POSTRACE NOTES: TRUE VALUE 500, JUNE 6, FORT WORTH, TEXAS THE WINNER: Billy Boat: Boat took the lead from Greg Ray with seven laps remaining to win the True Value 500, the fourth race of the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Boat earned...
POSTRACE NOTES: TRUE VALUE 500, JUNE 6, FORT WORTH, TEXAS
THE WINNER: Billy Boat: Boat took the lead from Greg Ray with seven laps remaining to win the True Value 500, the fourth race of the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League. Boat earned his first career Pep Boys IRL victory in the Conseco-A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear owned by four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Foyt.
"One thing about winning, at most every level that I have raced I have been winning races," said Boat, a former USAC short-track standout. "To win races you just have to stay after it. No matter how hard you try you are not going to make it happen.
"You just have to be able to put it all together on that one right night. Seems like once you get that victory and everyone on the team knows what it is like, that is all you accept. Hopefully, the Conseco-A.J. Foyt team has a taste for it and will be looking for more this year."
Boat, from Phoenix, led 108 laps on the reconfigured, 1.5-mile quad-oval, more than any other driver. But he was one of six drivers who traded the lead 22 times during the 312-mile event. That was just one lead change shy of the Pep Boys IRL record, set during the Indianapolis 500, 188 miles longer than this race. The victory also came one year after Boat appeared to cross the finish line first at this race before an all-night scoring audit revealed that Arie Luyendyk was the winner. This year, Boat and Ray traded the lead during a wild shootout with eight laps to go. Ray and Boat sliced between the lapped car of Buzz Calkins on Lap 201, with Ray moving low to pass Boat just before Turn 3. One lap later, Boat passed Ray for good in Turn 4. He held the lead despite repeated, wheel-to-wheel, nose-to-tail attempts by Ray to pass and won by 0.928 of a second. All of the slicing and dicing for lead during the final laps came as Boat and Ray were speeding around the oval at 225 mph. "I've been running inches apart all my life, banging wheels and running close with guys," Boat said. "The only difference here is that you try not to bang wheels." Said Foyt: "I'm awful proud of this series. This is showing the talent that the young guys have. These guys are used to running wheel-to-wheel and inches apart. On the quarter-mile and half-miles you learn to rub a lot of bumpers. That's what they're doing here." A rubbing incident nearly cost Boat. He passed rookie J.J. Yeley on the outside on Lap 144 when Yeley's car crept up the track. Yeley's outside wheel hit the left side of Boat's sidepod, leaving a NASCAR-style tire "doughnut." Another stirring close call came on Lap 181. Boat, teammate Kenny Brack and Ray fanned across the track three-wide while dueling for the lead. Boat, who started second, held the lead.
THE CONTENDERS: Greg Ray: Ray proved that his strong performance at the Indianapolis 500, where he qualified second and led 18 laps before gearbox problems, was no fluke. Talk about performing under pressure. Ray, from Plano, Texas, earned the best finish of his two-year Pep Boys IRL career at his home track and before representatives of AT&T Wireless Services, which agreed to sponsor him for this event less than a week before it started. Ray qualified 14th and climbed through the field in his AT&T Wireless Services Dallara/Aurora/Firestone fielded by Thomas Knapp Motorsports. He worked his way up to third by the halfway point and was a factor for the rest of the event. By Lap 185, Ray moved into second for good. He closed to within inches of Boat in traffic on Lap 200 and then stormed to the lead with a daring inside move under a lapped car on Lap 201. Boat regained the lead on Lap 202. Ray's repeated attempts to make a dramatic final pass of Boat - including putting his inside wheels into the infield grass three times - fell just 0.928 of a second short at the finish. "This is second place, but it is a victory for us," Ray said. "I can't say enough about this small team. "Billy (Boat) was going wide. I knew I could clip the grass. I did it on three laps. My crew chief came on the radio and said, 'Easy, hoss.' We just ran out of gear. The bottom line: Billy had more gear. We had the better-handling car." Tony Stewart: It appeared that Stewart was prepared to put his nightmarish last-place finish at Indianapolis behind him, but cruel mechanical fate struck again. Stewart worked his way through the pack after a pit stop on Lap 168 when clouds of smoke billowed from his car on Lap 177. Debris had entered his radiator earlier in the race, and the radiator finally split open, causing Stewart's Glidden-Menards Special Dallara/Aurora/Firestone to finally quit. Team Menard worked feverishly to fix Stewart's car so he could rejoin the race and earn Pep Boys IRL points, but the race ended before repairs were done. "I'd like to act down (emotionally) like I did at Indy, because that's how I feel inside," Stewart said. "But I don't want everybody calling me a crybaby and everything else. Literally, it is part of racing. We were good the whole race - just cruising in sixth gear." Stewart was on cruise control the entire event. He won his second PPG Pole Award of the season with a lap of 224.448 mph, the fastest pole by a new-formula Pep Boys IRL car in the history of the league. During the race, he moved up from deep in the field three times after unscheduled pit stops and turned the fastest lap of the race, 228.012, on Lap 86. That was the fastest lap in history by a new-formula Pep Boys IRL car.
