| January 25, 1997|
| Indy 200 at Walt Disney World|
Walt Disney World Speedway
Permanent racing facility
1.000 mi / 1.609 km
149.000 mi / 239.792 km
200.000 mi / 321.869 km
The 1997 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World was the third round of the 1996–1997 Indy Racing League. The race was held on January 25, 1997, at the 1.000 mi (1.609 km) Walt Disney World Speedway in Bay Lake, Florida. It was the first race with the new chassis and 4000 cc naturally aspirated engines. It did not make the scheduled 200 laps; it was called off on lap 149 due to heavy rain.
Davy Jones for Galles Racing - crashed during Thursday's first practice session and was hospitalized with head injuries. Replaced by Jeff Ward.
Eliseo Salazar for Team Scandia - fractured a vertebra during testing on January 11 and was unable to compete.
Sam Schmidt R for Blueprint Racing - withdrew prior to the start of practice.
Mark Dismore for Team Menard - withdrew prior to the start of practice.
Robbie Buhl for Beck Motorsports - withdrew prior to the start of practice.
Johnny Unser for Project Indy - withdrew prior to the start of practice.
1997 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Wikipedia
For the first time in over thirty years, a field of normally aspirated Indy car engines fired up and rolled off the grid. Unfortunately, that grid consisted of only 19 cars, due to engine and parts shortages. Polesitter Tony Stewart ran away and hid from the start, but there was tight racing with Buzz Calkins in hot pursuit, and Scott Sharp, Mike Groff and several others just behind.
The race was very clean with only one accident, which occurred on lap 100 when rookie Jeret Schroeder spun into the wall in turn 1, and Arie Luyendyk was forced into the inside wall trying to avoid him. Neither driver was injured but both were out. After that caution, Calkins and Eddie Cheever gradually reeled in Stewart, with Calkins taking the lead when Stewart pitted on lap 130. Calkins was on his way to repeat his IRL-inaugurating triumph of a year ago, but on lap 141 his engine began smoking, and two laps later he coasted to the pits with a broken engine.
Stewart assumed the lead and appeared to be the race winner when the yellow was thrown for rain on lap 146. But as he crossed the line to take the yellow, Stewart's car broke an oil line and spun into the wall, continuing a string of IRL near-misses for him. Eddie Cheever inherited the lead and, when the red flag came three laps later, the veteran driver had his first Indy car victory after seven years of effort. Cheever accomplished a unique feat: he won the race without leading a lap under the green flag.