Indy Racing League

Phoenix 200

23rd March 1997

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JIM GUTHRIE REACHES HIS DREAM

Report by JAMES BECKETT

Albuquerque racer JIM GUTHRIE fulfilled a lifelong ambition on Sunday when he won his maiden Indianapolis type car race, the Phoenix 200 at the Phoenix International Raceway - round four of the 1996-97 Indy Racing League.

Guthrie, a Phoenix track specialist in his rookie IRL season, drove a determined race on the one-mile oval from his front-row grid slot in a Dallara-Oldsmobile Aurora to record a victory for the Blueprint Racing Team by just 0.854s from pole-sitter and IRL hotshot Tony Stewart.

Guthrie and his Blueprint team had been on the pace all weekend, and the win came as no surprise to close watchers of IRL action. Following his qualifying run on Saturday, Guthrie had commented, " Today has been like David and Goliath. I would like to slay the giant both here and at Indianapolis."

His drive, in the desert heat, won him many new supporters and he heads to Indianapolis in May as the latest name to win an IRL race. His unofficial payout for winning the two hundred miler an impressive $170,000. A different driver has appeared in 'Victory Lane' at each of the seven races to-date. The IRL again proving that it provides one of the closest forms of motor sport in the world.

TONY STEWART, the second place finisher, must be wondering just what he has to do to win an Indy Racing League event. Back to back pole-sitter, he also won the top spot at January's Indy 200 at Walt Disney World, has led every IRL race but has failed to cross the line first. An awesome drive by the Indianapolis based driver in the closing stages, following a non-routine stop to change tyres, saw him close upon Guthrie in the dying stages - his John Menard team car just a fraction behind when the chequered flag fell.

His natural pace must make him a favourite for round five of the season, 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing' - the 81st running of the Indy 500 on May 25th.

Davey Hamilton, driving an AJ Foyt Enterprises/Power Team G-Force-Olds, was the only other competitor to complete the full race distance - claiming third position and thirty-two championship points.

Brazilian Marco Greco in a Team Scandia Dallara, Stephan Gregoire in a Chastain Motorsports G-Force and Mike Groff in a Jonathan Byrds' G-Force completed the top six.

Groff also recorded the highest place finish for a Nissan Infiniti powered car. Roberto Guerrero, Buzz Calkins and John Paul Jnr. were the only other drivers to reach the chequered flag.

The race had nine caution flags for a period of ninety-six laps. Rookie racers, Jeret Schroeder and Sam Schmidt, were both transported to St.Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix for evaluation following accidents. Schroeder had evidence of a concussion and it was feared Schmidt, who crashed late in the race in Turn 4, was showing signs of a spinal fracture.

Groff's sixth place finish allowed him to maintain the lead of the points and money standings. His series lead of 125 points is eleven points ahead of Davey Hamilton (114), with Calkins, the 1996 co-champion, just one point further back (113).

Marco Greco and Roberto Guerrero (112) complete the top five.

RESULT

1. JIM GUTHRIE Blueprint Racing Dallara/Olds. 200 laps

2. Tony Stewart Glidden/Menard/Special 200

3. Davey Hamilton AJ Foyt/Power Team 200

4. Marco Greco Team Scandia Dallara 199

5. Stephan Gregoire Chastain Motorsports 199

6. Mike Groff Jonathan Byrds/Bryant Heating 195

7. Roberto Guerrero Pennzoil Racing 194

8. Buzz Calkins Bradley Foodmarts 187

9. John Paul Jnr. PDM Racing Inc. 179

 

LEADING RETIREMENTS

Sam Schmidt Accident Turn 4 176

Kenny Brack Accident Turn 4 176

Eddie Cheever Overheating 120

Scott Sharp Engine 65

Jeret Schroeder Accident Turn 1 51

Buddy Lazier Engine 31

 

POINTS STANDINGS

1. Mike Groff 125

2. Davey Hamilton 114

3. Buzz Calkins 113

4. Marco Greco 112

5. Roberto Guerrero 112

 

Next Round. Indy 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 25th 1997.

 1996 onwards. Speed and its contents may not be reproduced without written permission from the editorial team.