THE REST OF THE STORY: Logjam in points: The race for the Pep Boys Million is shaping up to be quite a war, as Tony Stewart and Scott Sharp are tied for the lead in the Pep Boys IRL standings with 115 points after this event. But Stewart and Sharp aren't the only drivers in contention. Race winner Billy Boat is third with 110 points and Jeff Ward fourth with 103. Davey Hamilton and Kenny Brack are tied for fifth at 97. The championship-winning driver and his team owner will share The Pep Boys Million at the end of the season, with $500,000 apiece going to the driver and the owner. Unser is for real: It must be in the genes: another race, another top-10 finish for rookie Robby Unser. Unser finished ninth in the Team Cheever/ADT Automotive G Force/Aurora/Goodyear in his second career Pep Boys IRL race. He finished fifth in the Indianapolis 500 on May 24, his league debut. Eddie's early exit: Indianapolis 500 champion Eddie Cheever Jr. had a rough event that ended with a short stint in the race. Cheever qualified 20th in the Rachel's Potato Chips Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, and his race ended on Lap 6 when he was ensnared in a seven-car accident on the backstretch. He was credited with 26th in the 28-car field. "What happened is pretty simple," Cheever said. "Somebody spun in front of me, so I didn't have any place to go, and I hit him." Cheever was unhurt and later performed color commentary for the TNN television broadcast. Honesty is best policy: Roberto Guerrero finished a disappointing 24th after his Pagan Racing Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear suffered heavy damage in a seven-car accident on Lap 6, but he definitely earned points with fellow competitors and fans with his honesty. "It was all my fault," Guerrero said about the accident. "I just got loose out of (Turn) 2 and spun. It was me who caused all the confusion back there. We developed a clutch problem early, but I can't use that as an excuse. It would have been a problem on pit stops but had nothing to do with this. "I have no idea what happened." No drivers were hurt in the incident. Welcome aboard: John Paul Jr. and Tyce Carlson both produced solid showings with new teams at this event. Paul finished 16th in the Jonathan Byrd's VisionAire Bryant Heating & Cooling G Force/Aurora/Firestone. He replaced Mike Groff just before the event. Carlson took Paul's previous seat at Team Pelfrey and responded with a 12th-place finish in the team's Dallara/Aurora/Firestone. Infiniti convert: Rookie J.J. Yeley became the second member of the Infiniti engine stable at this event. Yeley finished 19th in the Quaker State Menards SRS Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone. He was involved in the seven-car accident on Lap 5, causing numerous lengthy pit stops for repairs. But Yeley recorded the second-fastest speed during the opening day of practice, 218.270 mph. Only defending Pep Boys IRL champion Tony Stewart was faster in his Aurora-powered car. Medical update: Mark Dismore was released from Parkland Hospital in Dallas early June 7 after suffering a slight concussion during a crash on Lap 72. "It feels like someone hit me in the back with a baseball bat," Dismore said. Dismore backed into the wall in Turn 1 when a component failed in the drive train of his Kelley Automotive-Valvoline Dallara/Aurora/Goodyear, team technical director David Cripps said. "It was an extremely unfortunate incident," Cripps said. "We haven't had a failure like this before. We are examining the car to make certain we don't repeat this experience."
THE FACTS AND FIGURES:
There have been no repeat winners through four races this season. The winners: Tony Stewart (Orlando, Fla.), Scott Sharp (Phoenix), Eddie Cheever Jr. (Indianapolis) and Billy Boat (Fort Worth).
THE NEXT EVENT: June 28, New Hampshire 200, New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
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