IRL: Texas Mall.com 500 Preview

MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED AT MALL.COM 500 FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 5, 1999 - After 2,436 miles of racing, equivalent to driving from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., and back, six drivers have a chance at winning the Pep Boys...

MILLION-DOLLAR QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED AT MALL.COM 500

FORT WORTH, Texas, Oct. 5, 1999 - After 2,436 miles of racing, equivalent to driving from Fort Worth to Washington, D.C., and back, six drivers have a chance at winning the Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship at the season-ending Mall.com 500 on Oct. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. Greg Ray, defending series champion Kenny Brack, Sam Schmidt, Scott Sharp, Scott Goodyear and Buddy Lazier all are eligible for the Pep Boys Million, the $1-million bonus split evenly between the series-winning driver and car owner. The winner will be decided after 312 miles of racing on the 1.5-mile quad-oval at Texas, starting at 1 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 17. Ray would appear to be the favorite in the Glidden-Menards Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. He leads the standings with 255 points, taking the lead for good after winning the Colorado Indy 200 in August at Pikes Peak International Raceway, his third victory of the season. Ray, from Plano, Texas, leads the league in many categories, including victories, with three; PPG Poles, with three; and laps led, with 408. Texas Motor Speedway also is his home track, and he finished second to Goodyear in the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom in June at Texas. But 1.5-mile ovals haven’t been kind to Ray this season. In fact, his average finish this season in the three previous races on 1.5-mile tracks is 15.3. He finished 21st on Sept. 26 in the Vegas.com 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a race in which he could have clinched the title. It will be fascinating to watch as Ray and team manager Thomas Knapp decide whether to use a conservative strategy or run all-out at Texas in a bid to claim their first title. Count on all out - it’s a style that’s served Ray well this year. Brack has quietly climbed toward a repeat title since winning the Indianapolis 500 in May, his only victory of the season in the A.J. Foyt Power Team Racing entry owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Foyt. Brack has finished in the top 10 in his last five starts to climb to second in the points, 13 behind Ray. And Foyt’s team has shown that they are willing to take risks to win a second consecutive title. The team switched from a Dallara to a G Force chassis for Brack at Las Vegas - the first time it had worked with the English-built chassis in two seasons. Brack nearly won the event, finishing a close second to Schmidt. Brack also has been sharp on 1.5-mile ovals this year, with an average finish of sixth in three previous races. No Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver carries more momentum than Schmidt into this final event. Before the Vegas.com 500, Schmidt was 12th in the points and a remote title contender in the Sprint PCS G Force/Aurora/Firestone. But he jumped to third, just 30 points behind Ray, after earning the first victory of his career at his home track in Vegas. Schmidt can’t be ruled out as a potential title winner. He has finished in the top five in five of his last six starts and has an average finish of 8.7 on 1.5-mile ovals this year. Plus he has led at least one lap in the last seven Indy Racing events this season. Sharp, Goodyear and Lazier each are dark horses for the title. 1996 co-league champion Sharp is fourth, with 209 points, in the Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. But his only victory this season came in the Kobalt Mechanics Tools 500 presented by MCI WorldCom on July 17 at Atlanta, a 1.5-mile sister track to Texas. And Sharp also has the best average finish on 1.5-mile tracks this season - third -- of any of the title contenders. Goodyear is fifth in the points at 207 in the Pennzoil Panther G Force/Aurora/Goodyear. But he won the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom in June at Texas Motor Speedway, the second of his two victories this year. Lazier is sixth in points at 204 in the Delta Faucet-Coors Light-Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear. He has enjoyed success in the past on 1.5-mile tracks, winning in 1997 at Charlotte. The battle for the championship isn’t the only race for a title at this event. Robby McGehee leads Scott Harrington, 138-137, in the chase for the Sprint PCS Rookie of the Year Award and a $50,000 prize. Jaques Lazier is third in the rookie race at 118, and Texan John Hollansworth Jr. follows at 116.

MALL.COM 500 NOTEBOOK

Schedule: The Mall.com 500 starts at 1 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 17. Dallas Morning News qualifying for the PPG Pole starts at noon (CDT) Oct. 16. Practice sessions start at 2 and 5 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 15, and 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 16.

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On the air: The Mall.com 500 will be televised on a same-day, delayed basis at 4 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 17 on ABC. SpeedVision will televise PPG Pole qualifying live at 1 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 16. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 1:30 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 17, followed by the live race broadcast at 2 p.m. A qualifying highlights show will be broadcast from 5:30-6 p.m. (EDT) Oct. 16. The area IRRN affiliate is WBAP-AM 820, Arlington, Texas. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracingleague.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and broadcast.com, the world’s leading Web broadcast site.

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Tickets: Tickets are available for the Mall.com 500 on Oct. 17. Call (817) 215-8500 for more information. Ticket information also is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.texasmotorspeedway.com .

Source: IMS/IRL

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robby McGehee , Greg Ray , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Kenny Brack , Sam Schmidt , Scott Harrington , A.J. Foyt