Track: Pikes Peak International Raceway
Date: Sunday, June 27, 1999
Start time: 12:13 PM MDT
Weather: Warm, dry, windy
IRL historical: #5 of 10 in 1999 season, IRL race #29 overall
Track historical: IRL race #3, Indy car race #3 at this track
Track configuration: 1 mile D-oval, flat track
Wing package: Short track
Greg Ray put on the kind of dominating performance that everyone had always thought he was capable of, to post his first IRL victory. In qualifying Ray easily won the pole, his only real challenge coming from a surprising quarter, that of rookie and fellow Texan John Hollansworth, who came close enough to Ray's time to score his first IRL front-row start. Following the all-Dallas front row was the all-telecom second row consisting of Mark Dismore and Sam Schmidt. 25 cars drew for qualifying numbers, but the team of rookie Robby McGehee didn't make a run due to an engine failure. Their luck went from bad to worse in final practice when they wrecked; without a backup car, they were forced to take a did-not-start and last place.
On the start, Ray jumped out into a lead, while Schmidt quickly maneuvered his way into second place, setting the tone for the race. Calamity struck on the first lap as Tyce Carlson spun in turn 3 and collected Billy Boat in a grinding crash, in which Carlson's car was briefly pinned with the cockpit against the wall. Fortunately, neither driver was hurt, but green flag racing was delayed for 11 laps. When the green finally fell, Ray and Schmidt set off by themselves, followed by a pack containing Dismore, Hollansworth, Robby Unser, Davey Hamilton, and Eddie Cheever, while Buddy Lazier, Kenny Brack, and Jeff Ward set about making up time. Schmidt's car was better than Ray's on old tires, and on lap 23 Schmidt passed Ray for the lead.
By lap 30, Lazier had briefly advanced to fourth but then dropped back, while Scott Harrington, driving with a broken leg suffered at Texas, was moving through the field. On lap 37, Harrington passed Dismore for fourth. Hollansworth's time up front hadn't lasted long as he was forced to the pits on lap 31 with what the team thought was a flat right rear tire. Unfortunately, that wasn't the problem, and they spent most of the race battling an extremely loose condition -- a story that would be repeated by several other teams, surprising as most teams had reported during practice that they had uncorrectable push conditions. Scott Goodyear was fighting loose handling too, and by lap 40 his car had developed a tire vibration and he dropped out of the top 15. Schmidt stretched out a three-second lead by lap 59, when he passed Ward, who was strugging on old tires. Harrington and Cheever had an exciting duel for third, and Harrington took the position in traffic on lap 60.
With no cautions since the beginning of the race, by lap 70 green-flag pit stops commenced. Cheever, Harrington, and Lazier all stopped between laps 76-80, while Schmidt and Ray stayed out. On lap 82, Dismore entered the pits along with Ward and Jimmy Kite. However, Dismore immediately discovered that his brakes were not working properly; as he pumped the brake pedal trying to make his pit, his rear wheels suddenly locked and his car spun and lightly hit the pit wall. The car came to a stop in a position blocking the pit exit, and so a caution flew, with Schmidt and Ray still out. The timing of the caution caught everyone except these two and Hamilton and Unser a lap down. The caution was a big break for Hamilton, putting him into contention, and a terrible break for cars like Cheever and Harrington who got caught. The two leaders subsequently made their pit stops under caution; the Menard team was a shade quicker and Ray regained the lead in the pits. Brack's stop didn't go so smoothly; the built-in pneumatic jacks didn't work and the team had to service the car with hand jacks. Dismore's stop got even worse as the gearbox locked up after the spin, and the team had to take the car to the garage for new brakes and a replacement gearbox, taking him out of contention.
At the green on lap 89, Ray set about trying to build a lead, but Schmidt caught him in traffic and retook the lead ten laps later. The two cars were nearly evenly matched now, and Ray retook the lead on lap 116. Meanwhile, several cars including Cheever had gotten their laps back on the start and were hoping for another caution. It was not to be, though. The positions immediately behind the leaders settled down with Hamilton in third and the very fast Harrington taking fourth by lap 135, while Lazier, Cheever, and Robby Unser all dueled behind them, and Brack turned some very fast laps trying to make up the time lost in the pits due to the balky jacks.
Cheever was having a fuel pickup problem and had to pit on lap 148. Harrington was flying and he made up a lap the hard way, finally passing Schmidt for second place on lap 150. At this point the running order was Ray, Harrington, Schmidt, Hamilton, Lazier, Robby Unser, Brack, Scott Sharp, Cheever, and Ward. The next sequence of green-flag stops would prove crucial in separating the leaders from the rest. Harrington made his stop on lap 159, encountering no problems. However, when Lazier stopped on lap 161, his engine stalled, costing him nearly a lap. Brack stopped the next lap and again his crew had to use hand jacks, costing him a lap. Ward stopped and took extra time for a significant front-wing adjustment. Hamilton pitted on lap 167 and also stalled. When Sharp pitted on lap 172, he found that, like his teammate Dismore earlier, he had no brakes. Cheever meanwhile had lost his radio, and was having to communicate with his crew using hand signals.
