Race: Vegas Indy 300

Track: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Date: Saturday, April 22, 2000

Start time: 12:30 PM PDT

Weather: Warm, sunny

IRL historical: #3 of 9 in 2000 season, IRL race #37 overall

Track historical: IRL race #5, Indy car race #5 at this track

Track configuration: 1.5-mile trioval, flat track

Wing package: Speedway


A rather strange weekend resulted in a win for an IRNLS driver whose last previous win in an Indy car occurred prior to the series' inaguaration. In qualifying, Mark Dismore and Greg Ray again took command of the front row, but this time Dismore turned the tables and took the pole. It was a ragged affair for several top teams, including the Galles team with Al Unser Jr., whose first qualifying effort was so slow that the team immediately withdrew that car and placed their T-car in line and qualified it without any testing, placing it 21st on the grid. Davey Hamilton and Tyce Carlson weren't any happier. Hamilton missed practice time as his team experimented with new electronics, and then after the car was finally running and qualified, they had to withdraw it due to an unexplained vibration. Carlson was fast in practice and qualified 9th, but crashed in final practice due to a suspension failure. Both had to go to their T-cars and the back of the grid. There was also unhappiness among the Hemelgarn and Walker teams; railbird wisdom had it that their Riley & Scott chassis were going to be very slow on the big tracks due to high drag. But their qualifying times belied this.

At the start of the race, Dismore assumed control, while Eliseo Salazar (who had qualified surprisingly well) moved through traffic to claim second. Hamilton's weekend got worse when his car stalled on the parade lap, requiring more work with the balky electronics and costing him several laps. Action lasted only a few laps before Stephan Gregoire blew an engine and crashed in turn 4. He was unhurt except for needing an ice bag on his foot. Racing resumed after the green with Dismore leading Salazar, Salazar's teammate Jeff Ward (running near the front for the first time in the 2000 season), Ray, and Eddie Cheever. Buddy Lazier meanwhile had advanced from 20th starting position to 13th before the yellow, and was up to 10th on lap 18 after six green-flag laps. Dismore's teammate Scott Sharp had a short day, losing an engine on lap 22; it culminated a series of engine failures that the Kelley team had atypically suffered over the weekend. Almost simultaneously the car of Dr. Jack Miller (making a start in a second car for the Tristar team) stalled in turn 2 on account of a dead battery. Miller wasn't able to make it back to the pits and a caution flew on lap 24. This lasted only three laps.

After the green, there was a short period before Donnie Beechler, running in the top-10, hit a patch in turn 4, spun, and clouted the wall with the left side. Beechler walked away but the car was mangled and a huge amount of debris was left on the track. Several cars including those of rookies Sarah Fisher and Sam Hornish Jr. picked up debris and were forced to circulate on deflating tires until the pits opened. Most of the leaders pitted but Ray and Billy Boat played some strategy and stayed out, inheriting the first two positions. The pit stops were costly for several drivers. Robby McGehee (who was already having enough difficulty due to radio problems) had a long stop owing to a jammed air wrench, while rookie Jason Leffler (making a one-off start in a second car for Treadway, in preparation for Indy) stalled his car. Salazar's crew had a worse problem: the compressed-air hose for the air jacks separated from its connector; the open hose lashed back and injured jack/vent man Glenn Wheeler. Furthermore, Salazar, unaware, left the pits with the disconnected coupling still in the air jack port and had to make an additional stop to have it removed. The green flew on lap 39 with Ray leading Boat, Robbie Buhl, Dismore, and Cheever; the latter two soon set Buhl back to fifth. By lap 50 the running order was Ray, Boat (continuing to hold his position nicely despite running with a '99-spec car), Dismore, Ward, and Cheever in the top-5 followed by rookie Airton Dare, Buddy Lazier, Buhl, McGehee, and Salazar. Three laps later Dismore passed Cheever and Boat for second, just as Scott Harrington (making his first start for the Nienhouse team and his first of the 2000 season) pitted with a sour engine, and Buzz Calkins (who had had a disappointing qualifying run after being very fast in practice) returned to the track after a lenthy stop for what the team thought was a fuel pickup problem. However, the car did only a couple of laps before the engine quit, and the team finally diagnosed it as a failed engine computer.

