Race: MCI Worldcomm Longhorn 500

Track: Texas Motor Speedway

Date: Saturday, June 12, 1999

Start time: 6:42 PM CDT

Weather: Hot and humid

IRL historical: #4 of 10 in 1996 season, IRL race #28 overall

Track historical: IRL race #4, Indy car race #4 at this track

Track configuration: 1.455-mile, quad-oval, high banked

Wing package: speedway


Scott Goodyear scored his second IRL career victory by both being fast and surviving misfortunes that befell several faster cars. The first news coming out of practice and qualifying were the much slower speeds, stemming partly from an IRL rev limiter reduction to 10,000 RPM after Indy (it had been 10,500 at the previous Texas race), and partly as a result of a change in the listed track configuration. TMS had decided shortly before the race to re-measure the track, and they found that the various configuration changes that had been made since the track's opening in 1997, particularly the filling-in of the quad-oval corners and the elimination of the 8-degree portion of the turns, had shortened the track from its previous 1.5 miles to 1.455 miles. The shorter length produced an apparent speed reduction of about 5.5 MPH; it wasn't a real reduction since the track was in the same configuration as it had been at the previous IRL event.

Goodyear looked to have the car to beat in practice, but in a heartfelt story hard-luck driver Mark Dismore scored his first career pole. Dismore, the Indy car veteran whose career had been hit-or-miss from his near-fatal Indy crash in 1991 until he signed with Kelley Racing in 1997, was the only driver to top 215 MPH, beating out teammate Scott Sharp to make it an all-Kelley front row. Rising star Tyce Carlson took third spot, scoring his first IRL bonus point. Scott Harrington ran well in practice, but had problems in qualifying. In final practice his situation went from bad to worse: he crashed and suffered a hairline fracture of his leg, rendering him unable to drive. The team chose not to campaign another driver, and since the field wasn't full Harrington was credited with last place. Unfortunately, some IRL regulars were not present; the Byrd-Cunningham team had folded, and IRL stalwarts PDM and Sinden Racing were on the shelf due to not qualifying at Indy. This left the previous TMS race winner John Paul Jr. without a ride, as well as Robbie Buhl who had left Indy fifth in points.

At the start, Sharp got the jump on his teammate and sped off into the lead. Some fine racing ensued immediately, with Greg Ray, Jeff Ward, and Carlson swapping positions behind the leading Kelley cars. However, the Kelley forces weren't destined to stay in front long. The first warning came, oddly, from the Foyt cars; Billy Boat had to pit on lap 17 with a tire vibration which turned out to be caused by a blistering right rear. Two laps later his teammate Kenny Brack pitted with the same problem. This turned out to be a harbinger; pretty soon it became evident that many but not all of the Goodyear teams were wearing out their right rear tires in about 20 laps. A caution flew for debris in the pit exit on lap 28, and all of the leaders pitted. Robby Unser stayed out and inherited the lead for the first time in the 1999 season. The Hemelgarn team was having a miserable time; both of their cars were slow, and during the caution Buddy Lazier spun in the pits and and lost two laps having a new nose installed.

The green flag saw a glimpse of the IRL's future as some of the young lions went at the front spot. Donnie Beechler set about attacking Unser at the green flag, and a few laps later he passed for the lead. The two continued to hold off the veterans Cheever, Sharp, and Ray until about lap 50 when their pit strategy backfired and they had to pit under green. On lap 53, Boat blew an engine on the back stretch, ending his streak of consecutive finishes in the 1999 season. He did a fine job to keep the oil off the track and the car out of the wall in turn 3. Cheever took the lead at the caution, making the second consecutive race in which an Infiniti-engined car led.

