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Jeff Gordon Wins IROC First Round

13 February 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

DAYTONA BEACH, FL: The 22nd International Race of Champions (IROC) got underway this afternoon at the Daytona International Speedway. The series, which places stars from several different racing disciplines against one another in identically prepared cars, is a real crowd pleaser. Each year it is filled with excitement. Today was no exception.

Jeff Gordon, the defending Winston Cup Champion, was victorious in Round 1 of the 1998 IROC series. Gordon got some help from mother nature. The skies opened up on the 31st lap of the 40 lap event. Gordon was the leader at the end of lap 30. By the time he got to the backstretch of the famous high banked tri-oval, Gordon had been passed by two other hungry NASCAR veterans. Jeff Burton and Mark Martin blew by Gordon as the yellow flag waved due to rain on the racetrack.

In the IROC series, the cars do not "race back to the flag" and yellow flag laps do not count. Gordon was the leader of the last official lap scored. The rain continued. Gordon was declared the winner after almost an hour of steady rains.

Gordon drove a silver (number 6) Pontiac Firebird to the victory. He led only two laps. He earned 21 points for his first place finish.

Jeff Burton was second behind Gordon. Burton's NASCAR teammate, Mark Martin, was third. Martin led the most laps (17). He was followed by another NASCAR star, Dale Earnhardt.

Arie Luyendyk was the first non-NASCAR driver to the stripe. This was an impressive drive considering Luyendyk spun earlier in the race. He damaged the nose of his firebird as he hit the flat part of the track sliding down the high banks. The Indy 500 champion came in for quick repairs and fought his way to fifth at the end of the race.

Another open wheel star, Al Unser Jr. did an impressive job. Unser did not turn a single practice lap before the race. Unser was forced to start at the rear of the field for missing practice. Unser drove near the front and made a great move to avoid a major crash. Unser finished eighth.

Tommy Kendall Has Bad Luck
Tommy Kendall Has Bad Luck at Daytona

Tommy Kendall was unable to finish the race. His Firebird suffered severe damage after making hard contact with the outside wall. Randy LaJoie was also involved in the incident but was able to continue. Unser Jr, drove through the melee without damage.

The total purse of $760,000 will be paid at the conclusion of the four race series. The payout will be according to points earned in the four races. The champion will earn $225,000. The next IROC race will be at the California Speedway, Fontana, CA, on May 2, 1998.