IRL: Texas: Event preview

There's no place like Texas for close Indy Racing finishes. FORT WORTH, Texas, Wednesday, May 29, 2002 -- There are plenty of larger-than-life numbers surrounding Texas Motor Speedway. TMS has 154,861 permanent seats, making it one of the ...

There's no place like Texas for close Indy Racing finishes.

FORT WORTH, Texas, Wednesday, May 29, 2002 -- There are plenty of larger-than-life numbers surrounding Texas Motor Speedway.

TMS has 154,861 permanent seats, making it one of the largest sports and entertainment facilities in the world. The oval is 1.5 miles long with fast, 24-degree turns. TMS has 600 acres of parking, with 22,000 paved spots.

But perhaps the most impressive number about TMS is a tiny figure: .2178.

That's the combined total margin of victory for the last three Indy Racing League races to finish under the green flag at TMS. That's right: The average green-flag finish at TMS since 2000 has a margin of victory of .0726 of a second.

Quite simply, no track in the Indy Racing League has a reputation for close, exciting racing than Texas Motor Speedway.

That legacy of close finishes should continue with the Boomtown 500 on June 8, the sixth of 15 races on the 2002 Indy Racing League schedule. It's the 10th IRL race at Texas since the first Indy Racing event at the facility in 1997. Five of the nine previous events have been decided by less than one second.

The tradition of paper-thin margins of victory hit overdrive at TMS in June 2000, when Scott Sharp held off Robby McGehee to win by .059 of a second. It continued that fall when current ABC-ESPN Indy Racing analyst Scott Goodyear ended his career as a full-time Indy Racing driver with a victory over 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. by .140 of a second.

Sharp, Cheever and Texan Greg Ray appeared to be headed for another photo finish in this event last June when Ray and Cheever crashed on Lap 196 of the 200-lap race, handing the victory to Sharp under caution.

But Texas' reputation as a perfect match for Indy Racing was enhanced last October when 2001 Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. edged Sharp for victory by .0188 of a second, the closest finish in IRL history. Robbie Buhl was third, just .0468 of a second behind Hornish, to set up the tightest 1-2-3 finish ever in the league.

Nearly all of the players in those exciting finishes will compete in the Boomtown 500, as Sharp, Hornish, Cheever, Ray and Buhl will continue the quest for the IRL championship in the first of three night races this season.

Sharp must be considered a favorite to win in his No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone due to his two consecutive victories in this event. If Sharp pulls off the "three-peat," he will become the first driver in IRL history to win an event for three consecutive years. Ray won two races in 1999 at Pikes Peak International Raceway, Buddy Lazier has an active two-race winning streak at Kentucky Speedway, and Helio Castroneves has won the last two Indianapolis 500s.

Hornish will seek to continue his win streak at Texas and will have plenty of motivation. He lost the IRL points lead for the first time since 2000 after finishing a disappointing 25th at Indianapolis in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. Hornish led the standings during all of 2001 and was on top through the first four races this season.

Castroneves also is another strong contender for victory in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. He leads the IRL point standings with victories at Phoenix and Indianapolis.

His teammate, Gil de Ferran, also could drive to Victory Lane in the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. He is second in the standings, 26 points behind Castroneves.

Castroneves and de Ferran are the only drivers to have led in each of the first five events this season.

But Castroneves and de Ferran are entering uncharted territory at TMS. Neither has ever raced at each of the next five stops on the IRL schedule, a crucial summer stretch that includes June 8 at Texas, June 16 at Pikes Peak, June 29 at Richmond, July 7 at Kansas and July 20 at Nashville. Marlboro Team Penske moved to the IRL full time this season after winning two consecutive CART titles with de Ferran.

Castroneves and de Ferran aren't the only impressive newcomers to Texas. Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookies of the Year Alex Barron and Tomas Scheckter also will race in the Boomtown 500.

IRL rookie Barron finished a career-best fourth in the No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone at Indianapolis to climb to fifth in the series point standings. Fellow IRL rookie Scheckter led an event-best 85 laps at Indianapolis in the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone before being eliminated in a crash while leading by 10 seconds with just 27 laps remaining.

BOOMTOWN 500 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Boomtown 500 starts at 7 p.m. (CDT) Saturday, June 8. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 8:45 p.m. (CDT) June 6.

Practice sessions start at 3 and 5:45 p.m. (CDT) June 6 and 9 a.m. and 1:45 and 5:15 p.m. June 7.

A free autograph session with Indy Racing drivers is scheduled for 6 p.m. (CDT) June 7 in the garage area.

On the air: The Boomtown 500 will be televised live on ESPN at 8 p.m. (EDT) Saturday, June 8. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) June 8 on ESPN2.

The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a pre-race show at 7:30 p.m. (EDT). The June 8, followed by the live race broadcast at 8 p.m area affiliate. The is KESN-AM 103.3 in Arlington, Texas .

Tickets: Tickets for the Boomtown 500 are available now by calling the Texas Motor Speedway ticket hotline at (817) 215-8500, at www.texasmotorspeedway.com and at participating Ticketmaster outlets.

-irl-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Gil de Ferran , Alex Barron , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Team Penske