Track: Walt Disney World Speedway
Date: Sunday, January 24, 1999
Start time: 1:05 PM EST
Weather: Sunny, mild
Serial: #1 of 11 in 1999 season, #25 overall
History: IRL race #4, Indycar race #4 at this track
Config: 1-mile triangular, flat track
Wing package: Short track
Several promising young rookies were present, but it was a race dominated by the IRL veterans. Scott Sharp shattered the existing track record -- set at the very first new-car race in 1997 -- with Greg Ray, in his first race in his new Menard ride, alongside. Unlike years past, practice was very clean with only a few spins and no significant accidents. The field had a different look and some passing of the torch was evident, as several familiar names were absent and some new ones appeared. Last year's winner Tony Stewart, now a full-time NASCAR driver, appeared, but not as a driver; he had launched a new team with his former Menard crew chief Larry Curry, and ex-CART driver Gualter Salles in the seat. Salles was one of three first-timers to start the race, along with John Hollansworth, making the first start for Billy Roe's new Team Xtreme; Treadway's former test driver Jason Leffler had been promoted and was making his first IRl start. Leffler's new teammate was Sam Schmidt, taking the seat of Arie Luyendyk, who had announced his retirement over the winter. Also missing from the field were long-time IRL stalwarts Dr. Jack Miller and Marco Greco. Despite this, the provisional rules came into play for the first time in the past ten races as 29 cars attempted qualifying, and Eliseo Salazar with the reorganized Nienhouse team went home early.
On the start, Sharp was off and away, stretching out a lead over second starter Ray. Donnie Beechler saw a miserable beginning to a short day when his car wouldn't fire on the grid due to a wiring problem; he would retire after a spin. The early laps were marred by cautions as both of the Treadway cars crashed in turn 1 in two separate incidents. Neither driver was hurt but the Treadway team's day was a short one. There were few position changes among the top cars in the first half of the race, but further behind mid-pack starters were moving up including Mark Dismore, Eddie Cheever, John Paul Jr., and Hollansworth. Scott Goodyear was determined to make a good showing and passed Ray for second on lap 44.
A yellow for the stalled car of Scott Harrington (making his first "real" start in the IRL since Indy in 1996) engineered a mass pit stop. Sharp retained his lead, but Buddy Lazier and Cheever both got excellent service and moved up to fourth and fifth respectively. Tyce Carlson (a pleasant surprise in qualifying at 9th starting position) stopped later and led two laps, his first ever laps led in the IRL, but the late stop cost him track positions which he would not regain. During the yellow Stan Wattles (making his first start in a Dallara after being a Riley & Scott stalwart) went behind the wall with a failed halfshaft, and Robbie Buhl was having brake problems. After the green Ray's car wasn't as fast, and Goodyear, Lazier, and Boesel quickly swept by. Meanwhile, Davey Hamilton, making the first start for the reconstituted Galles team, had moved up from 20th starting position to 10th, and Steve Knapp in the PDM car (whose garages in Indy had been flooded out two weeks before the race) was also advancing.
Sharp still led at this point, but around lap 90 his car developed a push. Goodyear began reeling him in and passed for the lead on lap 103, with Cheever quickly taking second. Sharp caught a break when Salles' engine seized in turn 3 and he got tangled up with defending IRL champion Kenny Brack, bringing out the yellow. The green saw the running order as Goodyear, Cheever, Sharp, Lazier, Jeff Ward, Ray, Dismore, and Paul. But that didn't last long as on the restart, in turn 1 Lazier tried to dive under Sharp and they had contact, causing Lazier to spin. Paul spun to avoid, and in the ensuing melee there was contact with Ward and Dismore. All were able to continue; the efficient ISM crew changed Ward's nose without loss of laps, but Lazier and Paul suffered the loss of two and three laps respectively. (Ward said later that the nose change upset his car; they had been making front wing adjustments, but the spare nose didn't have these adjustments!) During this caution, most cars stayed on the track, but the McCormack team decided to play some strategy and pitted Boesel for a top-off.
