Race: Atlanta 500 Classic

Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway

Date: Saturday, August 29, 1998

Start time: 9:06 PM EDT

Weather: Hot, fairly dry

Serial: #9 of 11 in 1998 season, #22 overall

History: IRL race #1, Indycar race #10 at this track

Config: 1.544-mile quad-oval, high banked

Wing package: Speedway


Kenny Brack set an IRL record by winning his third race in a row, but many other teams had a shot at the victory before Brack finally nailed it down late in the race. For the second race in row, Billy Boat won the pole but never led a lap, as Jeff Ward passed him on the start. Tony Stewart uncharacterisically qualified far to the rear (he blew an engine just prior to qualifying, and ran in his T-car with no practice), and Arie Luyendyk's team was having serious engine problems. Ward was soon overhauled by Scott Goodyear who dominated the early portion of the race and appeared that he might have the car to notch his first IRL win. Things went bad for Buzz Calkins right away; he pitted on the pace lap with a brake problem and retired after only a few laps.

Shortly it became apparent that the fastest car on the track was Scott Goodyear. He steadily picked up positions and made a seemingly easy pass on Ward for the lead on lap 28. Greg Ray, starting 16th, cracked the top 5 within 15 laps. As Goodyear began to draw away, Ray, Dismore and Ward all made premature pit stops. Ray had a fuel pickup problem that limited him to about 30 laps between stops, and the other two had cut tires. Fortunately for them, and atypically for an IRL race, there was no early caution and the running order cycled back to them by lap 50 when everyone stopped under green. Robby Unser had a fuel fire during his pit stop, but continued (soaking wet) after the fire was extinguished. On lap 54, the first yellow flew, and for an unusual reason: some of the track lights failed on the front stretch. Ward gave up second place to pit during this caution, and Ray got a break as he had nearly exhausted his usable fuel. After the teams polled their drivers, it was decided that the dark area wasn't too bad and the race resumed. Only a few laps were run before J.J. Yeley blew an engine with clouds of smoke in turn 3 on lap 63. The green saw Goodyear leading Brack, Davey Hamilton, and the surprisingly fast duo of Marco Greco and Stephan Gregoire. Goodyear got a huge jump on the start and pulled away from the field. As Stewart and Ray advanced through the field, Dismore had to make an unscheduled stop for an unbalanced tire; the laps he lost were to cost him a shot at the win late in the race. Brack also made an unscheduled stop, and they were both rooked when Ray spun coming out of 2 on lap 95, and backed it into the inside wall. The subsequent caution allowed everyone else to pit under yellow, and Dismore was stuck two laps down and Brack one lap down. During the caution, John Paul Jr. had a very unusual incident as his car turned right and crashed on the back stretch near to where the crews were trying to clean up Ray's crash. Everyone pitted during the yellow. Greco assumed the lead briefly, and pyrihcally; he had overshot his pit, hit some tires, and messed up his front wings. The pit stops shuffled the order with Stewart assuming the lead, followed by Hamilton (who got excellent pit stops all night), Goodyear, Eddie Cheever (getting stronger as the race went on), Buddy Lazier, and Sharp After the caution Greco was much, much slower than he had been, and after just a few laps of green he was already being lapped. This would play a part later. Goodyear got an excellent jump on Stewart and was off; Sharp and Hamilton both blew by everyone else and set off in pursuit, but Goodyear was once again driving away. Meanwhile, Gregoire had a great duel going on with Cheever. They appeared to touch in turn 1 on lap 133, then in turn 3 Gregoire abruptly slowed and then spun and backed into the wall. The hit wasn't a big one and Gregoire walked away, but it was enough to do them in for the night. The resulting caution put Brack back on the lead lap.

