Race: Pep Boys 400K

Track: Dover Downs International Speedway

Date: Sunday, July 19, 1998

Start time: 12:06 PM EDT

Weather: Sunny, warm

Serial: #6 of 11 in 1998 season, #19 overall

History: IRL race #1, Indycar race #2 at this track

Config: 1-mile oval, high banked, concrete surface

Wing package: Short track


Scott Sharp proved to be the class of the field in a bizarre, crash-filled race. The IRL's first visit to Dover proved to be a rough race for a number of teams, as the high-banked mile track, better known as a stock-car venue, proved a tough nut to crack for the Indycar teams. Tony Stewart, back in a G-Force chassis for the first time since Phoenix, broke the IRL's all-time qualifying record for a one-mile track (a record that had been set at Phoenix in an old car in 1996), in addition to shattering the Dover track record by some 30 MPH. The field was pretty tightly bunched as even Jim Guthrie, just returning with a new team after his Indy crash, qualified respectably despite having run zero laps at speed in practice owing to various car problems. The car count was low due to John Menard's having withdrawn the Robbie Buhl and J. J. Yeley entries in what was said to be a dispute with the IRL over rules enforcement, as well as the absence of Stan Wattles (whose withdrawal left only the Riley & Scott factory team to represent that make), and the withdrawal of Buzz Calkins's team after practice. Further complicating the R & S situation was a serious crash that Eliseo Salazar suffered on Saturday, leaving him with a broken pelvis. (Scott Harrington would start their car on Sunday, but it was withdrawn after completing only one lap.)

The start of the race was something of a surprise as Davey Hamilton, from his front-row spot, jumped Stewart on the start and assumed the lead. However, Stewart (in a G-Force chassis, rather than the Dallara that the team had been racing since Indy), quickly retook the lead and was on his way. Soon the field began dividing into packs, with Stewart and Scott Sharp contesting the lead, followed by a group including Jeff Ward, Scott Sharp, and Mark Dismore. However, on lap 21 Ward smacked the wall exiting turn 4; his car spun down the banked front stretch and Scott Goodyear collided with Jack Miller trying to avoid Ward. Goodyear was able to continue after a nose change, but Ward and Miller were out. Meanwhile, Kenny Brack was having a disappointing day, in and out of the garage area with engine problems. During the yellow, the leaders pitted but Raul Boesel stayed out, inheriting the lead for the first time in his IRL career. Shortly after the green, though, Stewart took the lead back from Boesel. If he was disappointed, Dismore was more so; his engine blew on lap 42, marking the first of many mechanical failures that struck nearly every car in the field over the course of the day.

After the yellow for Dismore's engine, Stewart began to stretch out his lead with only Sharp remaining in contact; meanwhile Hamilton contested third with Eddie Cheever and Greg Ray (substituting for the injured Billy Boat). Owing to the very short laps (lap times were in the 20-second range), many cars were lapped by the time Sam Schmidt spun and hit the wall exiting turn 4 on lap 95, wiping out a remote-controlled CBS camera in the process. After the green, Sharp led but things got testy immediately when Cheever and Ray touched wheels in turn 2 and crashed heavily on the backstretch. Both drivers came out of their cockpits uninjured and angry and had to be separated. Replays were inconclusive, although later statements by Cheever seemed to indicate that he thought he was clear of Ray, which he was not. (Cheever, being examined in the infield care center, demonstrated his health by jumping off the examining table and doing pushups.) The attrition began to have some interesting effects on the running order as Robby Unser was up to 3rd, Lazier (who had been very slow early) was in contention and Marco Greco, who was fast in practice but lost an engine in qualifying, cracked the top-10 along with Steve Knapp making his second IRL start. Stewart pitted during the yellow with an unusual problem brought on by the rough Dover surface: the dashboard had fallen off into his lap! There was concern about shorting out the engine computer wiring, but the dash was finally taped back up in a series of stops, and without losing a lap.

