The Callahan Report: Salazar "Earns" First IRL Victory
13 October 1997LAS VEGAS, NV: Eliseo Salazar has been surrounded by injury and controversy since entering the Indy Racing League. His frustrations ended Saturday night when he took his first IRL victory.
The season started in disaster for Salazar. He was injured in a practice crash before the season really began. The same thing happened to the native of Chile last year. He overcame the pain from a broken leg and a broken back the last two seasons to visit victory lane for the first time.
Salazar implied he is going to enjoy the winter months. The race in Las Vegas was the final race of the season for the IRL. They won't race again until The Walt Disney World 200 (Orlando) in January. Salazar said, "I'm so happy to get the first win. It's a very special race, partly because it's the last race and we're going to enjoy it for many months."
About the race itself, Salazar said, "In this race you have to be patient. My only concern was we would have a late yellow, and that's what happened." Salazar was referring to Roberto Guerrero's spectacular crash with a handful of laps remaining. Guerrero flipped violently several times down the back stretch. Guerrero was stunned, but uninjured.
Salazar's victory was no fluke. The cars and competition in the IRL this season have been even. He beat some very capable racers at Las Vegas. The most noteworthy being Scott Goodyear. Goodyear has won 500 milers at Michigan against competitors like, Unser, Andretti, and Rahal. Goodyear has also finished second (twice) in the Indy 500. He had Indianapolis wrapped up in 1995 but was penalized for passing the pace car. Goodyear couldn't do anything with Salazar under the lights in Las Vegas. Salazar took the lead with 48 laps to go and stayed there.
Salazar was criticized heavily after the running of the 1996 Indy 500. He collided with Arie Luyendyk exiting the pit lane, taking the favorite to win out of the race. Later in that same race, Salazar squeezed Davy Jones nearly into the wall in an effort to block the faster driver.
Salazar's racing resume contains a wide variety of series and cars. Salazar began racing professionally in 1974 in Chile. He was crowned the Chilean Salon Cars Champion that same year. He later won the Argentine Formula Ford Championship in 1978. From there, he moved to the British Formula 3 series. By 1980, Salazar had won three races in the British Formula One series which included the International Trophy at Silverstone. He was second in the championship in 1980.
Salazar raced in Formula One from 1981 to 1983. His best finish was sixth at the Dutch Grand Prix. He returned to Chile to run the Chilean Champion Rally series and then spent a couple of years driving in Formula 3000. He began IMSA World Sports Car racing in 1994. In 1995, Salazar entered the CART racing scene with Dick Simon. He ran the full season and placed 4th in the rookie of the year standings.
Salazar now drives for Andy Evans/Team Scandia on the Indy Racing League Circuit. He also ran in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Race earlier this year.
The IRL teams take their short vacation now. It will be very short. The first race of the 1998 season is only three months away. There is a lot of testing and sponsor searching which needs to take place between now and then.