The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on May 27, 1996 · Page 51
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 51

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Monday, May 27, 1996
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THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR THE INDIANAPOLIS NEWS MONDAY, MAY 27, 1996 S3 Torrid beginning deteriorates into frustrating finish for Stewart By Phil Richards STAFF WRITER Tony Stewart led 44 of the first 54 laps of the 80th Indianapolis 500 but walked away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday shaking his head. He ran only 82. "That's one of those USAC junk popoff valves," Stewart snorted moments after climbing out of the cockpit of the Quaker StateGlid-den '95 LolaMenard. Not since Bill Holland in 1947 had an Indy rookie led as many as 44 laps. Never had a rookie pole sitter won the race. And that's what troubled Stewart. He said he believed Team Menard had the package to win. "Once I got my momentum, like five or six laps after a restart, it seemed like their tires would get hot and their balance would go away and my speed stayed the same while their's fell off," said Stewart, the RushviUe, Ind., resident who qualified second but moved to No. 1 when pole sitter Scott Brayton was killed in a May 17 crash during practice. "I was running down on boost, trying to conserve fuel, and (the popoff valve) blew in my ear, so I turned (the boost) down some more and it blew in my ear again, and it blew a third time. Every time that valve pops off, it hurts the motor. The third time did It. ones ecstatic wi 4 O CART-based team nearly pulled off irony of winning first IRL Indy 500. By Mark Robinson STAFF WRITER You would have thought there was an Indy Racing League vendetta out for Davy Jones' CART-based ride in Sunday's 80th Indianapolis 500, the way elements stacked against him. Consider: There was the tire Jones thought went bad early in the race, forcing him to pit in his 1995 LolaMercedes and putting him out of sequence with the rest of the field. There was the questionable blocking attempt of Ellseo Salazar that forced Jones' car to graze the pit wall on the front straightaway, causing it to be out of balance for the final 30 laps. There was the concern over fuel In the final laps that forced Jones to run a leaner mixture of methanol and air, decreasing his chances of chasing down eventual winner Buddy Lazier. Still, Jones led 46 laps second only to Roberto Guerrero's 47 and very nearly pulled out a victory. He finished 0.695 of a second behind Lazier in the third-closest finish in the spectacle's history. Wouldn't that have been the ultimate irony? The first Indy 500 run under the IRL banner won by a Championship Auto Racing Teams entry? It might have been enough to make Speedway president Tony George bulldoze the oval and turn It Into a road course. George can rest easy. So can Jones and car owner Rick Galles, both placated by the runner-up finish. "I'm not disappointed we didn't win first because we did the best we could," said Galles, whose full-time CART driver, Eddie Lawson, placed sixth in the U.S. 500 at Brooklyn, Mich., later in the day. "When you do the best you can, you walk away to another day." Jones echoed the sentiment. "I'm ecstatic," the 31-year-old said after his best finish in five tries at Indy. "To finish second here is phenomenal." If second Is phenomenal, first would have been downright impossible to put into words. It very well could have happened had his Delco ElectronicsTeam Galles machine not been pinched against the wall by Salazar's. Jones was in first place as a , Quotable 1 It was a great race. I made a couple of mistakes I killed the engine on a pit stop one time and then "That's what I told the (crew). If we had a malfunction with the car or something went wrong with the motor that we had done, I could understand. But to have a popoff valve Issued by USAC go bad, that's a very frustrating thing. It makes you sick to your stomach." But a couple of hours after the race, an engine post-mortem revealed the popoff valve probably wasn't the culprit. "I talked to Butch Meyer (Team Menard's engine builder) a little while ago and he said they burned a section out of an intake valve," said Mike Devin, USAC's director of operations. "They burned a valve In the engine and after a couple or three laps, It broke." Devin didn't seem surprised that in the preliminary diagnosis, the finger of blame was pointed at the popoff valve and USAC. "Sure," he said. "It always is." Popoff valves will take their place In history next year, when Indy Racing League cars will have normally aspirated engines. Stewart finished 24th on a rather disappointing day for Team Menard, which dominated much of the month with first Brayton, then Stewart, on the. pole, Eddie Cheever qualifying fourth and Mark Dismore 14th. Cheever took 11th, 11 laps down, Dismore 19th after his engine failed on Lap 130. John Menard's top finisher was Danny On- f Hi ' si NOT FAST ENOUGH: Davy Jones caution period came to a close at the end of Lap 169. But Salazar, already a lap down, was first In line when the pace car went to the pits, with Jones directly behind. Twice coming down the front-stretch, Jones ducked Inside to pass. Each time, Salazar blocked his path the second time forcing Jones' car to brush the Inside wall, Just past the start-finish line. Jones had to back off the accelerator and Alessandro Zampedri blew past and into the lead. Jones temporarily regained first on Lap 190 when Zampedri slowed unexpectedly, but Lazier overtook Jones for the lead on Lap 193. Fighting a push since the brush with the wall, and unable to itpKi. r A . .... ,':-,?,vV-- ;- ' ( t L t C T ST 1 I 4 X,lt- XH XX V ' ' ":i iXfJ''i gais, 54. Ongais started 33rd In Brayton's car and ended seventh. "It was a great race car. It was fantastic," said Ongais. "I made a couple of mistakes during