For Immediate Release To Follow Box Score, Points STEWART GETS FIRST INDY RACING LEAGUE WIN IN SAMSONITE 200 FOUNTAIN, COLO., June 29, 1997 =97 Tony Stewart, the Indy Racing League's career top lap ...
For Immediate Release To Follow Box Score, Points
STEWART GETS FIRST INDY RACING LEAGUE WIN IN SAMSONITE 200
FOUNTAIN, COLO., June 29, 1997 =97 Tony Stewart, the Indy Racing League's career top lap leader who had been denied a visit to an IRL Victory Lane, ended that drought Sunday by capturing the Samsonite 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Stewart led 193 of the 200 circuits around the one-mile oval and won by .222 of a second over Stephan Gregoire, who also claimed his career-best IRL finish. The margin of victory was the closest in IRL history, breaking the mark of .57 of a second set by Arie Luyendyk over Scott Goodyear in the Indianapolis 500 last month. With the win, Stewart and Team Menard claimed $161,500 of the total posted awards of $1,120,000. Davey Hamilton was third, running at the finish of his eighth straight IRL race, to maintain his 1996-97 IRL point lead with 207, five more than Stewart headed into the Charlotte 500k next month. Stewart's victory was the first for Team Menard in 18 years of fielding Indianapolis-style cars. "I've been racing for 18 years so every win is special but I'm just glad to do this for these two guys (owner John Menard and team director of racing Larry Curry)," Stewart said. "With all the 18-hour days, they've never griped at all. I'm just happy to do this with them." "I entered my first race in =9179," Menard said. "I think that was before Tony was born. I hope it doesn't take another 18 years to win again." In all, seven cars were running on the lead lap at the end, an IRL record. The previous high total was five in the 1997 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World in January. Behind Hamilton came Eddie Cheever Jr., Buzz Calkins, rookie Vincenzo Sospiri (in sixth, a career IRL best in his first time on a one-mile oval) and Scott Goodyear. Gregoire's finish came from a long pull from being slowest in practice on Friday and dropping back early in the race. But his runner-up finish bettered his best previous result of fifth in March at Phoenix. "We got a slow start," he said. "We went from 11th to 17th right away. We made adjustments during each pit stop. My engineer, Darrell Soppe...he's very, very good and gave me a great car." Scott Sharp, who won the PPG Pole for the race, was in serious condition at Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs after suffering a subdural brain hemorrhage in a first-lap accident. He was the only driver injured in nine incidents during the day. Rookie Jimmy Kite, competing in his first race in Indy-style cars, had the fastest lap of the race at 167.715 miles an hour on Lap 15. Stewart was the MBNA America Lap Leader. Team Menard had two pit stops for 59 seconds to win the Coors Pit Performance honor. A estimated turnout of 38,100 on Race Day boosted weekend attendance figures to 55,600. ..IRL97-22..