Harman Patil

1997 Las Vegas 500K

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Date  October 11, 1997
Official name  Las Vegas 500K
1997 Las Vegas 500K
Location  Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.500 mi / 2.414 km
Distance  208 laps 312.000 mi / 502.115 km
Weather  Night race, dry with temperatures reaching up to 80.1 °F (26.7 °C); wind speeds reaching up to 34 miles per hour (55 km/h)

The 1997 Las Vegas 500K was the tenth and final round of the 1996–1997 Indy Racing League. The race was held on October 11, 1997 at the 1.500 mi (2.414 km) Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Race

Eliseo Salazar took home his first IRL victory as Tony Stewart clinched the 1997 championship. The race began under cold and windy conditions that caused tire problems, which resulted in two accidents occurring immediately after pit stops. Greg Ray slid into the wall in turn 2 on lap 38, and about 25 laps later Sam Schmidt spun coming out of turn 2 and hit the wall. Buzz Calkins and Jack Miller both ran into debris from Schmidt's car, and all three were out.

Pole sitter Billy Boat didn't stay up front very long; Jeff Ward quickly took charge until he began having engine problems and then Mark Dismore moved into the lead. Affonso Giaffone took the lead on lap 100, but during a pit stop on lap 116 a wheel wasn't tightened properly and it came off as Giaffone pulled back onto the track, damaging the suspension and undercarriage. Giaffone would finish, but well back.

Several drivers then dueled for the lead until Salazar took over; the veteran driver led most of the rest of the way and survived a two-lap sprint with Scott Goodyear after a late caution to win. The caution was occasioned when Roberto Guerrero touched wheels with a slower car and suffered a frightening accident; the car became airborne and then barrel-rolled through the infield grass on the backstretch. It was the first time an IRL car had been upside down during a live run, and the safety systems worked as planned: Guerrero walked away with minor injuries.

Both of the championship contenders, Stewart and Davey Hamilton, had problems; Stewart won the title owing to the points lead that he had coming in. This race marked the first competition for the new Riley & Scott chassis, with Stan Wattles taking one to an 8th-place finish.

References

1997 Las Vegas 500K Wikipedia


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