Race: Las Vegas 500

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Date: Sunday, October 11, 1998

Start time: 1:04 PM PDT

Weather: Moderately warm, sunny

Serial: #11 of 11 in 1998 season, #24 overall

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

Config: 1.5-mile trioval, flat track

Wing package: Speedway


Arie Luyendyk went out with a bang, wrapping up a long and illustrious career (if in fact it turns out to be his exit) with a well-deserved win. Luyendyk had not been running well for the last several races, and the Treadway team changed their engine builder from Roush to Comptech at the last minute in search of better results, a change that paid dividends immediately. In fact, Luyendyk had much better luck with his engine than did championship contenders Kenny Brack, Davey Hamilton, and Tony Stewart.

In qualifying, Billy Boat notched his fourth straight pole and sixth of the season, both IRL records. In contrast to the Atlanta and Texas races, Boat jumped into the lead at the start and held it for a while. The shocker was that Stewart, from his front-row position, got off to a slow start and faded fast with a flat engine. Making his final start as a full-time IRL driver prior to entering the NASCAR Winston Cup series, Stewart had his situation go from bad to worse as he spun trying to enter the pits in LVMS's off-camber pit entrance, bringing out a caution. Shortly after, Brack's engine began running on seven cylinders, and he pitted for an extended stop; Hamilton also had engine woes and was having trouble maintaining the pace. By lap 20 Boat led Jeff Ward and Greg Ray; Luyendyk was advancing rapidly and moved into fourth by lap 22. Rookie Donnie Beechler was also showing surprising speed and was up to 7th. But the gremlins were advancing faster than any driver: Scott Sharp pitted with a broken rear wing on lap 25, and the next lap Ray had to pit with a tire problem. He stalled in the pits and lost two laps. By this time Jeff Ward was the fastest car on the track, and after a brief duel he passed Boat for the lead on lap 28.

On lap 35, Ward led Cheever, Luyendyk, Beechler, and Texas winner John Paul Jr., as Boat started to fade. Stewart returned to the track many laps down, to circulate for points. The long pit stop ended his slim title hopes. By lap 40, after, the leaders begin to pit for tires and fuel. But a yellow on lap 45, after David Steele brushed the wall, came right after Ward's pit stop and caught him a lap down. After the green Luyendyk led Buddy Lazier, Eddie Cheever, and Paul, but immediately Lazier took the lead. Only a few laps later Boat spun entering turn 3 and whacked the wall. There was concern over Boat's previously injured leg; he limped from the car but it turned out to be only a broken toe. At this point all three of the title contenders were running 20th or worse. One pleasant surprise was Brian Tyler, who had cracked the top 10.

Lazier maintained the lead and looked strong after the caution. By lap 75 he led Luyendyk, Cheever, and the surprisingly strong Sam Schmidt. Lazier gradually built up a lead until a round of green flag pit stops beginning on lap 97. Most of the contenders made good stops, but Paul was still on the track when Beechler, still running strong and trying to pass Luyendyk for 2nd, got into the marbles in turn 4 and pushed up into the wall. Paul then pitted, handing the lead back to Lazier. Hamilton had an extended stop during which his crew replaced all of the engine electronics, to no avail. On the restart, Ward went high in turn 1 to make a pass, but found himself suddenly trapped behind Scott Goodyear who had slowed in the upper groove; Ward couldn't stop in time and rear-ended Goodyear, resuling in a grinding crash. Neither driver was hurt but both were out. During this extended caution, Lazier chose to pit; putting Luyendyk back in front; the crashes had eliminated several contenders and only Luyendyk, Paul, and Lazier were on the lead lap.

The next yellow, on lap 131, decided the IRL championship. As Roberto Guerrero tried to pass Hamilton on the high side in turn 1, they touched wheels and spun. Hamilton wrecked heavily and his 1998 season and championship hopes were done. After the green Luyendyk got a good jump and rapidly built a large lead over Paul, up to nearly 1/2 lap by lap 150. However, much to everyone's surprise Sam Schmidt was even faster. By staying out during the caution, he had gotten to the tail end of the lead lap, and when Stan Wattles spun in the pit entrace on lap 165, Schmidt got his lap back and joined the leaders. The timing of the caution was a huge break for Luyendyk, who was in the pits when it happened; a few seconds later and he would have been caught a lap down. As it was he resumed the lead after the other three lead-lap cars stopped during the caution. Fuel mileage had been looking dicey for the leaders prior to this caution, but they all stopped during the yellow and everone was set to go the distance. Brian Tyler had moved up to fifth, one lap down.

Luyendyk continued to lead after the green at lap 172, but Schmidt was charging. Racing with a qualifying engine borrowed from the Kelley team after his own engine didn't arrive, Schmidt passed Lazier on lap 178 to take third. Lazier's team had overcorrected a loose condition and his car wasn't as fast as it had been earlier. A yellow waved on lap 180 when Mark Dismore scraped the wall in the front stretch. Kelley's unofficial associate Schmidt was doing much better than his official cars, both of which had had handling problems all weekend (both Sharp and Dismore said their cars were "floaty".)