At the green, hometown favorite Greg Ray took the lead from Cheever on the restart, but wasn't able to shake him. The two staged a great wheel-to-wheel duel for the lead, running lap after lap side by side with neither able to gain an advantage. Rookie Robbie McGehee was getting the job done too; shortly after Ray finally gained the lead on lap 66, McGehee passed Cheever for second. The other hometown favorite, John Hollansworth, wasn't having nearly as much fun as Ray; for the second consecutive race his gearbox was stuck in fourth, and unlike Indy eventually it led to an engine failure for Team Xtreme. Good racing continued to take place behind the leaders with Goodyear and Sam Schmidt moving up through the field, as well as the surprising Sprint car veteran Ronnie Johncox making his first IRL start. Unfortunately, Carlson had gone to the garage with a suspension problem. By lap 75, the leaders were stretching their fuel milage, but none wanted to be the first to stop. Cheever unintentionally started the round of green-flag stops when he ran out of fuel on lap 80. Schmidt led briefly before pitting, handing the lead to another rookie, Jacques Lazier, who had replaced Roberto Moreno with the Truscelli team. Lazier was making his first "real" IRL start (he was listed as 28th at Phoenix but did not actually start). Ward took the lead from Lazier on lap 94, but Lazier continued to run well until a botched pit stop on lap 97, when the car stalled due to a grabby clutch; then as Lazier left the pits, when he disengaged the pit lane speed limiter the clutch grabbed again and tossed the car into the pit wall.

The resulting yellow was a break for Beechler, who got back the lap that he had lost on the green-flag pit stop earlier and put him back into contention. Most of the leaders stopped, but Ray stayed out and assumed the lead. On the restart Johncox and Cheever traded sidepod donuts and both spun, fortunately without damage but extending the yellow. The race finally restarted on lap 108, and once again Ray found himself in a side-by-side fight for the lead, this time with Goodyear. However, Goodyear's car was not as fast after his most recent pit stop and Beechler quickly passed him for second. Then, Ward pitted with smoke from the right rear which proved to be a burned wheel bearing; it ended his streak of top-5 finishes and would cost him the points lead. Meanwhile, Goodyear took second place back as Stephan Gregoire appeared in the top-5, and Buzz Calkins and Davey Hamilton were also positioning themselves for good finishes. Ray continued to lead while some other cars that were expected to be dominant, like Sharp, Dismore, and Brack, limped around trying to conserve their rapidly-failing tires. On lap 126 things got more interesting ast Goodyear passed Ray as they moved to lap Sharp, with Ray repassing but then going side by side again. This went until lap 136 when Goodyear pittted, handing second back to Beechler. When Ray pitted two laps later, Beechler took the lead again, and because he was off-sequence on pit stops, he continued to lead until lap 148 when he pitted, and then Unser led again in turn. But Unser's stop on lap 157 was almost a disaster for Team Pelfrey; they didn't get the left rear wheel on properly, and as Unser left the pits it flew off. Fortunately, Unser did an excellent job of saving the car and getting it back to the pits on three wheels; they put another left rear on and continued, a lap down and slightly the worse for wear.

Schmidt took the lead in the pits, but three laps after the green on lap 166, Goodyear passed for the lead and Ray took second. As the lead cars picked their way through heavy traffic, Carlson, who was many laps down but running fast, crashed in turn 4. As the pace car came out to pick up the leaders, a bizarre incident occurred: Beechler, crowded down to the apron by other cars trying to avoid debris on the track, was hit by the pace car. The contact was severe and the pace car almost flipped; the incident ended Beechler's best IRL run to date.

It appeared that a good three-car dash was shaping up between Goodyear, Ray, and Cheever. Ray was certainly looking forward to his first IRL win on his home track. But after the green on lap 191, it quickly became apparent that neither Ray nor Schmidt had anything for Goodyear. The final bit of drama came at the restart as Cheever pitted unexpectedly and was out with what was reported as a battery problem. Goodyear drove away until he encountered late traffic that cut his margin to less than a second, but his car was perfect in the last twenty laps. Team Menard reported after the race that they had suffered a cracked cylinder head in the latter part of the race.