By lap 60 Ray and Boat were in trouble on fuel, having not stopped during the Beechler accident. Boat pitted on lap 62, and Ray on the next lap, handing the lead back to Dismore. Two laps later Buddy Lazier slowed on the front stretch; he had suffered a fuel pump failure and a very good run for one of the two R&S cars in the field was done for the day. The other leaders continued, not needing to stop until about lap 90, with Dismore leading Cheever, Dare, McGehee, and Ward. Cheever was all over Dismore and went for the lead several times, nearly getting it with a daring outside move in turn 1 on lap 71, but never quite pulled it off. Unfortunately this also ended prematurely two laps later; he coasted into the pits with a dead engine, and his crew had to change the engine computer to get it going again, costing him eight laps. Then Dismore's car developed a push, and McGehee passed him for the lead, with Dismore beginning to fade rapidly. Running up front, it seemed, was not the place to be. The young guns were giddy as McGehee and Dare ran 1-2; Tyce Carlson was up to fifth after his back-row start, and Hornish had cracked the top-10, as had Al Unser. Jimmy Kite, who had been as high as sixth a few laps earlier, pitted with ignition problems requiring the Blueprint team to change out several timing sensors, an operation which cost them over 50 laps.

By lap 85 most of the leaders were low on fuel and several also needed tires and adjustments. Hornish and Unser pitted under green on lap 85, which was their misfortune as Ward, running 4th despite a loose condition, hit the wall on lap 87; he had saved a spin only to drift up into the marbles in turn 4. He drove away but the car was badly damaged and unable to continue. Just in front of him, Dare ran out of fuel and just managed to make the pit entrance, losing a lap. Nearly everyone made a pit stop during the caution, and the order was reshuffled to Dismore, Salazar, Scott Goodyear, Fisher, and Leffler. On the green Salazar took the lead from Dismore and took off, while Hamilton, finally turning fast laps after his earlier problems, brushed the wall and was forced out with bent suspension. Salazar proceeded to drive away and by lap 104, the halfway point, he had a 2.2-second lead over Dismore and Goodyear. The rookies held their own with Fisher, Leffler, and Dare in positions 4-6 and Jaret Schroeder in 10th behind Buhl, Ray, and Unser. At this point only the first five were still on the lead lap.

A yellow flew on lap 121 for Doug Didero's blown engine, evaporating Salazar's advantage and allowing Dare to make up his lap. Salazar, Leffler, and Goodyear pitted while Dismore and Fisher stayed out, with Sarah assuming second position in the remaining R&S, as the Walker crew high-fived. However, after the green flew on lap 126, one lap later Fisher took a high line into turn 3 to pass some lapped traffic, while Salazar went low under the same traffic. Fisher came out ahead but her car lost traction in turn 4 and spun towards the wall. Salazar guessed wrong, went high, and got collected. The two drivers were unhurt in the wreck, but Salazar suffered self-inflicted wounds when he made some inappropriate and sexist comments concerning Fisher in a television interview after after the accident. Schroeder picked up a flat from the debris and had to stop twice to get it fixed. After the green on lap 137, Dismore rapidly built a large lead and appeared to be on his way to his second IRNLS victory; in ten laps he built an 8-second lead over Goodyear and was threatening to lap the field. But it was not to be. He needed a caution due to having not stopped on the previous one; he didn't get it and had to stop under green on lap 155. The other remaining lead-lap cars, Goodyear, Dare, Unser, and Leffler, were good until about lap 180. Goodyear inherited the lead but was quickly overtaken by the rookie Dare, who took the lead for the first time in his IRNLS career and drove away.

Such was fate on this day that Leffler cut a tire and crashed on lap 167, catching Dismore, who had the fastest car on the track, a lap down. And the gremlin that had been following the leaders all day wasn't satisfied with that: during the subsequent pit stops, Dare seemingly over-revved his car leaving the pits and the gearbox broke. Ray also suffered a gearbox failure and his team had to remove another gearbox from a show car to fix it. This resulted in an old and familiar situation. The only two cars on the lead lap were Goodyear and Unser, and it seemed that fate had arranged for a replay of the 1992 Indy 500 where the two had dueled with Unser coming out in front by a nose. Goodyear was determined to reverse that result, and for a while it seemed that he might. On the green he drove away from Unser, while Dismore got in front of both of them to hope for another caution (which he wouldn't get). Goodyear had a 4-second lead by lap 185, with Hornish, Buhl, and Schroeder having a good duel for fourth, one lap down. However, once again luck was to cut Goodyear no breaks in his dealings with Unser: on lap 186 his car began to smoke and he was quickly black flagged for an oil leak, which put him out of the race. This left only Unser and Dismore on the lead lap, with Dismore behind by over 20 seconds. Over the last ten laps Unser slowed his pace to conserve his car, and wound up with Hornish (who had mastered his adversaries with his '99-spec car) in his draft; Dismore was trying valiantly to make up the lap but Unser knew what his lead was and how fast he had to run. He took the win by 12 seconds, with Hornish running an excellent third. Schroeder passed Buhl just before the finish to make it rookies in the 3-4 positions, while Buhl preserved his record of having finished in the top-10 in every IRNLS race ever at Las Vegas. Not only was Hornish's finish an excellent one for a rookie, it was the best ever for the PDM team, one of the IRL's founding teams. The win was the 32nd for Unser in Indy-style cars; his first in the IRNLS and the first since a 1995 win at the Vancouver road course in the CART series. It was also team owner Rick Galles' first in the IRNLS. For the third consecutive race, the winner came from a starting position outside of the top-20.

