The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 24, 1998 · Page 40
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 40

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Salina, Kansas
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Sunday, May 24, 1998
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Page 40
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D8 SUNDAY. MAY 24, 1998 SPORTS THE SAUNA JOURNAL T AUTO RACING Indy 500: just another race? The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' attempting to remain greatest race By MIKE HARRIS The Associated Press The qualifiers for the Indianapolis 500 and qualifying speed_ in mph. BOAT INDIANAPOLIS — "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing?" Perhaps. But the Indianapolis 500 is definitely in danger of becoming just another race. The 500 still should draw 400,000 fans today, the biggest one-day crowd in sports. The purse, easily the richest in auto racing, probably will be higher than the $8.6 million last year, with the winner taking home no less than Arie Luyendyk's $1.6 million haul. But race tickets that were once as precious as heirlooms are now hawked in newspapers at face value, fewer fans show up for the week-long festivities before the race and many of the drivers are virtually unknown. Even so, the name and history remain. -'"Indy is still Indy," said Luyendyk, known as the Flying Dutchman. "It's still a big race for the drivers and the fans." . Just not as big. The problems began two years ago when Championship Auto Racing Teams said goodbye to the 500 in a fight for control of the sport. That left the race to the fledgling Indy Racing League, the brainchild of speedway president Tony George. The immediate question was raised: If CART, with the biggest names from the open-wheel sport, stayed away, would people still care about the Indy race? Would the IRL, with few familiar faces and a new, low-cost approach to the expensive world of Indy-car racing, be able to prosper? The answers seem to be maybe. NASCAR's Daytona 500 has had higher TV ratings than the Indy 500 for the past two years, although the 1997 numbers were skewed when Indy was rained out until Tuesday. (It still drew a decent 5.3 rating during the afternoon soap- opera slot). In the IRL's first year in 1996, the stock car race in February had an 8.6 rating and a 23 share on CBS, while Indy had a 6.6 rating and 21 share on ABC. In the battle between the IRL and CART for open-wheel supremacy, only the Indy 500 has drawn a big TV audience. All of the other races in both series have drawn ratings below 2.0, splitting what had been about 4.0 when it was all CART. Corporate support, the lifeblood of racing, is only slowly building in the IRL, with Pep Boys signing on this year as series sponsor and several other companies getting involved. But the big-dollar deals still are mostly in NASCAR's Winston Cup series and, to a lesser extent, CART. The field is determined by two days of qualifying. Starting positions are determined by speed, with the fastest driver on the first day of qualifying winning the pole. Billy Mike Stephan Roe Graff Gregoire 217.835 216.704 217.036 Jeff Jimmy Johnny Ward Kite (r) Unser 219.086 219.290 216.316 Robby Jim Andy Unser (r) Guthrie Michner (r) 216.534 216.604 216.922 Jack Marco J.J. Miller Greco Yeley (r) 217.800 217.953 218.044 Roberto Davey Scott Guerrero Hamilton Sharp 218.900 219.748 219.910 Kenny Greg Billy Brack Ray Boat 220.982 221.125 223.503 Pole position AP Nonetheless, the 500 is still THE race for Tony Stewart, defending IRL champ. "How important would it be to me to win Indy?" said Stewart, an Indiana native who lives in Indianapolis. "I would give up every win and every championship I've had in my life to win." Also trying to win today will be three little-known drivers on the front row — Billy Boat, Greg Ray and Kenny Brack. They will lead the 33-car field under the green flag for the 82nd running of the Indy 500. That is if weather permits. The forecast called for showers on and off through the weekend, much like last year. The most familiar name behind the front row will be two-time winner Luyendyk, who had lost his full-time CART ride before the IRL came along. Luyendyk's first victory, however, was in 1990, when all the competitors were still part of the scene. Buddy Lazier, who won the first IRL Indy in 1996, is the only other former winner in a lineup that includes just four drivers who have ever won a 500-mile race. NASCAR's longest race unfolds today By JOE MACENKA The Associated Press CONCORD, N.C. — Tracks where 43 stock cars gather to race aren't usually associated with silence. Charlotte Motor Speedway is. In a Winston Cup season marked by repeated complaints about poor track conditions or boring races at new venues, the negative talk stopped when the circuit rolled into Charlotte for today's Coca-Cola 600. "It's a real race track, a racer's dream," Mark Martin said. "This is just an awesome facility." That's a far cry from the remarks heard in March after the circuit's inaugural race at Las Vegas, where only two caution flags led to long stretches of racing with very few passes for the lead. "At Atlanta the following week, the complaints involved a newly redesigned layout that many competitors said was too fast and dangerous. At Texas, the topic of concern was the water seeping onto the racing surface in the first turn. The race at California earlier this month turned into a virtual repeat of the Las Vegas event, with very little side-by-side racing and long stretches of green that kept action to a minimum. T PRO GOLF Watson shares lead at Colonial That's not the kind of racing that can be expected in today's 600-mile race, the longest on the Winston Cup