Race: Dura Lube 200

Track: Phoenix International Raceway

Date: Sunday, March 22, 1998

Start time: 2:08 PM MST


Serial: #2 of 11 in 1998 season

History: IRL race #3, Indycar race #55 at this track

Config: 1-mile oval

Wing package: Short track


Scott Sharp logged his second IRL victory, and first in the new cars. The difference between the fastest and slowest qualifier was the second-closest in the long history of Indycar racing at PIR, and this combined with traction problems in turn 2 made for a rough race. (Mark Scott, of Riley & Scott, stated afterwards that a dip had developed in the pavement in turn 2.) Speeds were up from the previous year, and six cars broke the new-car track record led by surprise pole winner Jeff Ward. Another surprise was that neither the defending race champion, Jim Guthrie, nor his previous team, Blueprint Racing (with Robbie Groff) qualified. Ward jumped out to the early lead and held it until he began encountering gearbox problems; he eventually lost fifth gear and was handicapped on restarts, although once up to speed he was still one of the fastest cars on the track. Eddie Cheever, from 20th starting position, moved into the top 10 by lap 11. The two Foyt cars of Kenny Brack and Billy Boat gave the crowd a thrill by racing each other as hard as they did everyone else. Buddy Lazier dropped out early when he lost an engine and crashed in turn 3, then on lap 19 John Paul Jr. started a long sequence of turn-2 incidents when he spun there. After Ward's transmission malfunctioned, Tony Stewart took over and held the lead for almost 100 more laps. In between, there was some tight action as Brack, Boat, and Ward battled all day while Sharp moved up through the field. On lap 32, Sharp's teammate Mark Dismore wrecked in turn 2, and lost many laps before returning to the race -- an event that would prove to be significant later. Rookie J. J. Yeley surprisingly qualified 10th in his first IRL start, but he came to grief when he spun in turn 2 on lap 46. Davey Hamilton tried to squeeze by on the outside but slid into the wall and then slid into Yeley. Neither driver was hurt but both were out. Another first-timer was involved in a frightening accident at the same spot on lap 59. Eliseo Salazar spun and collected Steele and Robbie Buhl; in trying to avoid him Arie Luyendyk touched wheels with Salazar. Luyendyk's car went up and over, and slid through turn 2 upside down. Luyendyk had significant damage to his helmet from the pavement but was unhurt other than a hand burn caused by scraping the asphalt during the spin. Cheever had moved into the lead prior to this yellow, but he lost a lap on a pit miscue when his crew got the left and right rear tires reversed, and he never managed to make up the lap. Stephan Gregoire, he of the question marks on the sidepods, had moved into second place behind stewart. Buzz Calkins was picking up his lap times, and after a caution for Paul Durant's blown engine on lap 106 Calkins made up a lap and joined the lead pack for the first time in many races. Unfortunately for Calkins, he got hit by debris when John Paul wrecked on lap 133 and had to put for a new nose, costing him the lap again, which he never regained; he did however post his first top-10 finish since the 1997 Phoenix race. Buzz stayed in contact but bad luck got him again when he had to pit for a flat tire on the last lap, and he would wind up in ninth. At this point Stewart still led, with Brack in hot pursuit but unable to catch the leader. Pit strategy came into play on lap 169 when Sam Schmidt spun in turn 2 (and did a fine job of staying out of the wall; he would continue). All of the lead-lap cars pitted except Sharp, who decided to gamble on fuel. After the green flag on lap 174, Sharp quickly opened up a 3-second lead in traffic but then had to slow to conserve fuel. His good luck was Brack's bad luck; on lap 186, Brack got caught in a four-wide pass in the back stretch dogleg and he touched wheels with Mike Groff. Both crashed hard and Groff had to be cut out of his car, necessitating a long caution and allowing Sharp to conserve fuel. (Groff was taken to the hospital, examined, and released.) The green waved on lap 198 with Sharp at the point and Stewart second, but in between was Sharp's teammate Dismore, many laps down but running fast. Dismore bogged down at the start and held up Stewart and Boat; Sharp drove away (and so did Dismore). The race ended in that order, with Gregoire's unsponsored car logging its second consecutive fourth-place finish, and Ward in fifth. A success story was that of Sam Schmidt, whose underfunded team managed a 7th place despite two spins, Sam's best finish ever in the IRL. There was much controversy about the "team orders" (Dismore claimed to not have received any instructions), but the results stood.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  8  170.535  8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelly      200     Running   30  50
 2  3  172.505  1  G/A/F Tony Stewart        Menard     200     Running  127  43
 3  2  172.521 11  D/A/G Billy Boat          Foyt       200     Running   12  37
 4 22  166.082 77  G/A/G Stephan Gregoire    Chastain   199     Running       32
 5  1  172.753 35  G/A/G Jeff Ward           ISM        199     Running   25  33
 6 14  169.276  4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    199     Running       28
 7 25  164.677 99  D/A/F Sam Schmidt         LP         198     Running       26
 8 13  169.531 30  G/A/G Raul Boesel         McCormack  197     Running       24
 9 17  168.856 12  G/A/G Buzz Calkins        Bradley    197     Running       22
10 20  167.053 51  D/A/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever    196     Running    6  20
11 18  167.903 97  D/A/G Greg Ray            Knapp      192     Running       19
12 12  169.932  3  D/A/F Robbie Buhl         Menard     187     Running       18
13 27  Prov.   20  D/A/G Tyce Carlson        Immke      186     Running       17
14  5  171.404 14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       185    Crash BS       16
15 24  164.850 10  G/A/F Mike Groff          Byrd-C'Ham 177    Crash BS       15
16 15  169.221 28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     175     Running       14
17 28  Prov.   17  D/A/G Bryan Tyler         Chitwood   168     Running       13
18  4  172.480  7  D/A/G Jimmy Kite          Scandia    129     Running       12
19 21  166.482 18  G/A/G John Paul Jr.       PDM        126    Crash T2       11
20 16  168.919 16  G/A/F Marco Greco         Phoenix    122     Running       10
21 26  164.647 23  G/A/G Paul Durant         Cobb        99      Engine        9
22 23  165.069 22  D/A/F David Steele        RSM Marko   59      Engine        8
23  6  171.241 15  R/A/G Eliseo Salazar      R&S         58    Crash T2        7
24 19  167.286  5  G/A/F Arie Luyendyk       Treadway    58    Crash T2        6
25 10  170.108 45  D/A/F J. J. Yeley         Sinden      45    Crash T2        5
26  7  170.754  6  G/A/G Davey Hamilton      Nienhouse   45    Crash T2        4
27 11  170.004 21  D/A/G Roberto Guerrero    Pagan       44     Gearbox        3
28  9  170.124 91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn    9      Engine        2