On the restart, Goodyear used traffic to quickly build up a straightaway lead, while Dismore moved up to 4th and Knapp to 6th. The lead didn't last as Cheever caught and passed Goodyear on lap 142. At this time Ray began to slow, and on lap 157 he was given the black flag for a fluid leak. The gearbox, which had given them trouble during qualifying, had finally failed and Ray was out. On lap 170, Cheever led Goodyear, but they were being stalked by the tandem of Sharp and Dismore and it appeared that the race could end in a Kelley team 1-2. But there were other circumstances yet to be seen. Boesel was flying in the much improved McCormack car, whose sponsor Transworld was also the race's title sponsor, and had moved up to 5th. No one had the fuel to finish, or so it appeared, and on lap 172 Cheever pitted, handing the lead to Goodyear. Dismore pitted next lap, and two laps later Goodyear and Ward pitted and Sharp inherited the lead with Boesel up to second. Sharp held out until lap 180 before he had to pit. Unfortunately for him, on the next lap Hollansworth got in the marbles in turn 3 and crashed, bringing out the yellow with Boesel yet to pit. The caution caught everyone except Boesel, Cheever, Goodyear, and Ward a lap down. Boesel's team decided to stretch their fuel, and Boesel took the green on lap 189 with many lapped cars between himself and Cheever. Unfortunately, they didn't make it; on lap 192 Boesel ran out of fuel and a surprised Cheever was flagged as the winner eight laps later. Cheever was surprised because his radio had failed and he thought that Sharp, who was on the tail end of the lead lap, was the leader. Cheever scored his third IRL win and he became the first driver to win two IRL races at the same track (having won at Disney World in 1997). Of the top 10 finishers, all but Knapp were drivers with at least two years of experience in Indy cars. Goodyear scored a reversal in the tire war with all of the top-10 finishers except Boesel. The 20 cars classed as running at the finish set an IRL record.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 13 166.991 51 D/A/G Eddie Cheever Cheever 200 Running 40 50 2 4 169.731 4 G/A/G Scott Goodyear Panther 200 Running 36 40 3 6 168.350 35 G/A/G Jeff Ward ISM 200 Running 35 4 1 171.371 8 D/A/G Scott Sharp Kelley 200 Running 103 37 5 3 170.197 30 G/A/F Raul Boesel McCormack 199 Running 19 31 6 10 167.707 28 D/A/G Mark Dismore Kelley 199 Running 28 7 17 166.374 18 G/A/G Steve Knapp PDM 198 Running 26 8 20 165.077 9 G/A/G Davey Hamilton Galles 198 Running 24 9 14 166.736 11 D/A/G Billy Boat Foyt 198 Running 22 10 8 167.824 91 D/A/G Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 198 Running 20 11 19 165.244 10 G/A/F John Paul Jr. Byrd-C'ham 197 Running 19 12 9 167.801 20 D/A/F Tyce Carlson Blue-Immke 197 Running 2 18 13 12 167.069 50 G/I/F Roberto Guerrero Cobb 197 Running 17 14 24 161.421 33 G/A/G Brian Tyler Truscelli 195 Running 16 15 21 164.066 81 D/A/F Robby Unser Pelfrey 195 Running 15 16 25 161.117 7 G/A/F Stephan Gregoire Simon 194 Running 14 17 11 167.247 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 194 Running 13 18 27 Prov. 3 R/A/G Andy Michner Brant 191 Running 12 19 18 166.282 42 D/A/F John Hollansworth Xtreme 179 Crash T3 11 20 26 161.435 44 D/I/F Robbie Buhl Sinden 175 Running 10 21 2 170.697 2 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 163 Gearbox 11 22 5 168.563 14 D/A/G Kenny Brack Foyt 106 Crash T3 8 23 23 162.565 22 D/A/F Gualter Salles Curry/Card 91 Crash T3 7 24 16 166.559 19 D/A/G Stan Wattles Metro 54 Running 6 25 28 Prov. 66 D/I/F Scott Harrington Harrington 49 Engine 5 26 22 163.994 98 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Cahill 15 Suspension 4 27 7 168.122 99 G/A/F Sam Schmidt Treadway 14 Crash BS 3 28 15 166.605 5 G/A/F Jason Leffler Treadway 2 Crash T1 2
Car #44 qualified 24th, but changed cars after qualifying. By rule, the car was moved to 26th starting position.
Laps under green: 152 of 200 laps (76.0%)
Caution flags: 7 for 48 laps (24.0%)
#1: lap 3, crash (Leffler), T1, 7 laps
#2: lap 15, crash (Schmidt), BS, 7 laps
#3: lap 27, spin (Beechler), BS, 2 laps
#4: lpa 53, blown engine (Harrington), FS, 7 laps
#5: lap 108, crash (Brack, Salles), T3, 12 laps
#6: lap 120, spin/crash (Dismore, Lazier, Paul, Ward), T1, 6 laps
#7: lap 182, crash (Hollansworth), T3, 7 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 10; number of race leaders: 5
St: Sharp 1-55
#1: Carlson 56-57
#2: Sharp 58-102
#3: Goodyear 103-110
#4: Boesel 111-117
#5: Goodyear 118-141
#6: Cheever 142-173
#7: Goodyear 174-177
#8: Sharp 178-180
#9: Boesel 181-192
#10: Cheever 193-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 16 / 15.9
G-Force: 11 / 12.2
Riley & Scott: 1 / 18.0
Aurora: 25 / 13.9
Infiniti: 3 / 19.3
Firestone: 15 / 18.5
Goodyear: 13 / 9.8