Conseco Driver Billy Boat Wins Texas Two-Step Championship FORT WORTH, Texas: Sept. 20, 1998 - A 14th place finish in the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway might not be the perfect day for Billy Boat-who won at TMS in June-but it was still...
Conseco Driver Billy Boat Wins Texas Two-Step Championship
FORT WORTH, Texas: Sept. 20, 1998 - A 14th place finish in the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway might not be the perfect day for Billy Boat-who won at TMS in June-but it was still a fruitful weekend for Boat and the Conseco/Foyt crew. The team broke three Pep Boys Indy Racing League records by winning the PPG Pole earlier in the weekend and captured the prestigious Texas Two-Step Championship today.
On Friday, Boat earned the pole position for the race with a speed of 225.979 mph. It was his third consecutive pole and fifth of the season, both records for the Pep Boys Indy Racing League. His winning speed was also the fastest ever in qualifying by a new-formula Indy Racing League car.
Starting today's 208-lap race from the front row, Boat struggled with handling and tire problems partially caused by the uncomfortably hot weather, which warmed the track temperature to 140 degrees. On lap 85, Boat made an unscheduled pit stop when his right front tire shredded. Then on lap 107, the No. 11 Conseco Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear hit the turn three wall when the right rear tire blew up.
"I don't think we really expected it to be this hot or that we would see the kind of tire temperatures that we saw today," Boat said. "We got down early in the race because of a push in the car. After that, I was trying to play catch up and was running the car pretty hard. We had a fast race car, we were just using up the tires too quickly and we lost them. When the right front went I was able to save it. Then we blew the right rear tire and knocked the left rear corner off and the nose."
Following the crash, the Conseco crew, led by chief mechanic Craig Baranouski, took the car back to the garage and quickly repaired the damage. Boat returned to the race on lap 150 to the sound of cheers from the crowd of 78,000. He cruised around the remainder of the race and was able to improve his standing by five positions.
Boat's 14th place finish, coupled with his victory in the June 6 True Value 500, earned him enough points to capture the Texas Two-Step Championship. The $100,000 prize was awarded to the team for scoring the most combined points in the two IRL races at Texas Motor Speedway.
"I have to give credit to the guys on the A.J. Foyt/Conseco team," Boat said. "The five positions we gained by going back out were critical for the Two Step. A $100,000 is not a bad amount to take home with us."
The final race of the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League Championship is the Los Vegas 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Oct. 11.