Time of race: 02:02:19
Average speed: 98.110 MPH
Margin of victory: 2.366 sec

Laps under green: 135 of 200 laps (67.5%)
Caution flags: 10 for 65 laps (32.5%)
#1: lap 10, blown engine/crash (Lazier), T3, 7 laps
#2: lap 19, spin (Paul), T2, 3 laps
#3: lap 32, crash (Dismore), T2, 5 laps
#4: lap 47, crash (Goodyear, Hamilton, Yeley), T2, 8 laps
#5: lap 59, crash (Buhl, Luyendyk, Salazar, Schmidt, Steele), T2, 10 laps
#6: lap 106, blown engine (Durant), T3, 8 laps
#7: lap 119, debris, FS, 2 laps
#8: lap 133, crash (Calkins, Paul), T2, 7 laps
#9: lap 169, spin (Schmidt), T2, 4 laps
#10: lap 186, crash (Brack, M. Groff), BS, 11 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 6
St: Ward 1-25
#1: Stewart 26-48
#2: Boat 49-54
#3: Cheever 55-60
#4: Boat 61-66
#5: Stewart 67-170
#6: Sharp 171-200

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 15 / 14.9
G-Force: 12 / 13.3
Riley & Scott: 1 / 23.0
Aurora: 28 / 14.5
Infiniti: none
Firestone: 8 / 15.9
Goodyear: 20 / 14.0