After the green, the attrition continued; Boesel retired with a blown engine on lap 125, and then Knapp clouted the wall on lap 150. He was taken out on a backboard but no serious injuries were found. During the caution, Hamilton, who appeared to perhaps be on his way to his first IRL win, had to pit for a new engine computer and lost two laps which he was never able to make up. At the end of the caution, several cars stopped to top off fuel, but the jacks on Arie Luyendyk's car collapsed and there was concern about the rear suspension, which would resurface later. After green on lap 164, Sharp led Lazier, Unser, Stewart, and Luyendyk; but Stewart dropped from the running order shortly after because his car would not steer properly. The crew traced a wisp of malodorous smoke to a failed half-shaft joint, which was replaced but at a cost of many laps, taking Stewart out of contention. The pace was very fast and by lap 184 only Sharp, Lazier, Unser, and Luyendyk remained on the lead lap. Unser dropped from that list when he crashed in turn 4, suffering a foot injury and completing a weekend of total devestation for Team Cheever. Lazier's crew outdid Sharp's on the subsequent pit stops, and he led after the green until repassed by Sharp on lap 203. Simultaneously, the rear end of Luyendyk's car (damaged by the jack failure earlier, perhaps) abruptly snapped around in turn 3, putting him into the wall for the final caution in this crash-filled race. After the green, Sharp rapidly built up a large led, which he held until he began slowing his pace around lap 235. This provided the final bit of drama and almost proved to be Sharp's undoing, as Lazier rapidly cut down the lead and made a final charge to finish only a car length behind at the checkered flag. (In fact, Sharp's car was so slow on the final straight that Lazier had to lock his brakes to avoid ramming Sharp after taking the flag.) Only ten cars finished, with all of those except the top three experiencing one kind of mechanical difficulty or another. Marco Greco kept his nose clean and was rewarded with third place, the best finish of his IRL career; Brian Tyler's 12th was also his career best. The win allowed Sharp, the 1996 co-champion, to assume the outright points lead for the first time in his IRL career. Most observers agreed that the race was enjoyable but too long, and that the "Monster Mile"'s concrete would need additional work to accomodate the IRL cars.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  4 181.873   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley     248     Running  145  52
 2 14 179.538  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  248     Running    7  40
 3 21 No Spd.  16  G/A/F Marco Greco         Phoenix    246     Running       35
 4  2 182.482   6  G/A/G Davey Hamilton      Nienhouse  246     Running    4  34
 5 11 180.207  77  G/A/G Stephan Gregoire    Chastain   244     Running       30
 6  6 181.041   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    242     Running       28
 7 20 174.893  23  G/A/F Jim Guthrie         Cobb       229     Running       26
 8  1 185.204   1  G/A/F Tony Stewart        Menard     220     Running   85  27
 9 10 180.814   5  G/A/F Arie Luyendyk       Treadway   203    Crash T3       22
10 12 179.739  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       197     Running       20
11 16 178.130  52  G/A/G Robby Unser         Cheever    183    Crash T4       19
12 19 176.229  81  D/A/F Brian Tyler         Pelphrey   162     Running       18
13  5 181.525  18  G/A/G Steve Knapp         PDM        146    Crash T2       17
14  9 180.923  30  G/A/G Raul Boesel         McCormack  123      Engine    7  16
15  7 181.014  11  D/A/G Greg Ray            Foyt       104    Crash T2       15
16 17 177.980  51  D/A/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever    104    Crash T2       14
17 18 177.611  99  D/A/F Sam Schmidt         LP          85    Crash T4       13
18  3 182.334  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley      43      Engine       13
19  8 180.941  35  G/A/G Jeff Ward           ISM         21    Crash T4       11
20 15 178.359  40  D/I/F Jack Miller         Sinden      20    Crash FS       10
21 13 179.650  10  G/A/F John Paul Jr.       Byrd-C'Ham   6      Engine        9
22 22 No Spd.  15  R/A/G Scott Harrington    R&S          1   Withdrawn        8

Time of race: 02:29:49
Average speed: 99.318 MPH
Margin of victory: .689 sec

Laps under green: 149 of 248 laps (60.1%)
Caution flags: 6 for 99 laps (39.9%)
#1: lap 21, crash (Goodyear, Miller, Ward), T4, 16 laps
#2: lap 42, blown engine (Dismore), BS, 8 laps
#3: lap 79, stalled car (Schmidt), T4, 7 laps
#4: lap 95, crash (Schmidt), T4, 11 laps
#5: lap 105, crash (Cheever, Ray, Tyler), T2, 12 laps
#6: lap 150, crash (Knapp), T2, 14 laps
#7: lap 184, crash (Unser), T4, 17 laps
#8: lap 203, crash (Luyendyk), T3, 14 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 8; number of race leaders: 5
St: Hamilton 1-4
#1: Stewart 5-33
#2: Boesel 34-40
#3: Stewart 41-85
#4: Sharp 86-150
#5: Stewart 151-161
#6: Sharp 162-195
#7: Lazier 196-202
#8: Sharp 203-248

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 9 / 12.3
G-Force: 12 / 10.0
Riley & Scott: 1 / 22.0
Aurora: 21 / 10.0
Infiniti: 1 / 20.0
Firestone: 8 / 12.1
Goodyear: 15 / 11.1