the day. I killed the engine on a pit stop one time and then killed it on a restart." Stewart has made an impressive run in his first season in Indy cars. He led the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World before settling for second place, .866 of a second behind Buzz Calkins. He led the Dura-Lube 200 at Phoenix before going to the pits with electrical problems. The only other rookies who have sat on the pole at Indianapolis were Walt Faulkner in 1950 and Teo Fabl In 1983. Stewart got off cleanly and drove hard until his engine died. "When we finally started accelerating and going through the gears, it felt just like any other race," said Stewart, 24. "There were two guys beside me and I was watching them and watching myself. It felt Just like racing anywhere else. "We didn't run as much boost as we did in practice. All the lapped cars I came up on, I'd run the same speed in the straightaway but I'd be faster In the corners. That Just shows you how good they had the car. The guys really worked hard ... We wanted to do it for Scott." A AH Mm A B til runner-up finish led 46 laps but ended up second in the third-closest finish in 500 run as rich a fuel mix as needed, Jones hung close but couldn't make a run on Lazier. He had a final opportunity on the final lap, coming" off the last of the 10 caution periods, but Jones had difficulty getting around back-marker Michel Jourdain Jr. and failed to mount a significant charge. Afterward, Jones blamed himself for the Incident with Salazar at first. "It was (my) mistake because he was a lap down and I didn't really need to get by him," Jones said. "But I wanted to get out in front in clean air and pull some distance away from second place." WlufflWIa6Btf''Wi0iirriiiri ,alWwnw -v t m..- p X. . .1 y- saw. ; t. m a i A 'toi I wxx POPPING OFF: Pole sitter Tony valves for his exit from the race. Then Jones took off verbally. "People like Eliseo Salazar and Zampedri and so on, they seem to think they have to drive these European tactics where you have to block somebody," he said. "I had a problem with it last year once in the back straight with Mauricio Gugelmin. They think they can come over here and drive 230 miles an hour, and stuff people into the wall or push them into the grass on the back straightaway. "All they've got to do is eat that wall once, like Salazar did on the last lap (in a crash that seriously hurt Zampedri and also Involved Guerrero), and they'll realize that Xa 'IaXi rUi during the day. killed it on a restart." Danny Ongais, who drove in Photo Kristin Enzor Stewart initially blamed popoff Stewart led for 44 laps. Photo Kerry Keating history. It hurts.' Zampedri broke both ankles, both feet and his left leg the most serious of the day's Injuries and shortly thereafter underwent surgery. Conversely, Jones had nothing but words of admiration for race winner Lazier, who suffered a broken back in a practice crash at Phoenix in March and still deals with tremendous pain. "If there's one team, as In Ron Hemelgarn, or one driver that deserves to win the race, it's them," Jones said. "Ron Hemelgarn has been here a number of years and they've done a terrific Job for Buddy." place of the iate Scott Brayton Lazier win caps routine race for IRL, Tony George Chalk one up for Tony George and his Indy Racing League. The fans came to his 500-Mile Race, perhaps as many as usual (in the ranfie of I' 4 Wayne Fuson Of The News 400,000). The weatherman did his thing. After early morning rains, there was the usual window which allowed the race to start almost on time and let it run to conclusion. Tony's grandmother, Mary Fendrich Hulman, was there and gave the "Lady and gentlemen, start your engines!" command in a firm, clear voice as usual. Even though there were 17 rookies in the field, the race was started without incident. (And, on this day in 500-mile racing, that was quite an accomplishment.) And at the end, there was a lot of racing going on. Indeed, Buddy Lazier was battling Davy Jones at the finish and beat him to the checkered flag by a half second or less. Anytime you have two drivers racing that close at the end of 500 miles, you've had a pretty darned good race. Fans not disappointed Sure, there were lots of yellow flags. The race was run under caution for 59 of the 200 laps around the 2&-mlle asphalt track. But fortunately there were no serious accidents, although a couple looked frightening. But there weren't as many yellows here as there were in other 500-mile races held on Sunday. Fans coming out of the stands Sunday seemed happy with this race. There had been some concern because of the absence of some of the better known drivers, who were racing someplace In Michigan because of CART'S fuss with the IRL. There were those who thought the fans might stay away in droves. They didn't. Oh, there were some empty seats, apparently. But those probably had been sold to ; folks on the other side. ' Lazier was a 9-1 choice Certainly, Lazier was something of a surprise winner even though he was one of the race's veterans. Indeed, he went to the post at 9-1 on Fuson's Form Chart. Jones was 5-1. Arle Luyendyk, the only former winner in the field, was the prohibitive favorite but went out of the race after 116 laps. Sure enough, front row . starting rookie Tony Stewart (4-1 on the Form Chart) did very well until his car conked out. Tony led 44 laps, Only Jones led more 46. Lazier led 43. This was Lazier's fourth 500. His best previous finish was 14th in 1992. He lives in Vail, Colo., and is quite a skier. He won the pole at Disney World last winter at IRL's very first race. Even though the Indianapolis 500 and that other race in Michigan turned out very well, fans throughout the stands at both places had one thing on their mind: Quit the feuding and get the sport all back on the same page. Now, honestly, guys, is that too much to ask? V

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