Filled-up Brack captures Indy 500

With lap to go, leader Gordon runs out of gas

May 31, 1999|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

INDIANAPOLIS -- One of the most tantalizing races in modern Indianapolis 500 history turned on a splash of fuel yesterday. Robby Gordon needed it. Kenny Brack didn't.

With one lap left and Gordon apparently headed for the checkered flag at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the off-road racing veteran abruptly turned down pit row for enough methanol to go the final 2 1/2 miles.

Brack, a Swedish driver recruited by A. J. Foyt last year, shot to the front and a lap later gave Foyt his fifth Indy 500 triumph -- four as a driver and now his first as a car owner.

"What can I say? I could cry. I could kick the car, but John [Menard, car owner] would get mad at me," Gordon said. "I had a great time today. Just one lap of yellow, a lap we couldn't catch, would have made the difference. That's how close we were."

Gordon finished fourth. Both he and Brack were driving Aurora-powered Dallaras, as were the first 11 finishers.

It was a banner day for Foyt, whose drivers finished first, third (Billy Boat) and sixth (Robbie Buhl).

"I knew, unless those guys [Gordon's team] had a 45-gallon fuel tank, they couldn't go all the way without stopping," Foyt said. Indy Racing League fuel cells carry 35 gallons. "I felt Robby should have run out before he did."

Gordon had made what he and Menard hoped would be their last stop on lap 164. Brack stopped six laps later.

"It seemed like a good risk," said Menard. "We didn't expect the race to go green [without a caution flag] for the last 30 laps."

Jeff Ward, a former motocross champion from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., finished second, 6.562 seconds behind Brack, the defending IRL champion.

"I thought I could win the Indy 500," Brack (pronounced Breck) said, matter-of-factly. "I am happy for both A. J. and myself, I think more for me. He has won it four times already. So I am happier for myself."

Arie Luyendyk, the pole-sitter and two-time winner who was making the final race of his 15-year Indy car career, led the first 32 laps, and then 31 more before a moment of overconfidence did him in.

In an attempt to put Tyce Carlson another lap down, Luyendyk went low in Turn 3 for the pass, only to have Carlson move down toward the apron. This forced Luyendyk to brake abruptly, sending his car into a spin and into the wall.

"I had been running so easy, so effortlessly, that maybe I got too confident," Luyendyk said. "It was my responsibility as the leader to make a pass cleanly. I had to hit the brakes because he pinned me down. When you hit the brakes at 220 [mph], you've got to go somewhere."

NOTES: A race car leaving a pit stop struck and critically injured a crew member. Steve Fried, the chief mechanic and right front tire man for Robbie McGehee, was directing the car out of the pit when he was hit from behind by Jimmy Kite's car. He flipped into the air, landed on his face and was bleeding badly as he was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was listed in critical condition, but awake and alert. No crew member has been killed at Indy since 1973, when Armando Tehran, a mechanic for driver Swede Savage, was struck by a fire truck speeding from the pits to the scene of a crash that fatally injured Savage. Only once in five crashes did a wheel come loose from a race car, and the new restraint system slowed it enough that time so it posed no danger to fans or drivers. Wheel tethers were put on the cars Thursday, less than a month after three spectators were killed and eight others injured when a wheel and other debris hurtled a catch fence into the grandstand during an IRL race in Concord, N.C.

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