IRL: Texas Race Story 98-09-20

Paul Wins Lone Star 500; Brack Inches Closer To Championship John Paul Jr. earned his first Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory Sunday in the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, holding off rookie Robby Unser by 1.577 seconds. "I'm...

Paul Wins Lone Star 500; Brack Inches Closer To Championship

John Paul Jr. earned his first Pep Boys Indy Racing League victory Sunday in the Lone Star 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, holding off rookie Robby Unser by 1.577 seconds.

"I'm very relieved to win my first IRL race," said Paul. "To come on board with the team after Indianapolis, we've been competitive from the start. It's very gratifying to get a chance to win another race after 15 years."

Paul's average speed as 131.931 mph in the Jonathan Byrd's-VisionAire-Bryant Heating & Cooling G Force/Aurora/Firestone in a race slowed by eight caution periods for 74 laps.

The victory at the 1.5-mile quad oval was the second Indy-style victory for Paul, from W. Palm Beach, Fla. His other win came at the 1983 Michigan 500. Paul's best previous finish in Pep Boys IRL competition was sixth at the Visionaire 500 in July at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Unser, son of three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Bobby Unser, recorded the best finish of his young Pep Boys Indy Racing League career. Jeff Ward finished third, Roberto Guerrero fourth and points leader Kenny Brack fifth.

Brack needs to finish seventh or better at the season-ending Las Vegas 500 on Oct. 11 to win the championship and the Pep Boys Million.

Paul, who qualified 14th, took the lead for good on Lap 192 of the 208-lap race when leader Jeff Ward entered the pits for his final stop. Paul's last stop came on Lap 164.

The final caution period of the event came on Lap 198 when Davey Hamilton spun on the front straightaway after an apparent tire failure. The race resumed on Lap 203. Paul led Unser by 1.100 seconds by Lap 204 and cruised to victory.

High air and track temperatures were a major factor for drivers and teams. At the start of the race, the air temperature was 96 degrees and the track temperature 138.

The race lead changed 11 times among eight drivers. Paul led twice for 37 laps.

Paul's celebration came on a day several contenders for the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship would like to forget, as several drivers were knocked out of contention.

Brack leads by 31 points, 312-281, over Hamilton entering the season-ending Las Vegas 500 on Oct. 11. Tony Stewart is third, 41 points behind Brack. He is the only other driver eligible for the title.

"I felt (today) was a race of survival, and that's not how I like to race," said Brack, who entered this event with a three-race winning streak. "It was good for the championship. We lengthened our lead, which helps to eliminate our risk."

Stewart, the 1996-97 Indy Racing League champion, dropped out on Lap 80 with engine problems and finished 20th.

"We just threw away a million dollars," Stewart said.

Scott Sharp and Scott Goodyear were knocked out of contention for the championship with 23rd- and 22nd-place finishes, respectively. Sharp crashed between Turns 3 and 4 on Lap 67, and Goodyear's day ended on Lap 71 when his clutch failed after a pit stop.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jeff Ward , Davey Hamilton , Scott Sharp , Scott Goodyear , Roberto Guerrero , Kenny Brack , Bobby Unser , John Paul