Race: Visionaire 500K

Track: Charlotte Motor Speedway

Date: Saturday, July 25, 1998

Start time: 9:56 PM EDT

Weather: Mild, very humid

Serial: #7 of 11 in 1998 season, #20 overall

History: IRL race #2, Indycar race #2 at this track

Config: 1.5-mile quad-oval, high banked

Wing package: Speedway


For the second year in a row, the IRL put on a thrilling show at CMS. Tony Stewart topped the 220 MPH mark in winning the pole, the first time that benchmark had been reached by any race car at Charlotte. Unfortunately, rookies Steve Knapp and Robby Unser both missed the race, Knapp because of a concussion, and Unser because his team did not have time to build him a new car after Dover. However, this was in part made up for by the return of Pagan Racing with their new driver Stevie Reeves, making his first IRL start in a return to open wheel racing after three years in NASCAR, and also the return of Andy Michner, who had run well at Indy, subbing for the injured Eliseo Salazar in the Riley & Scott factory car. The two Foyt cars qualified near Stewart's speed; Mark Dismore turned in his second straight good qualifying effort after a season of poor starting positions, and Marco Greco was a surprising fifth. The race was delayed by a brief rain shower that left some wet patches on the track even after drying; grand marshal and ex-NASCAR champion Bobby Allison made the start-engines call at just before 10 PM local time. The adventures started right away as Jim Guthrie had contact with another car during the first pace lap and had to pit for a new nose, while Jeff Ward spun into the trioval grass on the second lap, fortunately incurring no damage. On the start, Greg Ray jumped Stewart in turn 2, setting the tone for the night, but Stewart reassumed the lead on lap 5 and looked like he might run away until his car developed an oil leak on lap 30, necessitating a long pit stop and eventually leading to an engine failure. The two Foyt and Kelley cars then established themselves as the class of the field, with Scott Sharp and Kenny Brack being the fastest in the early going, while Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever kept in contact and Jeff Ward moved up through the field. There was some intense racing early as the Kelley and Foyt cars went wheel-to-wheel for the lead until the caution for Stewart's oil. During the caution, while the leaders pitted the rookie Michner stayed out and assumed the lead. On the green he was in short order passed by Sharp and quickly lost several positions, but then settled in 6th and did a very respectable job of holding his own. Meanwhile, the other Reebok-sponsored car with Davey Hamilton was bedeviled by problems ranging from poor handling to asymmetric brakes to a sticking throttle, and Jimmy Kite had declared his car undrivably loose. On lap 47, defending race champion Buddy Lazier came in for an extended stop to repair a fuel pickup problem, which involved draining the fuel cell. And unfortunately for Michner, his pit strategy backfired when he had to pit under green on lap 52, losing two laps. Stewart rejoined briefly but the loss of oil shortly proved to be terminal for the engine.

By lap 70, the top 4 were all running with slight gaps between, as Brack led followed by Dismore, Sharp, and Ray. Cheever took fourth from Ray and looked strong; unfortunately two laps later his engine blew. The resulting pit stops jumbled the standings. Brack and Ray both got very slow pit stops and were placed in limbo in lapped traffic. Jeff Ward got a very good stop and assumed second behind Sharp. Goodyear moved up to fourth, but shortly after the green he fell back again which would be his pattern all night: good only on new tires. Donnie Beechler had cracked the top-10 and had a good stop, but the crew did not get the left front wheel tightened and as he came back around it came off. Beechler nursed the car back to the pits and suffered no apparent damage. After the green Ward and Goodyear fell back and the Kelley cars assumed command. Jim Guthrie was black-flagged for being too slow and went to the garage with a fuel delivery problem. Sharp and Dismore then went at it, with Dismore making a daring move in turn 1 on lap 97 to take the lead from his teammate. Brack was wowing the crowd with one breathtaking pass after another, and he took second from Sharp on lap 105. As Sharp came out of turn 4 on that lap, his car spun abruptly and he backed into the wall, then slid down across the track and barely clipped Beechler, who then spun. Both were out; Beechler's car was not badly damaged but the wheels wouldn't roll. Neither was hurt. The resulting round of pit stops turned out to be disasterous for Ray, who found a wet patch in the pit lane and spun in the exit, coming to a stop pointed at the inside wall and unable to proceed. His crew ran and pushed him off, but the spin may have hurt the drivetrain as on the subsequent restart his car wouldn't go. Dismore inexplicably made a late stop, handing the lead to Ward. Ray pitted and found that he couldn't change gears, then the car developed a vibration and was retired. Ward then proceeded to show some speed as he built a lead over Brack, followed by Goodyear ahead of Dismore. The Kelley car didn't seem to be as fast as earlier and Dismore couldnt' do anything with Goodyear.

Attrition then began to pick up. Michner pitted with overheating. Tyce Carlson, subbing for Steve Knapp, begin having electrical problems and would trigger two cautions before finally changing the engine computer. But the shocker was when Dismore's engine blew as he drove through the quad-oval, in an almost exact replay of his fate at this race the previous year. This time he got the smoking and flaming car down into the turn 1 infield without even spinning, but the night was done for what had appeared to be the fastest car in the race (possibly excluding Brack). The subsequent pit stops jumbled the standings again with Goodyear taking the lead. At this point only Goodyear, Brack, and Ward remained on the lead lap, with Arie Luyendyk and John Paul Jr. cracking the top 5. After the green Brack quickly reassumed the lead and took off while Goodyear and Ward settled into a draft, appearing that they would try for an economy run -- a proposition that looked dubious with 58 laps remaining.

