Track: Texas Motor Speedway
Date: Sunday, September 20, 1998
Start time: 2:04 PM CDT
Weather: Very hot and dry, dusty
Serial: #10 of 11 in 1998 season, #23 overall
History: IRL race #3, Indycar race #3 at this track
Config: 1.5-mile quad-oval, high banked
Wing package: Speedway
A combination of very hot weather, a bad batch of tires, and recent improvement from a second-tier team produced surprising results at the first venue to host two IRL races in one year. Billy Boat won his third consecutive pole, but once again he dropped back on the start, and early in the race Tony Stewart assumed the lead followed by Mark Dismore. Scott Goodyear went backwards rapidly and had fallen out of the top 15 by lap 10. Arie Luyendyk, who had miserable engine problems all weekend and had to borrow an engine from the Panther team to race with, suffered an fuel pump drive failure after only five laps.
Trouble started early for the teams using Goodyear tires. Their right rear tires were coming apart in the heat. Davey Hamilton pitted on lap 16 with a shredded right rear, the first of several he would suffer. On the next lap the same thing happened to Stephan Gregoire and he spun and hit the wall in turn 2. Slowing down for the yellow, Boat was hit by Greg Ray and both cars suffered suspension damage. Ray also needed a new nose and as his team didn't have one, they had to borrow one from Sam Schmidt's team and continued with an orange nose on their black car. On the restart, Stewart missed a shift and Dismore assumed the lead. A few laps later Eddie Cheever retired with engine failure, which would also be a reoccurring theme thoughout the day. Andy Michner, who had started 27th in the factory Riley & Scott car, was coming like a rocket and cracked the top 10 by 25.
On lap 40 another Goodyear-shod entry, rookie David Steele making his second IRL start in the new Panther second car, suffered a right rear failure and hit the wall on the front stretch. Pit stop strategy begin at this point. This was in the fuel window so nearly everyone pitted, excepting Raul Boesel who had stopped on the previous yellow; he stayed out and assumed the lead. After the green Scott Sharp took the lead from Boesel, but led only one lap before Stewart passed him. Two laps later, Sharp -- another car with Goodyear tires -- had to pit for a flat, and a few laps later his teammate Dismore suffered the same problem. Hamilton shredded his second right rear on lap 67, putting a serious dent in his title hopes. Three laps later Sharp lost another right rear; this time he couldn't save it and he crashed in turn 3. Some more strategy began to play out. Roberto Guerrero, who had moved into the top 10 with a surprisingly strong Infiniti engine, pitted along with Stewart, Brack, Goodyear, and Buddy Lazier. Hamilton also had to pit again with yet another flat. Goodyear lost his clutch on the way out and the Panther team ws done for the day. The stops jumbled the running order and John Paul Jr., who had practiced much faster than he qualified, assumed the lead. Immedately after the green, on lap 80 Stewart retired with engine failure.
By this time, many of the Goodyear teams were so concerned about their tire situation that they were slowing their drivers down. Boat pitted with a blistered right front and car owner A. J. Foyt gave orders to Boat's teammate Brack to stroke it and protect his points position, destroying Brack's chances for four wins in a row. At the green Boesel had again assumed the lead, followed by the surprising Michner. Even more surprising, Guerrero was passing everyone and by lap 99 had moved up to second, while Michner held third. Two Goodyear teams who weren't having problems, Jeff Ward and Robby Unser, ran behind them. Shortly after Boat blew a tire entering turn 3 and crashed. Michner got a good pit stop and was the leader when green came out on lap 112. He held that lead for five laps before Lazier passed him. Shortly after Michner began losing power, but still stayed in the top 5 until the engine finally failed on lap 160. Meanwhile, some interesting racing took place. Paul took the lead when Lazier pitted under green on lap 131. Five laps later, with Paul still having not pitted, there was a hard crash in turn 3 when Marco Greco had contact with Donnie Beechler, and Steve Knapp and Raul Boesel were also collected. Greco suffered a concussion in the crash; the other drivers walked away. The caution cost Lazier and Ward a lap.
History was made when Paul pitted on lap 136, handing the lead to Guerrero. It was the first time since the new car formula was implemented that an Infiniti-engined car had led a lap in an IRL race. Guerrero waited until the end of the caution to pit, and then handed the lead to Robby Unser, making him the first member of the storied Unser family to lead laps in IRL competition. Brack and Paul also stopped on this yellow. Buhl tried to stretch his fuel too far and ran out during the caution, costing him three laps. And once again Hamilton had to make an extra stop for a flat tire. An eerie tale came from the pit of Stan Wattles, who had been moving up steadily. During the yellow he pitted and his crew removed a large half-shaft, debris from the crash, that had embedded in his left sidepod. Amazingly, it didn't hurt anything and Wattles went on to a good finish. Had the heavy bar been two feet to the right, Wattles might not have been so lucky.
With many of the favorites now either out or struggling with tires, the leader board had acquired a decidedly different look. When a yellow flag flew for Michner's engine failure on lap 160, Guerrero played out some more fuel strategy and stayed out while the others pitted. At the green on lap 165 Guerrero led Ward, Lazier (both of whom had made up their laps on the caution), Paul, and Unser. Ward ran down Guerrero and by lap 175 the two were having a wheel-to-wheel duel that got the crowd on their feet. Guerrero held his own and it was a vindication for him and the Infiniti engine. Ward finally nipped him on lap lap 184 after two side-by-side laps.