The results turned the points standings topsy-turvy; all of the top 5 finishers except Goodyear had been 20th or worse in the points coming into this race. Ray, who badly needed a good finish, moved up from 21st to 8th. Gregoire posted by far the best result for Dick Simon Racing to date, and Buzz Calkins had his first top-10 since Indy the previous year. Many of the Goodyear teams went off to contemplate their second consecutive TMS race with tire problems, but the race winner was on Goodyears and had no problems. Dismore did persevere and stroke it for a 7th-place finish, protecting his points position.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1  8 212.211   4  G/A/G Scott Goodyear      Panther    208     Running   43  50
 2  4 213.805   2  D/A/F Greg Ray            Menard     208     Running   56  42
 3  6 212.711  99  G/A/F Sam Schmidt         Treadway   208     Running   15  35
 4 16 210.488   7  G/A/F Stephan Gregoire    Simon      208     Running       32
 5 20 209.931   6  G/A/F Eliseo Salazar      Nienhouse  206     Running       30
 6 12 211.286  81  D/A/F Robby Unser         Pelfrey    206     Running   11  28
 7 15 210.971   9  D/A/G Davey Hamilton      Galles     205     Running       26
 8  1 215.272  28  D/A/G Mark Dismore        Kelley     205     Running       27
 9 14 211.210  12  G/A/F Buzz Calkins        Bradley    205     Running       22
10  2 214.839   8  D/A/G Scott Sharp         Kelley     203     Running   28  22
11 10 211.730  22  D/A/G Ronnie Johncox      Tristar    203     Running       19
12 17 210.438  35  G/A/G Steve Knapp         ISM        202     Running       18
13  9 211.936  14  D/A/G Kenny Brack         Foyt       201     Running       17
14 24 207.849  91  D/A/G Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn  200     Running       16
15 18 210.387  92  D/A/G Johnny Unser        Hemelgarn  200     Running       15
16  5 213.430  51  D/I/G Eddie Cheever       Cheever    188     Battery   13  14
17 25 207.126  98  D/A/F Donnie Beechler     Cahill     179    Crash BS   26  13
18  7 212.245  21  D/A/G Jeff Ward           Pagan      176     Running    7  12
19 21 209.839  55  D/A/F Robby McGehee       Conti      168 Wheel Brng.       11
20 13 211.261  42  D/A/F John Hollansworth   Xtreme     146      Engine       10
21  3 214.417  20  D/A/F Tyce Carlson        Blue-Immke 127    Crash T2       10
22 19 210.193  33  G/A/G Jacques Lazier      Truscelli   94   Crash Pit    9   8
23 23 208.544   3  R/A/G Raul Boesel         Brant       70  Suspension        7
24 11 211.671  11  D/A/G Billy Boat          Foyt        47      Engine        6
25 22 209.738  30  G/A/F Jimmy Kite          McCormack   19    Oil Leak        5
26 26 204.282  66  D/A/F Scott Harrington    Harrington   0         DNS        4

Time of race: 02:00:06
Average speed: 150.069 MPH
Margin of victory: 0.887 seconds

Laps under green: 169 of 208 laps (81.3%)
Caution flags: 6 for 39 laps (18.7%)
#1: lap 27, debris, FS, 5 laps
#2: lap 53, blown engine (Boat), BS, 6 laps
#3: lap 70, crash (J. Lazier), pit lane, 7 laps
#4: lap 104, spin (Cheever, Johncox), FS, 4 laps
#5: lap 157, lost wheel (R. Unser), T1, 6 laps
#6: lap 180, crash (Carlson), T2, 11 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 15; number of race leaders: 9
St: Sharp 1-28
#1: R. Unser 29-33
#2: Beechler 34-49
#3: R. Unser 50
#4: Cheever 51-60
#5: Ray 61-62
#6: Cheever 63-65
#7: Ray 66-82
#8: Schmidt 83-84
#9: J. Lazier 85-93
#10: Ward 94-100
#11: Ray 101-137
#12: Beechler 138-147
#13: R. Unser 148-152
#14: Schmidt 153-165
#15: Goodyear 166-208

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 17 / 14.5
G-Force: 8 / 10.1
Riley & Scott: 1 / 23.0
Aurora: 25 / 13.4
Infiniti: 1 / 16.0
Firestone: 12 / 13.1
Goodyear: 14 / 13.9