Stewart Wins True Value IROC 26 Opener DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Feb. 15 - Tony Stewart, representing the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, captured his second career True Value International Race of Champions (IROC) victory Friday in the series' opener at...
Stewart Wins True Value IROC 26 Opener
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. Feb. 15 - Tony Stewart, representing the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, captured his second career True Value International Race of Champions (IROC) victory Friday in the series' opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Stewart's margin of victory over reigning Indy Racing League (IRL) champion Sam Hornish Jr. was a mere .111 seconds. Stewart's average speed in the 40-lap, 100-mile race was 175.610 mph.
Finishing third was IRL driver Scott Sharp, fourth was NASCAR truck champion Jack Sprague and Al Unser Jr. of the IRL rounded out the top five, giving the IRL three of the top five positions.
Stewart started his move around Unser on the backstretch, completing the pass with help from Hornish in the 33-degree banking between Turns 3 and 4 of the 2.5-mile, high-banked oval.
"It's always fun when you know you're racing with 11 other cars that are just as even as yours," said Stewart, whose first True Value IROC win was last June in Michigan. "We got into second and I was a little bit optimistic the three of us (Unser and Hornish) were going to break away when they got two-wide behind us and got a big gap there. But it didn't take long to squash that idea in my mind when they got a big run and came right back at us.
"I knew that Unser was a good partner up front. When you're following the guy that's won the most IROC races in history, he knows how to stay up there and he knows how to lead. Staying behind him was good and having Hornish behind us kind of made it interesting. Hornish was able to give us a lot of steam and big momentum and a couple of good pushes there toward the end and that helped us win this thing."
Of his decision to go with Stewart, Hornish said, "I had been stuck on the high side most of the race, and anybody that I pushed by somebody moved directly down in front of the inside line. I got stuck out. I figured I'm going to go with the guy on the inside line. It's a guaranteed second place and I just tried to follow Tony."
Unser, a two-time True Value IROC series champion, received five bonus points for leading most laps (23). He dominated the second half of the race, leading 18 of the final 20 laps.
"We had a good time," said Unser. "The car was excellent. I have to thank everyone at IROC for giving me a race winner today. I would have had to crash the car to stay in front of Tony. Today, the IRL shined."
The first of two caution periods occurred before the first lap was completed, when Hornish and IRL driver, Helio Castroneves got together coming off of Turn 4. The two collided, sending Castroneves hard into the outside retaining wall. Hornish's car was serviced and returned to the track, while the damage to Castroneves' car forced him into a back-up car. Since a lap was not completed the race was restarted.
The second caution occurred when IRL driver Buddy Lazier ran over debris, cutting down a tire and spinning as he exited Turn 4. Lazier did not make any contact and pitted for tires.
Sharp was elated with his third-place finish, "It was a blast. They say IROC races are always a lot of fun and boy it really was. I had a really well-balanced car. I just hung in there and learned a heck of a lot as quickly as I could. I got moved around a lot but just moved them back a bit. I noticed with about five to go it was little Al (Unser) then Tony (Stewart) then Hornish and myself. I was like, wow, three out of the top four that is pretty good. But little Al tried to make a move and got shuffled. But still, for us (Indy drivers) to run competitively all day says a lot about our oval-track ability."
World of Outlaws dirt track ace, Danny Lasoski, finished an impressive sixth in his first pavement race, followed by Bobby Labonte and Sterling Marlin of NASCAR, Kevin Harvick from the Busch Series, Buddy Lazier and Castroneves from the IRL and Dale Jarrett of NASCAR. <pre> Remaining 2002 Schedule
Race Two Race Three Race Four Saturday, April 27 Saturday, July 13 Saturday, Aug. 3 California Speedway Chicagoland Speedway Indianapolis Motor Speedway 100 miles (50 Laps) 100.5 miles (67 laps) 100 miles (40 laps) on 2-mile oval 1.5-mile oval 2.5-mile oval
True Value IROC race one at Daytona will be broadcast on ESPN, Saturday, Feb. 16 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time.