A late yellow, for Wattles' spin and brush with the wall in turn 4 on lap 198, set up the final dash. The running order was Luyendyk, Paul, Schmidt, and Lazier, who had pitted for tires and a front wing adjustment. The green flew for the final time on lap 204. Luyendyk got off to a good lead, while Schmidt tried to jump Paul on the restart; he made the pass in turn 1 but didn't quite get clear before pulling down to the low groove, and his left rear wheel clipped off Paul's right front wing. Paul made a brilliant save and struggled valiantly to fight off Lazier, but was unable to and finished fourth. Meanwhile, while Luyendyk ran conservative laps, Schmidt rapidly closed the gap, but he ran out of time and Luyendyk won by less than a second. Both Schmidt and Tyler, who finished sixth, bested their previous IRL career bests and scored their first top-5 finishes. Tyler had tried valiantly to overcome the points advantage of fellow rooke Robby Unser (who blew an engine on lap 177 and finished 16th), but the margin was too much and Unser won the Rookie of the Year title. Brack saw his engine problems mysteriously clear up late in the race, and he cruised to a 10th-place finish and the points title (Stewart finished 14th, many laps down, and Hamilton was placed 19th after his crash). As for Luyendyk, the win made for a fitting tribute to one of the IRL pioneers and Indy all-time greats: the next day he announced his retirement to a Dutch newspaper. (However, as of this writing he was reportedly reconsidering.) The race marked the farewell for the Thomas Knapp team; two days later he folded his team and took the team manager's job at Menard, replacing Larry Curry.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1 14 208.954   5  G/A/F Arie Luyendyk       Treadway   208     Running   88  52
 2 23 205.300  99  D/A/F Sam Schmidt         LP         208     Running       40
 3 17 208.293  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  208     Running   60  35
 4  7 211.508  10  G/A/F John Paul Jr.       Byrd-C'Ham 208     Running    8  32
 5 10 211.235  51  D/A/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever    207     Running    3  30
 6 22 205.934  81  D/A/F Brian Tyler         Pelfrey    207     Running       28
 7  5 212.047   3  D/A/F Robbie Buhl         Menard     206     Running       26
 8  3 213.331  16  G/A/F Marco Greco         Phoenix    206     Running       25
 9 21 207.127  18  G/A/G Steve Knapp         PDM        204     Running       22
10  6 211.715  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       202     Running       20
11 12 209.408  12  D/A/F Buzz Calkins        Bradley    202     Running       19
12 11 210.798   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley     198     Running       18
13 25 203.466  19  R/A/G Stan Wattles        Metro      187     Running       17
14  2 212.934   1  D/A/F Tony Stewart        Menard     178     Running       18
15  9 211.292  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     176  Suspension       15
16 27 No Spd.  52  G/A/G Robby Unser         Cheever    174      Engine       14
17 24 204.197  77  D/A/G Stephan Gregoire    Chastain   160     Running       13
18 20 208.125  30  G/A/G Raul Boesel         McCormack  144  Timing Ch.       12
19 13 209.389   6  D/A/G Davey Hamilton      Nienhouse  124    Crash T1       11
20 18 208.245  23  G/I/F Roberto Guerrero    Cobb       123    Crash T1       10
21  8 211.408  35  G/A/G Jeff Ward           ISM        120    Crash T1   21   9
22 15 208.655   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    117    Crash T1        8
23 16 208.510  98  D/A/F Donnie Beechler     Cahill     107    Crash T4    1   7
24 19 208.237  15  R/A/G Jim Guthrie         R&S         90    Handling        6
25  4 212.272  97  D/A/F Greg Ray            Knapp       76    Handling        5
26  1 214.567  11  D/A/G Billy Boat          Foyt        51    Crash T3   27   7
27 26 201.718  43  G/A/G David Steele        Panther     42  Suspension        3
28 28 No Spd.  40  D/I/F Jack Miller         Sinden      38    Handling        2

Time of race: 02:18:19
Average speed: 135.338 MPH
Margin of victory: .926 sec

Laps under green: 152 of 208 laps (73.1%)
Caution flags: 10 for 56 laps (26.9%)
#1: lap 7, spin (Stewart), pit lane, 4 laps
#2: lap 15, debris, FS, 3 laps
#3: lap 45, debris, T4, 3 laps
#4: lap 54, crash (Boat), T3, 9 laps
#5: lap 110, crash (Beechler), T4, 9 laps
#6: lap 121, crash (Goodyear, Ward), T1, 7 laps
#7: lap 130, crash (Guerrero, Hamilton), T1, 8 laps
#8: lap 165, spin (Wattles), pit lane, 6 laps
#9: lap 180, crash (Dismore), T2, 2 laps
#10: lap 198, crash (Wattles), T4, 5 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 13; number of race leaders: 7
St: Boat 1-27
#1: Ward 28-38
#2: Cheever 39-41
#3: Luyendyk 42=46
#4: Beechler 47
#5: Luyendyk 48-49
#6: Lazier 50-97
#7: Luyendyk 98-99
#8: Ward 100-109
#9: Paul 110-112
#10: Lazier 113-124
#11: Luyendyk 125-163
#12: Paul 164-168
#13: Luyendyk 169-208

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 13.9
G-Force: 10 / 14.6
Riley & Scott: 2 / 18.5
Aurora: 26 / 13.8
Infiniti: 2 / 24.0
Firestone: 12 / 10.8
Goodyear: 16 / 16.1