FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Oct. 12, 1999) -- Six drivers will be battling for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship this Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Mall.com 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. But there will be a sub-plot unfolding during the race as well.
FORT WORTH-DALLAS (Oct. 12, 1999) -- Six drivers will be battling for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship this Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Mall.com 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. But there will be a sub-plot unfolding during the race as well. Four additional drivers will be challenging for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year award. Robby McGehee, Scott Harrington, Jaques Lazier, and John Hollansworth, Jr., will decide the season rookie championship this weekend.
McGehee, who was this year's Rookie of the Year at the Indianapolis 500, is the points leader (138) by just one over Harrington (137) coming into the Mall.com 500. Lazier (118) is third in the points standings followed by Hollansworth, Jr. (116).
"I really didn't expect to be in the running for the Rookie of the Year award, but the team has been doing well all year," McGehee said. "This has been a big jump this year for me to go from Formula One cars to Indy Cars, and the pit stops have been the biggest adjustment. We had some problems earlier in Texas by overshooting the stops, but the facility there is tremendous. To be able to race three-wide is great."
McGehee finished 19th at Texas Motor Speedway in the June Longhorn 500, one spot in front of Hollansworth and three in front of Lazier. Harrington, who placed 14th last month in Las Vegas, missed the start of the June race in Texas after suffering broken bones in both legs, a broken foot, and broken ribs when his car crashed in practice in turn two.
"We were running really well in practice (in June at Texas); a lap or so before the crash," Harrington recalls. "The CertainTeed crew really had the car hooked up, but nobody remembers that because we didn't even get to run the race. It would mean a lot to win the rookie award, both financially and for our morale.
"We are a young team, and I'm a rookie in Indy Cars, but we have learned a lot this year, and I really believe it can all come together at Texas in the Mall.com 500."
Lazier did not race in Texas last June and is coming off a seventh place finish in Las Vegas on Sept. 26 in his last time out.
"We are shooting to win the Rookie of the Year award," Lazier points out. "To do that, we know we need to win in Texas. To miss three races this year and still be in the hunt for the award is a dream come true. In our first race in Texas in June, we led for nine laps. This time, we want to go out and continue where we left off, and that is to run up front."
Lazier was involved in a crash and ran only 94 laps in the June race at Texas. He qualified 20th at Las Vegas last month but worked his way through the field and finished seventh, completing 205 laps.
Dallas-area resident Hollansworth, Jr., has made the move from Formula Ford cars to the IRL series and has been helping his team go through that transition period.
"We have been knocking on the door the last five races," Hollansworth said. "Our qualifying program has been coming along nicely. We think we are just around the corner from showing people some things.
"I love racing at Texas Motor Speedway. It is a classic Bruton Smith facility, and I am really glad the IRL gets to visit there twice each year."
Sprint PCS awards $50,000 to the Rookie of the Year in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League, and this year's rookie competition is one of the closest in history.