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IROC: Mark Martin wins the battle, Dale Earnhardt wins the war

7 August 1999

Indianapolis, Indiana - Mark Martin had only two simple tasks to accomplish today-win the race, and lead most laps, simple? No-not by a long shot, but that is what he had to do in order to win the 1999 True Value IROC championship. What did he do? Practically pulled off an impossible feat; he won the race and led the most laps but, came up one point shy of winning the title. Dale Earnhardt also did what he had to do, finish eighth or better to clinch the coveted True Value IROC crown.

The 1999 True Value International Race of Champions series once again challenges twelve of the world's best drivers to compete against each other in a four race series. The IROC racecars are as equal as humanly possible. All IROC racecars are equipped with Goodyear Eagle radial tires and specially finished with brilliant DuPont ChromaSystem colors.

The drivers are awarded points for each race. At the end of the fourth race the points are tallied and an IROC Champion is crowned. IROC XXIII will reward its champion with $225, 000 from the $760,000 purse.

This is the second year the True Value IROC series has concluded the season at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the second year Mark Martin has claimed the race win.

Said Martin, "I didn't really think there was a chance in the world we could win this championship, so it kind of took the drive out of it for me. But once I got strapped in, it felt good again. And actually, we came kind of close." Mark Martin holds the record with four IROC championships, three consecutive 1994, 1996, 1997, and 1998. He continued, "In the last six years, the two years that I finished second in the IROC championship, it was to Dale (Earnhardt). So we're not talking about somebody who's not tough to beat. He (Earnhardt) was the one first setting the mark when I was first invited to IROC."

The 1998 Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. started from the pole and jumped into the lead ahead of NASCAR Winston Cup representative Jeff Burton. Cheever Jr. ran an impressive race, and finished third behind NASCAR Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon.

Cheever Jr. held the point through lap four before being overtaken by NASCAR Winston Cup driver Bobby Labonte. Martin and Gordon worked together to get around Cheever Jr. for second and third, respectively, on lap seven. Lap nine, Martin passes Bobby Labonte on the high side at the entrance of Turn 3. Gordon made the pass for second around Labonte on lap 26.

Said Gordon of his second place finish, "That's the best race I've ever run, the best I've ever felt (in IROC). This is the best effort I've ever had in an IROC car. Markie (Martin) was tough. He knows how to get out in front."

The only caution period of the race occurred on lap three when FedEx Championship Series driver Greg Moore lost control of his IROC machine and smacked the outside retaining wall of the short chute between Turns 1 and 2. He emerged from the car uninjured. "I'm not really sure what happened. I was going through (Turn) 1 good and got up on Kenny Brack. Then I think someone got up behind me and took the air off my car, " Moore said.

Bobby Labonte finished fourth, followed by Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt, Dave Marcis, (Marcis substituted for FedEx Championship Series driver Adrian Fernandez who was injured in an early morning practice session for the Detroit CART race) Kenny Brack, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Greg Moore.

Dale Earnhardt's first two True Value IROC championships came in 1990 and 1995. 1999 marks his third triumphant crown, having won three IROC races in a row this year. "It's been a great one," Earnhardt said. "It's always great to be invited to IROC. I had the opportunity to sweep the series, but with Mark (Martin) here, that's tough to do. It was great to see Mark go on and win without beating me for the championship. It ended up being a good day, with him winning and me winning the championship."

The True Value IROC at INDY Finale will be broadcast Saturday, August 7, 1999, 4:30 p.m. on ABC (Eastern Time)

IROC is sponsored by True Value Hardware Stores, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., and DuPont Automotive Refinishes

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot photos and racing art, please visit The Racing Image Galleries and The Visions of Speed Art Gallery