League is making today a special one for 12-year-old Crissy Crow of Fountain. Crissy has successfully fought off abdominal cancer, is living with diabetes and is looking forward to a lung ...

SUNDAY, JUNE 29 Race Day - DAY 3

The Indy Racing League is making today a special one for 12-year-old Crissy Crow of Fountain. Crissy has successfully fought off abdominal cancer, is living with diabetes and is looking forward to a lung transplant. She and her family are guests today of Mari Hulman George, chairman of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the IRL suite for today's Samsonite 200. On Saturday, IRL representatives presented a check for $4,500 to the Crow family at a fundraiser sponsored by the Lutheran Brotherhood at American Legion Post 38 in Security. When Crissy said she was a race fan,m Mrs. George provided tickets for today's race. Mrs. George read of Crissy's plight in Thursday's Colorado Springs Gazette. Fundraising will continue to cover the estimated $200,000 cost of the lung operation.

Steve Knepper of Belleville, Ill., became the first driver in the history of the new 16th Street Speedway in Indianapolis to win three midget features in a row. He was followed in the main by Andy Pierce, Travis Welpott, Jerry Zike and Johnny Parsons III. Jack Hewitt was fast qualifier.

8:30 a.m. update on driver Jim Guthrie: He remains at Penrose Hospital in good condition with a fracture of the thoracic 7 vertebra. It's anticipated he'll be released on Monday.

Rookie Jimmy Kite has a rookie crew chief. Steve Namisnak, who has been with Team Scandia for four years and has been the lead mechanic on the #33 Old Navy entry this year, is in charge as crew chief this weekend. Regular crew chief Brad McCanless is back home in Indianapolis with his wife, Marian, awaiting the birth of their second child. Namisnak, 29, was a tank commander in Operation Desert Storm and said his army training prepared him well for this type of situation.

Thomas Chastain, owner of the #77 Estridge-Moen-Nutone-Porter Paint-Jack K. Elrod entry, said in his garage this morning that his sponsors are carryovers from the Indianapolis 500, where the car driven by Stephan Gregoire was taken out in a first-lap accident. "We worked very hard on getting Paul Estridge (home builder from Carmel, Ind.) and Jack K. Elrod (an Indianapolis firm) for coming on board as first-time sponsors at the Indy 500," Chastain said, "and we're very disappointed not to ever see the green flag. So, we're carrying their names at the Samsonite 200 as =91pay back.'= We feel we need to give them something back. We believe they were cut short, as our team feels it was cut short. It's part of racing but for first-time sponsors, you don't want them to be discouraged. We want to keep their interest up."

At Saturday's autograph session, Brad Calkins, father of 1996 IRL co-champion Buzz Calkins, helped a handicapped youth into the cockpit of the #12 Bradley Foodmarts entry in the garage area. After the experience made his day, the youth's mother asked him in sign language who he wanted to win. The youth signed back, "Tony Stewart."

University of Colorado football coach Rick Neuheisel will again be the "lollipop man" for Buzz Calkins in the Samsonite 200. Neuheisel has served on the Bradley Motorsports crew previously at the Indianapolis 500. The lollipop man (a designation coined by the Bradley team) holds the sign board that shows the driver where to "hit the marks" on a pit stop.

According to a Speedway Motorsports release, more than 149,000 spectators passed through the Texas gates during the weekend of June 6-7 to attend the Indy Racing League's True Value 500 and the Prono Auto Parts 400 Craftsman Truck Series race. Although these events were "inaugural", they both established records for Speedway Motorsports and for the individual racing series. The Texas Motor Speedway crowd for the IRL race was the largest in history other than the Indianapolis 500, which annually is the world's largest one-day sporting event.

SAMSONITE 200 RACE RUNNING:

1 p.m. =97 Temperature was 90 degrees, track temperature 137 degrees, according to Goodyear tire engineers.