That strategy went out the window when a second caution for Carlson's stalled car flew on lap 171. This created a different kind of pit strategy situation: to pit or not, and what type of stop to execute? Goodyear went for a full service stop with full fuel and tires, while Ward chose to execute a splash-and-go fuel-only stop, which gave him the lead. Shockingly, Brack missed the pit entrance and had to go around again, putting him at the tail end of the field with a gaggle of lapped cars between he and the other two leaders. Meanwhile, Problems continued for other cars; Jack Miller, making a surprisingly good run, had to pit for a new battery. Paul staged a duel for fifth with Greco, but he had to make an unscheduled stop for a flat tire. Michner had another long stop with overheating, and Reeves was running in the top 10 when he suffered a suspension failure and narrowly avoided a wreck. The final trophy dash began with the green flag on lap 176; Ward immediately blasted away while Brack set about working his way through the pack. By 185 Brack had second and a few lapped cars between he and Ward, and soon it became obvious that Ward's car on old tires was not as good as it had been earlier. On lap 192, Brack attacked Ward on the backstretch, but Ward split the lapped car of Carlson and retained the lead. However, four laps later, Ward was unable to choose a line around Greco, and as he waited for an opening Brack swept around both of them in a daring move and assumed the lead in turn 2. Ward held on for a few laps but his worn tires wouldn't allow him to do anything further and Brack drove away for his first IRL victory. The result was a vindication for Brack, who had been regarded as Foyt's second driver to Billy Boat; for Ward who finally recovered from a string of bad finishes, for Dismore who probably had the fastest car before his engine failure, and for Lazier who actually had the fastest car at the end of the race. The rookies Reeves and Michner did well under trying circumstances, and Paul and Miller scored their best ever IRL finishes. The clean race, with only one significant incident, was a relief to the teams after all of the crashes at Dover.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  3 219.521  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       208     Running   76  53
 2 10 215.440  35  G/A/G Jeff Ward           ISM        208     Running   56  40
 3  7 216.130   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    208     Running    5  35
 4 15 213.380   5  G/A/F Arie Luyendyk       Treadway   206     Running       32
 5  5 218.296  16  G/A/F Marco Greco         Phoenix    205     Running       30
 6 13 214.328  10  G/A/F John Paul Jr.       Byrd-C'Ham 203     Running       28
 7  8 215.664   6  D/A/G Davey Hamilton      Nienhouse  202     Running       26
 8 18 211.119  77  G/A/G Stephan Gregoire    Chastain   201     Running       24
 9 17 211.359  40  D/I/F Jack Miller         Sinden     194     Running       22
10 20 209.994  21  D/A/G Stevie Reeves       Pagan      184    CV Joint       20
11 19 211.094  18  G/A/G Tyce Carlson        PDM        184     Running       19
12 16 212.281  15  R/A/G Andy Michner        R&S        174     Running    2  18
13 14 214.320  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  171     Running       17
14 22 191.829  99  D/A/F Sam Schmidt         LP         147  Electrical       16
15  4 218.402  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     144      Engine   21  15
16 11 214.584  81  D/A/F Brian Tyler         Pelphrey   144  Electrical       14
17  2 219.995  11  D/A/G Greg Ray            Foyt       122     Gearbox    4  15
18  6 217.926   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley     104    Crash T4   25  12
19 24 No Spd.  98  G/A/F Donnie Beechler     Cahill     102    Crash T4       11
20 12 214.464  51  D/A/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever     71      Engine       10
21  1 220.498   1  G/A/F Tony Stewart        Menard      54      Engine   19  12
22 21 209.758  23  G/A/F Jim Guthrie         Cobb        49  Fuel Pres.        8
23 23 No Spd.  44  D/I/F Jimmy Kite          Sinden      29    Handling        7
24  9 215.457  30  G/A/G Raul Boesel         McCormack    5      Engine        6

Time of race: 01:58:11
Average speed: 158.408 MPH
Margin of victory: 5.602 sec

Laps under green: 165 of 208 laps (79.3%)
Caution flags: 7 for 43 laps (20.7%), plus 2 incidents prior to start.
[pace lap: crash (Guthrie), T1]
[pace lap: spin (Ward), FS]
#1: lap 10, blown engine (Boesel), FS, 4 laps
#2: lap 30, oil leak (Stewart), FS, 5 laps
#3: lap 72, blown engine (Cheever), FS, 9 laps
#4: lap 105, crash (Beechler, Sharp), T4, 9 laps [during caution: spin (Ray), pit lane]
#5: lap 130, stalled car (Carlson), T2, 5 laps
#6: lap 144, blown engine (Dismore), FS, 6 laps
#7: lap 171, stalled car (Carlson), T3, 5 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 19; number of race leaders: 8
St: Ray 1-4
#1: Stewart 5-23
#2: Dismore 24-30
#3: Brack 31
#4: Dismore 32
#5: Michner 33-34
#6: Sharp 35-39
#7: Brack 40-76
#8: Sharp 77-96
#9: Dismore 97-107
#10: Brack 108
#11: Dismore 109-110
#12: Ward 111-145
#13: Brack 146
#14: Goodyear 147-150
#15: Brack 151-172
#16: Goodyear 173
#17: Brack 174
#18: Ward 175-195
#19: Brack 196-208

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 12 / 13.6
G-Force: 11 / 11.4
Riley & Scott: 1 / 12.0
Aurora: 22 / 11.1
Infiniti: 2 / 16.0
Firestone: 10 / 13.9
Goodyear: 14 / 11.5