Mark Martin Clinches Fourth IROC Championship with Win at Indy; Luyendyk Injured
31 July 1998INDIANAPOLIS, July 31, 1998 - Mark Martin scored a historic double victory Friday, clinching an unprecedented fourth True Value Firebird International Race of Champions series title by winning the inaugural IROC event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Martin, from Daytona Beach, Fla., edged CART driver Al Unser Jr. by .247 of a second for the victory on the 2.5-mile oval. Martin started 11th in the 12-car field.
Jimmy Vasser leads Randy LaJoie on the opening lap
Martin earned $225,000 for his unprecedented third consecutive title in the four-race series between the world's best drivers. All drivers compete in identically prepared Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams.
"This is the sweetest day of my life," Martin said. "I now know where Victory Lane is at Indy."
Martin won the championship with 86 points. NASCAR Winston Cup driver Jeff Burton, who finished last in the 12-car field, ended up second with 57. NASCAR Winston Cup driver Jeff Gordon finished third in the season standings with 51 points after placing ninth during this race.
Martin took the lead from CART driver Jimmy Vasser on Lap 37 of the 40-lap event, moving under Vasser in Turn 4 and passing him on the front straightaway. He never trailed thereafter.
Vasser, who started from the pole, led the first 36 laps. He finished third. "I hated to do that to Jimmy," Martin said. "He had done such a good job leading all those laps.
"This is a great series. No pit stops, no fuel-mileage concerns. Just go out and race." The race was halted for 39 minutes, 58 seconds after Pep Boys Indy Racing League driver Arie Luyendyk crashed on Lap 2. Road racer Tom Kendall brushed the outside wall while exiting Turn 4 and clipped Luyendyk, who was running beside Kendall. Luyendyk did a half-spin and crashed heavily into the inside retaining wall.
Luyendyk was admitted to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis with a slight concussion. He was in good condition, awake and alert.