Lap 1: YELLOW, #2 Stewart took lead on outside in Turn 2, #1 Sharp did a quarter-spin to hit outside wall. #2 Stewart has now led the opening lap of every IRL race during 1997. Lap 2: #70 Greco to pits, crew checked engine, returned to track. Lap 7: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #14 Hamilton, #6 Goodyear, #4 Brack, #12= Calkins. Lap 12: GREEN. Lap 17: #2 Stewart leads #14 Hamilton by 1.9 seconds. Lap 20: #2 Stewart leads #14 Hamilton by 3.0 seconds. 1:15 p.m. =97 Temperature 89 degrees, track temperature 140, according to Firestone tire engineers. Lap 23: #97 Ray to pits. Lap 25: YELLOW, #10 Unser hit wall, Turn 2. Unser was examined and released from the track emergency center. Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #14 Hamilton, #6 Goodyear, #4 Brack, #12 Calkins. Update: Scott Sharp was transported by ambulance to Penrose Hospital awake and alert for further evaluation. JONATHAN BYRD (owner, #10 Unser): "I don't know what happened. The spotter called and told him the leader was coming up on him. He got high. Everything was going along as planned." Lap 28: #91 Lazier to pits, car reported loose, returned to track. Lap 29: #97 Ray to pits, rear-wing adjustment. #6 Goodyear to pits. 1:30 p.m. =97 Temperature 90, track temperature 142 from Firestone tire= engineers. Lap 30: 15 cars on lead lap. Lap 34: #77 Gregoire, #97 Ray to pits. Lap 38: GREEN. #91 Lazier just head of leader #2 Stewart on same lap. Lap 41: YELLOW, #33 Kite hit wall, Turn 4. Lap 45: #21 Guerrero, #4 Brack to pits. Lap 50: 14 cars on lead lap. Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #14 Hamilton, #6 Goodyear, #12 Calkins, #17 Giaffone, #18 Boat, #30 Groff, #22 Sospiri, #51 Cheever, #5 Luyendyk. Lap 55: #70 Greco to pits, tires and fuel. Lap 57: GREEN. Lap 59: #2 Stewart leads #14 Hamilton by 1.1 seconds. Lap 68: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart by 2.8 seconds over #14 Hamilton, #6= Goodyear, #12 Calkins, #18 Boat. UNSER: "I don't know reqally what happened. It felt like the front of the car got pinched. It wasn't that great through (Turns) 1 and 2 but that isn't anything we hadn't experienced before. I'm just sorry it had to happen."

2 p.m. =97 Temperature 89 degrees, track temperature 136 from Goodyear tire engineers. Lap 76: #17 Giaffone to pits, four tires, fuel. KITE: "It was fun. I wished it would have lasted longer. We'll go to Charlotte and get some laps in and start thinking about finishing the race there. I'm sorry for the team this afternoon. I just want to thank everyone from Scandia and Old Navy." Lap 83: #2 Stewart leads #6 Goodyear by 10.4 seconds. Lap 87: YELLOW, #21 Guerrero, #18 Boat tangle, Turn 4. Lap 89: #2 Stewart, #6 Goodyear, #14 Hamilton, #17 Giaffone, #30 Groff, #12 Calkins, others to pits. Lap 91: #5 Luyendyk to pits, four tires, fuel. Lap 92: #77 Gregoire in lead, followed by #2 Stewart, #6 Goodyear, #14 Hamilton, #12 Calkins. Lap 94: 9 cars on lead lap. Lap 96: #77 Gregoire to pits, 32 Stewart takes lead. Lap 99: GREEN. #4 Brack returns to lead lap. Lap 101: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart by 1.8 seconds over #6 Goodyear, followed= by #22 Sospiri, #14 Hamilton, #51 Cheever. Lap 107: 10 cars on lead lap. Lap 113: YELLOW, #97 Ray hit wall, Turn 4. GUERRERO: I'm disappointed. The car was ruynning very well. It was fun for me to race again. It's too bad what happened. Billy (Boat) just lost it." Lap 116: #17 Giaffone to pits, returned to track. #4 Brack to pits, four tires, fuel. Lap 117: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #6 Goodyear, #22 Sospiri, #14 Hamilton,= #51 Cheever, #30 Groff, #12 Calkins, #5 Luyendyk, #77 Gregoire, #4 Brack. #91 Lazier to pits, wing adjustment. Lap 119: #28 Dismore returned to pits for wicker bill adjustment. Lap 120: GREEN. #22 Sospiri passes #6 Goodyear for second place in Turn 3. Lap 121: #51 Cheever passes #14 Hamilton in Turn 3 for fourth. Update: Guerrero, Boat and Ray were examined and released from the track emergency center. Lap 123: #2 Stewart leads #22 Sospiri by 3.0 seconds. #7 Salazar to pits, rear cowling removed by crew, clutch problem. Lap 129: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #22 Sospiri, #6 Goodyear. Lap 130: #14 Hamilton passes #51 Cheever in Turn 3 for fourth. #4 Brack passes #5 Luyendyk in Turn 3 for ninth. Lap 131: #2 Stewart leads #22 Sospiri by 3.4 seconds. Lap 136: #12 Calkins passes #51 Cheever at line for fifth. Lap 140: #2 Stewart leads #22 Sospiri by 4.0 seconds. Lap 144: #12 Calkins passes #6 Goodyear in Turn 3 for third. Lap 146: YELLOW, #40 Miller hit wall, Turn 4, came to a stop at start/finish line. JOE KENNEDY (co-owner, #40 Miller): "The spotter said he got up high in Turn 4 and just lost it." Lap 149: #22 Sospiri to pits, four tires, fuel, wicker adjustment. #2 Stewart to pits, four tires, fuel. #6 Goodyear to pits, four tires, fuel. #12 Calkins to pits, four tires, fuel.

BOAT: "The car was flying the first 65 laps or so (had moved from 15th to fifth). Then it got real loose. We made a stop and changed tires. After the stop, it was still pretty loose. Then it started to come around to where it was feeling pretty good again but I was running on the edge anyway. I had to save it a couple times. When he (Guerrero) came up behind me, I don't know...the air off the rear wing might have upset the car. It just jumped out on me which it shouldn't have done. I spun and he hit me." Lap 153: #91 Lazier to pits, wing adjustment. Lap 154: #70 Greco to pits. Update: Dr. Jack Miller was examined and released from the track emergency center. Lap 154: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #12 Calkins, #77 Gregoire, #14 Hamilton,= #51 Cheever, #5 Luyendyk, #4 Brack, #30 Groff, #6 Goodyear, #22 Sospiri. 10 cars on lead lap. Lap 157: GREEN: #51 Cheever to third on restart, to second .8 of a second behind Stewart at end of lap. Lap 159: #77 Gregoire passes #12 Calkins for third in Turn 1. Lap 161: #2 Stewart leads #51 Cheever by 1.6 seconds. Lap 163: #17 Giaffone to pits. Lap 165: YELLOW, #5 Luyendyk hit wall in Turn 2, came to stop against inside wall down backstretch. SKIP FAUL (chief mechanic, #5 Luyendyk): "He got loose going out of (Turn) 2 and spun and hit the inside wall. That's all we know." Lap 166: Leaders =97 #2 Stewart, #51 Cheever, #77 Gregoire, #12 Calkins, #4 Brack, #14 Hamilton,=20 Lap 168: #51 Cheever crew reports he has no second gear. Lap 172: GREEN. #14 Hamilton passes #4 Brack in Turn 1 for fifth. Update: Luyendyk was examined and released from the track emergency center. Lap 174: #2 Stewart leads #51 Cheever by 1.2 seconds. 2:45 p.m. =97 Temperature 92 degrees, track temperature 139 degrees,= according to Firestone tire engineers. Lap 178: #2 Stewart leads #51 Cheever by 1.5 seconds, #77 Gregoire by 2.0 seconds, #12 Calkins by 2.7 seconds. Lap 181: YELLOW, #4 Brack hit wall between Turns 3 and 4, stopped in Turn 4. 3 p.m. =97 Temperature 91 degrees, track temperature 136 degrees, according= to Goodyear tire engineers. Lap 184: 8 cars on lead lap. Lap 188; GREEN. #14 Hamilton passes #12 Calkins in Turn 1 for fourth. Lap 190: #2 Stewart leads #51 Cheever by 1.3 seconds. Lap 192: #77 Gregoire side-by-side with #51 Cheever, passes for second in Turn 3. Update: Brack was examined and released from the track emergency center. Lap 194: YELLOW, #30 Groff spun in Turn 2, hit inside wall. Lap 198: GREEN. #14 Hamilton passes #51 Cheever for third in Turn 1. Lap 199: #2 Stewart leads #77 Gregoire by .5 of a second. Lap 200: #2 Stewart wins the Samsonite 200 by .2 of a second over #77 Gregoire. #14 Hamilton third, followed by #51 Cheever, #12 Calkins, #22 Sospiri, #6 Goodyear. Seven cars on lead lap.

