What goes around comes around, especially on the oval of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Just ask Scott Pruett and Jimmy Vasser.
Each had a turn leading the race near the end, when something went wrong.
Vasser had only 44 laps to go when he and Pruett entered the third turn and Vasser found himself trapped up high. Vasser hit the gray area and started spinning, crashing into the wall.
“There was nothing I could do, I just couldn’t make the corner,” Vasser said. “I had to pull back on the wheel and it wouldn’t turn.”
Losing the lead so close to the end didn’t sit very well with Vasser, who shook his fist at Pruett on his next pass around.
But Pruett’s turn was coming up.
Leading with 15 laps to go, Pruett also found the gray, coming through the second turn. He went out of control, spinning across the track and into the inside wall.
“I was going for it and I got a little high,” Pruett said. “When I went up high, I got into some dirty air and just went into the wall. I am heartbroken… . The car was really working all day. Maybe I got a little greedy, but we did not come here to finish second.”
After he cooled down, Vasser said he wasn’t going to blame Pruett for what happened.
“I haven’t seen the tape,” Vasser said. “It’s racing and it’s the Indy 500 and it’s for the lead, so who’s to say what’s out of line and what’s not.”
The speedway’s infields are infamous for their garbage on race day, but it was trash on the track that got the attention.
Debris from accidents and marble-sized bits of rubber created havoc all day. There were parts and debris all over the track after the accident that knocked out Stan Fox and five other drivers, and Eric Bachelart said the crash caused his early departure, too.
Bachelart dropped out of the race after six laps with mechanical problems.
“Parts flew all at me. I tried to avoid them, but there were too many,” he said. “One wheel banged my front right, and it was ruined.”
Stefan Johannson also hit debris as he was coming out of pit road, shredding a tire.
“I obviously ran over something that cut it,” he said.
After their fantastic performance during practice and qualifications, the big question was whether the Menard engines could turn in a solid performance over 200 laps.
The answer: No.
Scott Brayton won the pole with a 231.604 mph, and teammate Arie Luyendyk was the second-fastest at 231.031. Luyendyk also set an unofficial track record of 234.107.
But it was clear from the first lap that the Menards would not be contenders, Brayton said. Luyendyk finished seventh, nearly 42 seconds behind winner Jacques Villeneuve, while Brayton finished 17th.
The engines’ biggest problem was boost, team owner John Menard said. The engines were putting out only 52 1/2 to 53 1/2 inches of boost - not nearly fast enough, he said.
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