Freakislhy, four contenders dropped out due to mechanical failures occurring during the yellow. Sharp's gearbox shredded during the pit stop and he was abruptly done for the night, while Lazier blew an engine at caution speed in turn 3, and Roberto Guerrero lost a clutch during his stop. Brian Tyler missed a shift exiting the pits and broke his engine. Better was Hamilton's pit crew who put him into the lead, followed by Goodyear and Stewart. Goodyear surprisingly went backwards after the green flag and soon fell out of the top five, while Hamilton maintained just a few car lengths over Stewart, whose car was the strongest that it had been all night. Then the Foyt cars, working in tandem, charged towards the front; first Boat passed Hamilton to move back into the lead lap, then Brack passed for the lead. But Ward was on the charge too and he moved up and passed Brack for the lead on lap 155. Boat got his break when Sam Schmidt's engine blew on lap 164; he got back on the lead lap, and his car was much faster than it had been at the beginning of the race. Hamilton again got the lead in the pits, but it didn't last. On the restart, he, Ward, and Brack went three wide and Ward came out with the lead. However, the fastest car on the track was Dismore who was going all out trying to get back on the lead lap. On la 170 Boat, trying to lap the very slow car of Greco, had contact. Boat spun, hit Greco, and spun again. Unser and Steve Knapp got involved and Knapp was upside down briefly. After the wreck Boat, Greco, and Unser had a three-way shouting match and had to be separated. Knapp was taken out on a stretcher as a precaution, but was later released. The timing of the caution was a terrible break for Dismore, who had passed Ward to get back on the lead lap in turn 1 as the wreck was happening on the back stretch; he lost the lap back as the running order reverted at the yellow. The last twenty laps of the race, after this caution, were anticlimatic as far as the lead went. However, there was some tremendous racing going on just behind the lead, as Cheever, Stewart, and Goodyear went at it. The three were drafting very closely; first Stewart led, then Cheever passed him, then Stewart took it back, then Cheever passed again. This went on until Cheever and Goodyear got hooked up and drafted their way past Stewart, and finally Cheever drove away from Goodyear a bit. Ward went rapidly backwards after the green due to an apparent handling problem. Brack took off and ran away from every car save one: Dismore quickly passed the leader and set about trying to get back his lap the hard way. He never got the one more caution that he needed, but by the end of the race he had made up 1/3 of the lap on the track and was only a few laps away from passing Ward for sixth. Luyendyk was fast at the end and might have made even more of a race of it had he not lost a lap early. The car count dwindled at the end; Buhl who retired late was credited with 11th. The finish was a statistical oddity as only 10 cars finished, but all but Boesel in 10th were within two laps of the lead.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  6 223.117  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       208     Running   17  50
 2 10 220.903   6  D/A/G Davey Hamilton      Nienhouse  208     Running   19  40
 3 11 215.664  51  D/A/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever    208     Running       35
 4  4 223.747   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    208     Running   93  34
 5 25 213.543   1  G/A/F Tony Stewart        Menard     208     Running   12  30
 6  2 223.973  35  G/A/G Jeff Ward           ISM        208     Running   64  30
 7  5 223.161  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     208     Running       26
 8  9 221.203   5  G/A/F Arie Luyendyk       Treadway   207     Running       24
 9 14 218.621  15  R/A/G Andy Michner        R&S        206     Running       22
10 15 218.414  30  G/A/G Raul Boesel         McCormack  202     Running       20
11 21 215.846   3  G/A/F Robbie Buhl         Menard     185      Clutch       19
12  1 224.145  11  D/A/G Billy Boat          Foyt       169    Crash BS       21
13  7 222.035  16  G/A/F Marco Greco         Phoenix    167    Crash BS    3  17
14 19 216.944  18  G/A/G Steve Knapp         PDM        167    Crash BS       16
15 22 215.385  99  D/A/F Sam Schmidt         LP         158      Engine       15
16 13 218.802  52  G/A/G Robby Unser         Cheever    143    Crash BS       14
17 18 217.386  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  136      Engine       13
18  3 223.837   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley     135     Gearbox       13
19 28 No Spd.  23  G/I/F Roberto Guerrero    Cobb       133      Clutch       11
20  8 221.317  77  D/A/G Stephan Gregoire    Chastain   131    Crash T3       10
21 23 214.501  81  D/A/F Brian Tyler         Pelfrey    123      Engine        9
22 24 213.980  98  G/A/F Donnie Beechler     Cahill     110      Engine        8
23 17 217.454  10  G/A/F John Paul Jr.       Byrd-C'Ham  96    Crash T2        7
24 16 217.719  97  D/A/F Greg Ray            Knapp       94    Crash BS        6
25 26 212.609  44  D/I/F J.J. Yeley          Sinden      58      Engine        5
26 20 216.098  19  R/A/G Stan Wattles        Metro       29      Engine        4
27 27 No Spd.  40  D/I/F Jack Miller         Sinden      54    Handling        3
28 12 219.608  12  D/A/F Buzz Calkins        Bradley      2      Brakes        2

Time of race: 02:17:05
Average speed: 140.026 MPH
Margin of victory: 0.944 sec

Laps under green: 158 of 208 laps (76.0%)
Caution flags: 6 for 50 laps (24.0%)
#1: lap 54, light failure, FS, 5 laps
#2: lap 63, blown engine (Yeley), T3, 8 laps
#3: lap 95, crash (Ray), BS, 12 laps [during caution: crash (Paul), T2]
#4: lap 133, crash (Gregoire), T3, 7 laps
#5: lap 164, blown engine (Schmidt), BS, 4 laps
#6: lap 170, crash (Boat, Greco, Knapp, R. Unser), BS, 14 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 19; number of race leaders: 8
St: Ward 1-27
#1: Goodyer 28-46
#2: Greco 47-48
#3: Goodyear 49-97
#4: Greco 98
#5: Stewart 99-110
#6: Goodyear 111-135
#7: Hamilton 136-151
#8: Brack 152-154
#9: Ward 155-165
#10: Hamilton 166-168
#11: Ward 169-194
#13: Brack 195-208

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 14 / 15.7
G-Force: 12 / 12.6
Riley & Scott: 2 / 17.5
Aurora: 25 / 13.4
Infiniti: 3 / 23.7
Firestone: 13 / 18.5
Goodyear: 15 / 11.0