This is Tony Stewart's first Indy Racing League victory. 12 cars running at the finish. Update at 3:17 p.m.: Scott Sharp has a subdural brain hemorrhage, is listed in serious condition and will remain in Penrose Hospital in Colorado= Springs.

POST-SAMSONITE 200 NOTES, QUOTES: =09 STEPHAN GREGOIRE: "We got a slow start. The car was really loose. We went from 11th to 17th right away. We made adjustments during each pit stop. My engineer, Darrell Soppe, was Rick Mears' engineer...he's very, very good and he gave me a great car."

AFFONSO GIAFFONE: "This was our first finish of the year. We're feeling really good. The car was loose all day and we made one extra pit stop to make some adjustments and in the end, it was really good. This gives the team some momentum for future races."

Stephan Gregoire's finish of second is his best career finish. His previous best was fifth at Phoenix in 1997. It was also the first time Gregoire has led an IRL event, although he led Lap 18 of the 1993 Indianapolis 500, his first race in Indy-style cars. Vincenzo Sospiri's finish of sixth is his best career finish. His previous best was ninth at Texas. Davey Hamilton has now been running at the finish in eight straight races. This is Tony Stewart's fourth straight top-five finish. The seven cars running on the lead lap at the finish is the most in IRL history. The previous highest total was five at Walt Disney World in January of this year.

SCOTT GOODYEAR: "The run was fine. We were running second most of the day and at the end we had a fuel problem. The second-to-last stop, we didn't get any fuel and we had to come back in. So we went from second to ninth. It's a difficult track to pass on. Starting the race up front was important." (About when Unser came across in front of him): "I just barely missed him. I thought I was going to hit him."

ELISEO SALAZAR: "Hard to be satisfied with 12th. We got a black-flag penalty because Kite missed a gear and they said we passed him on a restart. After the stop-and-go, we were passing everyone. Then towards the end, the gearbox was stuck in fourth and we pitted and lost 11 laps. I think we had the fastest car today because I passed Stewart and could keep up with him."

BUDDY LAZIER: "There's no kidding it. We had one of the more miserable days ever. The car wouldn't ever get a balance. We adjusted several times and just couldn't get it balanced. Look forward to testing on a short oval. We had a real rough day. It's tough on the team and tough on me."

EDDIE CHEEVER JR.: "My car had a lot of push and on the restarts I could go in very hard. The car got better throughout the race. The crew had great pit stops. On the last restart, I got snookered by Hamilton. I had been told earlier by the officials that if I held back one more time on a restart, they would black-flag me. I did not see Hamilton. He must've gotten a run on me and got me in Turn 1." (About racing with Gregoire): "It was a great race. He ran a helluva race. I had him covered in Turn 1 and 2 and he had me in (Turns) 3 and 4. It was a great race, a great track and at the end, he strung me out for a lap and a half and going into (Turn) 3, I couldn't do anything else."

BUZZ CALKINS: "I had a small handling problem but I really didn't need those late cautions. We were handling better at the end but the yellows got me. Don't know why people had so much trouble with Turn 4. I was having some in 9Turn) 2. We were capable of a better finish."

MARK DISMORE: "We were good for a handful of laps and then it would go away. We were bad loose 80 percent of the day. We really missed it on the setup. I've never had less fun in a race car."

ARIE LUYENDYK: "I'm really disappointed to crash twice here this weekend. It's certainly not my idea of a good time. My car was a big struggle in traffic and my restarts were slow due to a sticky gearshift. I think it hurt us that we missed two sessions and never had the chance to run in traffic."

MARCO GRECO: "We had problems starting the car. It kept misfiring and I lost the dash...no instruments. The car was slow and I had a problem with understeer. At the end, as I exited pit road on the back straight, the car died. I was towed to the pits, where they fixed the problem and I was able to finish the race. My crew did a great job but we need to make some adjustments to the car. I'm looking forward to Charlotte."

DR. JACK MILLER: "For awhile, the car was perfect. Then we dropped 10 miles per hour in about three to five laps. My car was as loose as could be. A couple of cars came underneath me and the wind just pushed me up to the wall. We had poor handling prior to the accident. It's unfortunate that the dentist brushed the wall."