Meanwhile, Ray and Schmidt made their stops on laps 166 and 176 respectively, encountering no problems. After all the stops, only Ray, Schmidt, Harrington, and Hamilton were on the lead lap. However, misfortune struck Harrington on lap 183 when he came up behind the slower car of Goodyear, lost the air off of his front wings, and slid into the wall in turn 4. It wasn't a very hard hit, but with the race nearly over and Harrington already having one injury, his team chose not to attempt repairs, ending an excellent run for the gritty independent driver.
The formation for the restart found Ray up front with Cheever and Lazier right behind, while Schmidt was some distance back owing to having just stopped. The race restarted on lap 190, with ten laps to go. Cheever immediately jumped Ray and shot under him in turn 1 to get his lap back, and on the next lap Lazier passed to also regain the lead lap. Ray, showing his advancing maturity as a race driver, didn't contest these meaningless passes and didn't let them rattle him. However, after the restart Schmidt's car was much faster, and the Las Vegas-based driver promptly set about carving up the traffic between him and Ray. In one of the most inspiring charges of the season, Schmidt gained two-tenths of a second a lap while working traffic, while Ray bided his time following Lazier. On lap 195, Schmidt was behind by 1.2 seconds. On lap 198, he got clear of traffic and was 0.7 seconds behind. By the time the cars took the while flag, Schmidt was two car lengths behind and looking for an opening. Ray got a slightly better run off of turn 2 and stretched out a bit of an opening on the back stretch. This would prove to be the difference; Schmidt came off of turn 4 right on Ray's gearbox, but as he tried to move to the inside Ray made a slight feint; Schmidt checked up momentarily, and ran out of time. For Ray and his team manager and long-time confederate Thomas Knapp, it was his their first IRL victory, and the first for Team Menard since Tony Stewart's 1998 win at New Hampshire.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 1 176.005 2 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 200 Running 109 55 2 4 175.072 99 G/A/F Sam Schmidt Treadway 200 Running 91 40 3 9 173.511 9 D/A/G Davey Hamilton Galles 200 Running 35 4 11 173.185 51 D/I/G Eddie Cheever Cheever 200 Running 32 5 12 173.102 91 D/A/G Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 200 Running 30 6 6 174.715 81 D/A/F Robby Unser Pelfrey 199 Running 28 7 13 173.019 14 D/A/G Kenny Brack Foyt 199 Running 26 8 17 170.932 8 D/A/G Scott Sharp Kelley 198 Running 24 9 18 170.681 21 D/A/G Jeff Ward Pagan 196 Running 22 10 23 164.466 33 G/A/G Jacques Lazier Truscelli 195 Running 20 11 15 172.035 7 G/A/F Stephan Gregoire Simon 195 Running 19 12 14 172.298 4 G/A/G Scott Goodyear Panther 195 Running 18 13 16 171.494 92 D/A/G Johnny Unser Hemelgarn 194 Running 17 14 24 162.631 12 G/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 194 Running 16 15 10 173.435 30 G/A/F Jimmy Kite McCormack 194 Running 15 16 2 175.859 42 D/A/F John Hollansworth Xtreme 193 Running 16 17 21 167.903 35 G/A/G Steve Knapp ISM 190 Running 13 18 20 168.721 3 R/A/G Raul Boesel Brant 190 Running 12 19 8 173.745 66 D/A/F Scott Harrington Harrington 183 Crash T4 11 20 19 169.229 6 G/A/F Eliseo Salazar Nienhouse 175 Running 10 21 3 175.106 28 D/A/G Mark Dismore Kelley 152 Running 10 22 22 165.130 98 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Cahill 113 Handling 8 23 5 175.012 20 D/A/F Tyce Carlson Blue-Immke 0 Crash T3 7 24 7 174.613 11 D/A/G Billy Boat Foyt 0 Crash T3 6 25 25 No Spd. 55 D/A/F Robby McGehee Conti 0 DNS 5
Laps under green: 176 of 200 laps (88.0%)
Caution flags: 3 for 24 laps (12.0%)
#1: lap 1, crash (Boat, Carlson), T3, 11 laps
#2: lap 83, spin (Dismore), pit lane, 6 laps
#3: lap 183, crash (Harrington), T4, 7 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 6; number of race leaders: 2
St: Ray 1-22
#1: Schmidt 23-85
#2: Ray 86-98
#3: Schmidt 99-115
#4: Ray 116-165
#5: Schmidt 166-175
#6: Ray 176-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 12.9
G-Force: 8 / 12.6
Riley & Scott: 1 / 18.0
Aurora: 24 / 13.4
Infiniti: 1 / 4.0
Firestone: 12 / 14.5
Goodyear: 13 / 11.6