IRL: Texas Championship Contenders Fast in Final Practice

BIG GUNS FAST IN PRACTICE, PREPARE FOR TEXAS SHOOTOUT FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 19, 1998 - The top five in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings were among the eight fastest drivers Saturday in the final practice for the Lone Star 500,...

BIG GUNS FAST IN PRACTICE, PREPARE FOR TEXAS SHOOTOUT

FORT WORTH, Texas, Sept. 19, 1998 - The top five in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League point standings were among the eight fastest drivers Saturday in the final practice for the Lone Star 500, setting up a Sunday showdown at Texas Motor Speedway in the race for the season championship. Defending league champion Tony Stewart was fastest during final practice on the 1.5-mile quad-oval with a lap of 224.822 mph in the Glidden-Menards-Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. Scott Sharp, driving the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, was second at 223.464 and Scott Goodyear third at 223.187 in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear.

Stewart is tied for second in the Pep Boys Indy Racing League standings with Davey Hamilton at 259 points, while Sharp is fourth at 246 and Goodyear fifth at 228. Hamilton's 222.680 was good for sixth in the Reebok-Nienhouse Motorsports Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. Points leader Kenny Brack was eighth at 222.350 in the Power Team Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt.

The inaugural Lone Star 500 starts at 2 p.m. (CDT) Sunday. If Brack wins the Lone Star 500, he will extend his league-record winning streak to four races while building a healthy points lead entering the season finale Oct. 11 at Las Vegas. He has 282 points, 23 ahead of Stewart and Hamilton.

"I don't really feel any pressure," said Brack. "I just approach each race the same. There are a lot of people who can win, and we're one of them. We'll just be as prepared as we can, do our job and see what happens." Hamilton is winless during his Pep Boys Indy Racing League career and knows a victory is almost essential to claim the Pep Boys Million as the season champion. He carries a simple strategy into the 208-lap race Sunday.

"Go. Same as Atlanta, hammer down all day," said Hamilton. "I do want to win the championship, but I'm just going about my business. At this point, I care, but I care more about doing the best I can and not making any mistakes." Sharp fell from first to fourth in the points after a season-low 18th in the last event, the Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI on Aug. 29. "We have a lot of points to make up with two races to go," said Sharp. "So our job is to win this race. Certainly, if I've got the car, we want to lead."

The championship contenders weren't the only drivers to show big speed. Rookie Dave Steele, Goodyear's teammate on Pennzoil Panther Racing, recorded the third-fastest speed in the morning practice at 223.427 and was 15th in the final session at 220.904. The team tested race setups while Steele adjusted to running in traffic during the second session.

"I just want to run good," said Steele. "If you finish and run consistent, odds are good that you'll be (up front).

"It will take some laps and getting used to the air to start dicing with those guys."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Dave Steele
Teams Panther Racing