The final act was about to be staged. Guerrero, who had not stopped at the lap 160 caution, couldn't risk stretching pitted for a splash-and-go on lap 191. Lazier and Ward both pitted for full service a lap later, losing a lap in the process and handing the lead to Paul. This proved critical when, on lap 198, Hamilton suffered his fifth tire failure of the day. The right rear exploded on the front stretch and Hamilton went through a sickening spin in the quad-oval. Amazingly, he had no contact; he came to a stop in the infield and drove from there to his pit. It was a serious scare from Paul who had been a car length behind Hamilton when the incident happened. Somehow, Paul deduced that the tire was going to fail an instant before it did, and he moved to the inside just in time to avoid the tire debris and Hamilton's spinning car. The yellow caught Guerroro and (once again) Lazier and Ward a lap down, leaving only Paul and Unser on the lead lap. On the restart, with five laps remaining Unser had four lapped cars between him and Paul. Cheever, in Unser's pit, didn't believe that Paul had the fuel to finish. Ward took off and quickly passed Paul to unlap himself; he was sorely disappointed later because he didn't realize he was a lap down and thought he'd passed Paul for the lead. Paul ran a conservative pace, waving several lapped cars by. Unser made a charge but ran out of time, and John Paul Jr. had his first IRL victory. For Paul, whose problems have been well documented, it was his first Indycar victory in 15 years (he'd won the CART Michigan 500 in 1983), a personal redemption, and a very popular victory. Unser's second was his best IRL finish to date, and Guerrero's fourth was the best finish for the Infiniti engine since the first race ever run by the new cars in January 1997. Paul's win was the first superspeedway win for the G-Force chassis in 1998, and the third win of the season for Firestone. Unser and Ward salvaged the situation for Goodyear, who had seen so many of their faster entries suffer tire failures (Hamilton had five flat tires in all). Brack ran a smart race, took car of his equipment, and picked it up near the end to finish fifth and extend his lead in the IRL points.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 14 221.366 10 G/A/F John Paul Jr. Byrd-C'Ham 208 Running 31 50 2 17 220.823 52 G/A/G Robby Unser Cheever 208 Running 22 40 3 5 224.076 35 G/A/G Jeff Ward ISM 208 Running 16 35 4 18 220.489 23 G/I/F Roberto Guerrero Cobb 208 Running 22 32 5 10 222.186 14 D/A/G Kenny Brack Foyt 207 Running 30 6 19 220.417 91 D/A/G Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 206 Running 14 28 7 16 220.850 3 D/A/F Robbie Buhl Menard 205 Running 26 8 26 212.707 19 R/A/G Stan Wattles Metro 205 Running 24 9 6 223.677 6 D/A/G Davey Hamilton Nienhouse 202 Running 22 10 4 224.299 28 D/A/G Mark Dismore Kelley 202 Running 14 20 11 21 218.420 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 201 Running 19 12 22 217.558 40 D/I/F Jack Miller Sinden 201 Running 18 13 24 216.867 81 D/A/F Brian Tyler Pelfrey 174 Engine 17 14 1 225.979 11 D/A/G Billy Boat Foyt 162 Running 19 15 27 206.746 15 R/A/G Andy Michner R&S 158 Engine 7 15 16 15 221.330 16 G/A/F Marco Greco Phoenix 133 Crash T3 14 17 13 221.429 30 G/A/G Raul Boesel McCormack 133 Crash T3 30 13 18 20 218.898 18 G/A/G Steve Knapp PDM 131 Crash T3 12 19 25 215.655 98 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Cahill 122 Crash T3 11 20 2 224.869 1 D/A/F Tony Stewart Menard 80 Engine 51 14 21 12 221.921 97 D/A/F Greg Ray Knapp 75 Engine 9 22 7 222.772 4 G/A/G Scott Goodyear Panther 71 Clutch 8 23 3 224.551 8 D/A/G Scott Sharp Kelley 67 Crash T3 1 8 24 11 222.049 43 G/A/G David Steele Panther 39 Crash FS 6 25 9 222.268 51 D/A/G Eddie Cheever Cheever 30 Engine 5 26 8 222.332 77 D/A/G Stephan Gregoire Chastain 18 Crash T2 4 27 23 217.243 99 D/A/F Sam Schmidt LP 5 Engine 3 28 28 219.646 5 G/A/F Arie Luyendyk Treadway 5 Fuel Pump 2
Car #5 qualified 20th, but changed cars after qualifying. By rule, the car was moved to 28th.
Laps under green: 141 of 208 laps (67.8%)
Caution flags: 8 for 67 laps (32.2%)
#1: lap 19, crash (Boat, Gregoire, Ray), T2, 9 laps
#2: lap 40, crash (Steele), FS, 8 laps
#3: lap 70, crash (Sharp), T3, 8 laps
#4: lap 85, debris, BS, 7 laps
#5: lap 108, crash (Boat), T3, 8 laps
#6: lap 134, crash (Beechler, Boesel, Greco, Knapp), T3, 18 laps
#7: lap 160, blown engine (Michner), BS, 5 laps
#8: lap 198, spin (Hamilton), FS, 4 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 17; number of race leaders: 10
St: Stewart 1-27
#1: Dismore 28-41
#2: Ward 42
#3: Boesel 43-50
#4: Sharp 51
#5: Stewart 52-75
#6: Ward 76-80
#7: Paul 81-87
#8: Boesel 88-109
#9: Michner 110-116
#10: Lazier 117-130
#11: Paul 131-136
#12: Guerrero 137-140
#13: R. Unser 141-162
#14: Paul 163
#15: Guerrero 164-182
#16: Ward 183-191
#17: Paul 192-208
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 15.5
G-Force: 10 / 13.5
Riley & Scott: 2 / 11.5
Aurora: 26 / 15.0
Infiniti: 2 / 8.0
Firestone: 12 / 14.9
Goodyear: 16 / 14.2