Neha Patil (Editor)

1997 Phoenix 200

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Date  March 23, 1997
Official name  Phoenix 200
1997 Phoenix 200
Location  Phoenix International Raceway
Course  Permanent racing facility 1.000 mi / 1.609 km
Distance  200 laps 200.000 mi / 321.869 km
Weather  Dry with temperatures reaching up to 89.6 °F (32.0 °C); wind speeds reaching up to 15.9 miles per hour (25.6 km/h)

The 1997 Phoenix 200 was the fourth round of the 1996–1997 Indy Racing League. The race was held on March 23, 1997, at the 1.000 mi (1.609 km) Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, Arizona.


Failed to qualify or withdrew

  • Danny Ongais for Chitwood Motorsports - was replaced by Affonso Giaffone prior to the start of practice.
  • The #54 Beck Motorsports entry was vacant after Robbie Buhl signed with Team Menard to drive the vacant #3 entry prior to the start of practice, and they couldn't find a replacement in time.
  • Race

    Rookie Jim Guthrie survived a slow, attrition-filled race to capture his first IRL victory. A seemingly minor design detail (an oil line fitting on the Oldsmobile Aurora engine) resulted in blown engines and oil spills throughout the afternoon. Tony Stewart assumed the lead at the start as expected, but was dogged by persistent rookie Jim Guthrie in his unsponsored car (for which he had taken a second mortgage on his house). The race got off with two caution flags in the first twenty laps, one for Arie Luyendyk's blown engine, the first of many throughout the day.

    Luyendyk's teammate Scott Goodyear also blew his engine on lap 51, triggering a four-car crash out of which only Sam Schmidt was able to continue, although he would later be eliminated in another crash. Another rookie, Affonso Giaffone, lead briefly until encountering driveline problems. Scott Sharp also led briefly until his engine blew; engine problems also sidelined Walt Disney World winner Eddie Cheever and contender Buddy Lazier. When Sharp retired on lap 66, Stewart reassumed the lead while Kenny Bräck, in his first IRL race, moved up through the field. Guthrie assumed the lead on lap 95 when Stewart pitted, and held the lead until he pitted during a caution on lap 119. Bräck found himself in the lead after this caution, and held the lead until his car got loose and he crashed on lap 146. Guthrie regained the lead during the subsequent caution, with Hamilton and Stewart in pursuit.

    On lap 180, a crash involving Sam Schmidt brought out a lengthy yellow flag. In an effort to run down Guthrie after the restart, Stewart made one last effort, pitting twice under the caution, once to put on sticker option tires and once for a wing adjustment. Guthrie stayed out, looking to stretch his fuel. The green waved on lap 191. Three laps later Stewart was back up to second and was gaining on Guthrie at a half second per lap. But Guthrie made one last charge on the final lap, negotiating traffic well, and Stewart ran out of time, losing by 0.854 seconds.

    Guthrie's win was the first Indy car victory by an unsponsored team since Arie Luyendyk's triumph in the same venue in 1991. The $170,100 payoff for the victorious Guthrie helped settle his debts, and the storybook win brought sponsorship from Jacuzzi for Indianapolis and beyond, assuring Guthrie's continued career. The race went down in Indy car lore as one of the biggest upsets in series history, with Guthrie one of the biggest underdogs ever to win an Indy car event.


    1997 Phoenix 200 Wikipedia

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