ROBBIE GROFF: "Our car was really good. I'd been running with everybody all day long except Stewart, who's in a league of his own. This is the type of track with conditions you really have to stay on top of. These cars are so close time-wise (that) any little error on the line could cause problems."

VINCENZO SOSPIRI: (about first race on a one-mile oval): "Very busy out there. It's nice. One-mile is wide, perfect banking all the way through. I think there was a lot of rubber (on the track). If you get off the groove just even five inches, that's it. It happened to Luyendyk, Brack and others. I think if a (sweeper) truck could clean it up, that'd make it a safer race...not so many accidents. My Old Navy team did good for me. We went from 18th to sixth. We changed an engine eysterday. We did a lot of improvement. At one stage we got up to second and then had a slight delay on one pit (stop) and dropped back to eighth. But (we) managed to finish fifth or sixth, I'm not sure. (The) Old Navy (team) has gotten very strong since we've been here. I think we will finish (on the) podium soon. The best thing about this place is the weather. It's similar to my place in Italy...mountains next to my house and things."

Attendance estimates for the weekend: 6,200 on Friday, 11,300 on Saturday and 38,100 on Sunday for a total of 55,600. Margin of victory was .222 of a second, which is the closest finish in IRL history. The previous closest was the 1997 Indianapolis 500, when Arie Luyendyk beat Scott Goodyear to the line by .570 of a second. Tony Stewart led 193 laps, which is the most laps led by a driver in a single IRL race.

DAVEY HAMILTON: "The yellows hurt me earlier. Towards the end, they helped me. Eddie (Cheever) taught me the move and I got him with it. It was a two-groove race track towards the end. Earlier, it was a three-groove race track. This is due to the tire war between Goodyear and Firestone. They're making good tires and there were a lot of marbles out there (meaning the tires were sticking). I want to win one. I've been third three times now."

STEPHAN GREGOIRE: "Race after race, it's still a learning curve. We need to do more testing. We are a small team and we didn't make it to Texas and coming here, we had problems on Friday but everyone worked hard to overcome them. I'm still carrying the same sponsors we did at Indy because they helped us so much and they deserved it." (NOTE: Gregoire was last on the Friday speed chart.)

KENNY BRACK: "I had an oversteer all day and I finally just lost it. To me it looked like I was losing time all day. I came in very early to try to get it fixed and it never got corrected."

TONY STEWART: (upon entering conference room): "I finally get to sit in the middle seat." (About the race): "At the beginning of the race, the car was pretty good so we decided to see how it went. In the middle, the car got a little loose. We had a yellow and came in and tightened it up. We got it too tight. Then it took a couple more yellows, but it was eventually okay. I hoped that everything would stay together. All the pieces did stay together. If this altitude is what it takes for me to win, then we had better start elevating race tracks. I just tried to work with the balance and sway bars in the cockpit and just kept balancing it out all day. There were no engine failures today. It shows how strong the IRL is. To start the year with brand-new engines and chassis, it just shows the commitments of Nissan and Oldsmobile to this program. It's pretty remarkable that halfway through the season, you can have a race with no engine failures." (About winning): "I've been racing for 18 years so every win is special but I'm just glad to do this for these two guys (Larry Curry and John Menard). With all the 18-hour days, they've never griped at all. I'm just happy to do this with them." (About Charlotte): "I think there's a lot of interest there. When we tested last week, there were about 3,000 people who came out. Those people like us, too. When we quit testing at 10:30 that night, half of them were still there. There's definitely an interest in us and our racing in Charlotte."

JOHN MENARD: "I entered my first race in =9179. I think that was before Tony was born. I guess it shows perseverance pays off. I hope it doesn't take another 18 years to win again. I thinkw e had nine cars on the lead lap at the end. It was a great race. I couldn't even breathe the last few laps. I was hyperventilating."=20

LARRY CURRY (director of racing, Team Menard): "I've been in this busienss for 24 years and today, without a shadow of a doubt, was the absolute best communication between the teams and contrrol. Those guys (race control officials) deserve an A-plus."

CORRECTION: In the race running, a quote from Roberto Guerrero should end "Billy (Boat) just lost it."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Buzz Calkins , Stephan Gregoire , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Jim Guthrie , Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero , Jimmy Kite , Rick Mears , Jack Hewitt , Johnny Parsons , Steve Knepper , Vincenzo Sospiri , Jack Miller