circuit. Between 25 and 40 lead changes are the norm. The race record is 54 in 1979. Charlotte is known for producing plenty of action. "This is a track a lot of people have liked for a long time," Jeff Gordon said. The IVi-mile trioval has undergone no major design changes since Bruton Smith opened the speedway in 1960. The 1,953-foot frontstretch is banked only five degrees and the 24-degree turns provide enough grip to allow for side-by-side racing. And when a driver comes down the 1,360-foot backstretch, he can easily go two-wide into the entrance to the third turn. "At most tracks, you can't do that," Rusty Wallace said. "You've got to fall in line because they're just one-groove tracks. Not Charlotte." It's not unusual for cars to engage in two-wide racing the entire way around the track for several laps at a time, and it's also not unusual to see several different grooves develop on the track as a race progresses. Gordon has found plenty of grooves at Charlotte. He got the first of his 31 Winston Cup victories in the 1994 Coca-Cola 600, and he has put his car on the pole six times in 10 Winston Cup events. Forty-eight-year-old fires 65 in third round, tied with two others By The Associated Press FORT WORTH, Texas — Tom Watson flashed out of the pack with a 5-under-par 65 Saturday to grab a share of the lead with rookie Harrison Frazar and veteran Jim Furyk after three rounds of the MasterCard Colonial. Watson, 48, flirting with a 34th PGA title, birdied four of the final eight holes and rode his back-nine 31 WATSON to a 54-hole total of 199, 11 under par for three trips around the course immortalized by five-time champion Ben Hogan. "I'll just take tomorrow as it comes," Watson said in assessing his chances for his first PGA victory since the Memorial in 1996. Equally amazing was the performance of Frazar, the former University of Texas sharpshooter who emerged from obscurity last week to tie for second at the GTE Byron Nelson Classic. Frazar carded a 68 after earlier rounds of 64 and 67 to forge the three-way deadlock entering Sunday's showdown for the top prize of $414,000. Furyk, meanwhile, rolled in a birdie putt on the final hole for a 66 in his bid for a third tour title. His PGA Tour victories were the 1995 Las Vegas Invitational and the United Airlines Hawaiian Open. Jeff Sluman, the 1988 PGA champion, fired a 66 and was all alone at 200, a stroke off the pace but two ahead of Kenny Perry and Rocco Mediate. Perry shot a 69 and Mediate a 67 Saturday. Watson got off to an erratic start with birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey on the first four holes, but made the turn at 34 and then caught fire at the par-5 llth with a 2-putt birdie. He birdied 14, 15 and 18 and overtook Frazar, who missed the 17th green, chipped poorly and missed his par putt to drop to 11- under and into the eventual tie. Furyk made his charge with a string of four straight birdies, beginning at the par-4 fifth hole, known as Death Valley. Seniors AVONDALE, Pa. — Playing before a hometown gallery, Jay Sigel shot a Senior Tour-record 27 ori the front nine and a 10-un- SIGEL der-62 overall to move into the lead of the $1.1 million Bell Atlantic Classic Saturday. The resident of nearby Berwyn, Pa., shot only the fourth 27 in PGA Tour history and beat Gene Littler's old Senior Tour record of 28 for nine holes, set at the 1983 Suntree Classic in Melbourne, Fla. At 8-under-136 for the tournament, Sigel has a three-stroke lead over first-round co-leader Dale Douglass and Bruce Crampton going into today's final round at the 6,911-yard Hartefeld National Golf Course. Sigel parred the par-4 first hole, then went on a record- breaking streak in the next eight holes. He eagled the par-5 second hole, then birdied the next seven holes. That string easily beat the previous Senior Tour mark, held by eight players, of following up an eagle with four straight birdies. Sigel cooled off on the back nine, recording two birdies and a bogey, but still finished with a record 62 on the 3-year-old public course. LPGA CORNING, N.Y. — This time, Tammie Green didn't fade. Green shot a 6-under-par 66 Saturday at the Corning Classic to overtake Brandie Burton and gain a two-shot lead after three rounds. Green was at 203, 13 under par, heading into Sunday's final round. Burton, who began the day with a three-shot lead, was alone in second and Sweden's Helen Alfredsson was third, another two strokes back. Emilee Klein and Nancy Harvey of Scotland were at 208. Mardi Lunn, who shot a 67 Saturday, was at 209, tied with surprising Susan Florin, Britain's Stephanie Lowe and Dottie Pepper. Green, who lost a sudden-death playoff here last year to Rosie Jones, faltered at the start Saturday with a bogey. A little pep talk was all she needed to bounce back. "I was a little disappointed — I could have kicked myself— after No. 1 and told myself to get playing," said Green, who responded with seven birdies and no more bogeys. "I was able to concentrate pretty well all day." With the sun shining brightly and temperatures in the 70s after two days of clouds and cold, Green was able to stay out of trouble despite a gusty breeze. SIMPLY THE BEST. COVERAGE Only Kansas Cellular offers one statewide super-system with over 140 towers across the state - that's 35% more towers and coverage than all the other cellular companies combined** - for superior crystal-clear service without paying expensive roaming charges. SERVICES (BBST (BEST, (BBST Kansas Cellular's exclusive Freedom Across Kansas Plus™ service allows you to automatically receive your calls across Kansas, Western Missouri and Northeast Oklahoma - all without paying long distance charges like other cellular companies usually make you pay. 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