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Indy 500: Billy Boat Grabs Indy 500 Pole Position

17 May 1998

By Terry Callahan
The Auto Channel

Billy Boat
Billy Boat
INDIANAPOLIS: The run for the pole at Indy is over for another year. The talk all week focused on Tony Stewart. He posted the fastest speed every day in practice leading up to qualifications today. There was a team quietly waiting in the wings. A team waiting to pounce on Tony Stewart and the Menard Racing Team.

Billy Boat and Kenny Brack drive for the legendary A.J. Foyt. Both drivers beat Stewart, the odds on favorite for the pole position. Billy Boat gets the best view of the start for the 1998 Indy 500. Kenny Brack will join Boat on the outside of the front row.

Boat knew his car was a powerful one. The talented Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver said, "You don't want to show your hand in practice. When we went out this morning, I knew we could run 224 today. Sometimes you get a race car you feel good in, and I feel good in that car."

Boat certainly didn't show his hand during the week of practice leading up to today's qualifying. Boat held the top speed one day out of six leading up to the run for the pole. When it came time for the money run, Boat posted a four lap average of 223.503 mph.

Actually, it was more than money. In addition to generous cash prizes, Boat won a new Harley- Davidson motorcycle.

The surprise of the day came when Greg Ray took to the track. Ray has been in the headlines all week. He has posted high speeds with little money. He did it again today. After starting 30th in his first and only Indy 500 in 1997, Ray will start the 1998 show from the middle of the front row. He qualified with an average speed of more than 221 mph.

Ray said, "We are fortunate to have such a great small team. I know the fans in turns one and three got a show. I was really holding onto it. My goal was to start higher and 30th. It is hard to pass cars all day from that far back."

Kenny Brack
Kenny Brack
Kenny Brack, also part of the A.J. Foyt Powerteam, surprised many of the fans on hand at the track today. Brack posted a blazing 220.982 four lap average during his qualifying run. It was good enough to knock Tony Stewart off the pole at the time. His ride around the track was a little rougher than Boat's.

"It was pushing in Turn 1 and loose in the other, so it equals out." Brack said. "It is hard to drive that car. You have to do well."

The boss man for the team was all smiles. Foyt commented on his two young drivers. "I'm very proud. Drivers like Billy Boat and Kenny Brack make the job a lot easier. I'm just happy they're both in the race. Winning is what matters. You have good years and bad years. Things straightened out for us today. K Qualifying is a starting point. You don't win the race on qualifying day. I don't care about the glory. I just car about racing. We're gonna keep preparing and pay attention to detail. I'm thrilled to death."

Foyt continued, "This is not the first time I've been on the pole as an owner. Who do you think was the owner of the cars when I was driving myself and was on the pole? This isn't the first time."

A.J. Foyt
A.J. Foyt
Foyt took the time to comment on the IRL. The four time Indy winner said, "This IRL has grown to be competitive. Now we're back racing, and it's what got me going. Before you had no choice. Now we can do anything we want to do. More crew and driver. You're hands aren't tied." (Foyt was referring to the rival CART series engine program where engines must be leased. The crews are not allowed to work on the internal parts of the engines. In the IRL, the teams own the engines.)

Tony Stewart was in relative good spirits after his qualifying run. Stewart commented, "Larry Curry (Team Manager) and I talked and kind of weighed the options and tried to decide if we're doing enough or not enough. Last year, we had an opportunity before we went out to qualify to make a change, and we didn't do it and stayed on the conservative side and qualified second. I told him this year I didn't want to leave anything on the table."

Stewart's run fell short. He qualified for his third Indianapolis 500 with a four lap average of 220.386 mph. He will start from row two.

Qualifications for the 1998 Indy 500 began promptly at 11:00 today. Only drivers who qualify today will be eligible for the coveted pole position. Qualifying will conclude on Sunday. The 82nd Indy 500 will be May 24.

Editors Note: The images displayed in this article are available for larger viewing in The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery