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The TACH Report: IRL Las Vegas 500k - Notes and Quotes

14 October 1997

Terry Callahan gave you the details of the fairly uneventful IRL night race season windup, which saw 10 lead changes and fewer yellow flags than last year's daytime season opener. He told you that the anticipated last 20 lap sprint race between two sprint car aces going for the 1997 IRL season title and PPG prize money never materialized. However, it was a safe race (if you weren't Roberto Guerreo) and the crowd of 30,000--in a facility that holds 107,000--probably got their money's worth.


The weather in Nevada is loony tunes. At 8 a.m. we shivered, and at 1 p.m. in the grandstand you could take a sun bath. At 4 p.m. it snowed nearby, and at race time it was a fairly pleasant 68 degrees. Crews, prior to the race were tuned to The Weather Channel, trying to determine what setup and tires to use. The wind, though brisk, was never a factor in the race. Robby Buhl said he kept watching a huge flag in the backstraight to keep his eye on wind conditions.


Two Infiniti motors started the race and neither finished, Dr. Jack Miller's DNF was due to a crash, and Tyce Carlson had ignition woes. So, Olds Aurora rules. We haven't heard a statement from Nissan/Infiniti as to whether or not they will return. The Jack Roush prepared Aurora that was put together for the Menard team seems to be the way to go for 1998.


Eddie Cheever barely made the field after experiencing motor ills during qualifying, and he started next to last in front of Johnny Unser. Nonetheless, his G-Force Olds was dialed in for the 208 lap race, and he moved all the way up to fifth before exiting with a blown power plant on the lap 138.

Guerrero hit a slowing Marco Greco, which caused his wild flip. The crowd gave the San Juan Capistrano, CA resident a big ovation when he walked away.

John Paul, Jr. went out at lap 153, but was able to refuel and get back in the fray. The IRL fuel/pit stops look like ancient F-1 trips to the pits: casual--four-five guys over the wall.

Charger-wise, it seemed that at the start, former cycle champ Jeff Ward was running his own CART car, as he blasted through the field from 12th and took command, walking away. But when he pitted for service, he exceeded the 80mph pit row speed limit and was penalized.

Arie Luyendyck was running a smooth race until he broke a cam shaft at lap 130. Luyendyck will be back in 1998 with Treadway Racing, but his team mate Scott Goodyear is signing on with a new IRL team headed up by Indianapolis Colt Quarterback Jim Harbaugh.

Kenny Brack and Buddy Lazier both called it quits with broken Olds motors.


In typical Vegas style, the driver intros in front of the main grandstand featured four 6ft chorus lovelies from the Flamingo Hotel/Casino who escorting the drivers to the podium. It looked like the drivers all averaged about 5ft 8 inches--the super chicks towered over them.

The roar of 30 V8 motors is sure nostalgic and crowd pleasing. They rev to 10,500 rpm, as compared to the 13,000 rpm that CART teams get from their Indy Cosworths, Mercedes, and Hondas. It's a delightful exhaust note.

At the head of the pit lane just minutes prior to the start, about 100 people (crew members, sponsors, press, and hangers-on) crowded around the two golden boys of the A.J. Foyt Stable, Billy Boat (what's his real name?) and Davey Hamilton. Flash bulbs flashed and TV cameras whirred. Way back in the no. 30 spot sat Johnny Unser, all alone with five crew members. It's lonely at the bottom. Jim Guthrie got the Rookie of the Year award, and someone asked him how it felt to be the only race winner from Albuquerque in the past five years. The Unsers come from Albuquerque.

Andy Evans made an appearance with his winning driver Eliseo Salazar and team manager Dick Simon. No mention was made of the Pro SportsCar problems, but Andy said Salazar and Simon would be back for 1998. Simon said the good Lord had something to do with their win.

Scott Goodyear, second place, said the marbles were prevalent at the top of the track and could be treacherous. He also commented on the paucity of people at the race, because it was a good race.

Third place finisher Robbie Buhl said his job was to help team mate Tony Stewart any way he could.

Salazar said he was almost taken over by "over-anxiousness" toward the end, and had to pace himself until the final yellow and then stand on it. He allowed that there were no other drivers from Chile on the immediate horizon, but that when he retires (soon) he intends to cultivate the crop. He also said that as big an event as the IRL/Vegas race was, the BIGGIE in all of sports is Chile vs. Peru in World Cup soccer.

Bill Maloney -- The Auto Channel