Fin St  Qual  Car  C/E/T    Driver            Entrant  Laps     Status  Laps Pts
        Spd    #                                                         Led
 1 21 201.252   3  G/A/F Al Unser            Galles     208     Running   21  50
 2  1 208.502  28  D/A/F Mark Dismore        Kelley     208     Running   93  45
 3 18 202.346  18  G/A/F Sam Hornish         PDM        207     Running       35
 4  8 205.409   6  D/A/F Jaret Schroeder     Tristar    207     Running       32
 5 23 200.908  24  G/A/F Robbie Buhl         D&R        207     Running       30
 6 16 203.428   5  G/A/F Robby McGehee       Treadway   206     Running    9  28
 7  5 206.225  81  D/A/F Billy Boat          Pelfrey    206     Running       26
 8 27 205.339  20  D/A/F Tyce Carlson        Hubb-Immke 205     Running       24
 9  2 207.932   1  D/A/F Greg Ray            Menard     204     Running   26  24
10 22 201.027  33  G/A/F Jacques Lazier      Truscelli  202     Running       20
11  7 205.667  51  D/I/F Eddie Cheever       Cheever    201     Running       19
12 10 204.840   4  D/A/F Scott Goodyear      Panther    192    Oil Leak   19  18
13 24 197.969  30  G/A/F Ronnie Johncox      Byrd-McCor 188     Running       17
14 11 204.833  88  G/A/F Airton Dare         Xtreme     171     Gearbox   13  16
15  9 205.237  55  G/A/F Jason Leffler       Treadway   167    Crash T2       15
16 17 202.467  27  G/A/F Jimmy Kite          Blueprint  147     Running       14
17 12 204.151  15  R/A/F Sarah Fisher        Walker     126    Crash T4       13
18  4 207.405  11  G/A/F Eliseo Salazar      Foyt       126    Crash T4   27  12
19 26 192.836  43  D/A/F Doug Didero         MidAmerica 115      Engine       11
20 28 202.931  16  G/A/F Davey Hamilton      Xtreme      89  Suspension       10
21  6 205.699  14  G/A/F Jeff Ward           Foyt        87    Crash T2        9
22 20 201.260  91  R/A/F Buddy Lazier        Hemelgarn   65   Fuel Pump        8
23 14 203.743  17  D/A/F Scott Harrington    Nienhouse   65  Electrical        7
24 25 197.159  21  D/A/F Jack Miller         Tristar     54  Electrical        6
25 19 201.914  12  D/A/F Buzz Calkins        Bradley     45  Eng. Comp.        5
26 13 203.912  98  D/A/F Donne Beechler      Cahill      32    Crash T4        4
27  3 207.437   8  D/A/F Scott Sharp         Kelley      22      Engine        4
28 15 203.597   7  G/A/F Stephan Gregoire    Simon        3    Crash T4        2

Car #3 qualified their primary car at 191.564 MPH. Before qualifying ended, they withdrew that car and entered the #3T car into the qualifying line; that was the car raced. Cars #20 and #16 changed cars after qualifying; by rule they were placed in the grid in 27th and 28th respectively.

Time of race: 02:16:57
Average speed: 136.691 MPH
Margin of victory: 12.531 seconds

Laps under green: 161 of 208 laps (77.4%)
Caution flags: 7 for 47 laps (22.6%)
#1: lap 5, blown engine/crash (Gregoire), T4, 10 laps
#2: lap 24, stalled car (Miller), T2, 3 laps
#3: lap 34, crash (Beechler), T4, 5 laps
#4: lap 88, crash (Ward), T4, 8 laps
#5: lap 122, blown engine (Didero), FS, 4 laps
#6: lap 127, crash (Fisher, Salazar), T4, 10 laps
#7: lap 169, crash (Leffler), T2, 7 laps

Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes

Lead changes: 10; number of race leaders: 7
St: Dismore 1-35
#1: Ray 36-61
#2: Dismore 62-77
#3: McGehee 78-86
#4: Dismore 87-96
#5: Salazar 97-123
#6: Dismore 124-155
#7: Goodyear 156-157
#8: Dare 158-170
#9: Goodyear 171-187
#10: A. Unser 188-208

C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 13 / 15.2
G-Force: 13 / 13.1
Riley & Scott: 2 / 19.5
Aurora: 27 / 14.6
Infiniti: 1 / 11.0
Firestone: 28 / 14.5