1996–97 Indy Racing League season

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1996–1997 Indy Racing League season
1996-97 Indy Racing League
Indy Racing League
Season
Races 10
Start date August 18, 1996
End date October 11, 1997
Awards
Drivers' champion United States Tony Stewart
Indianapolis 500 winner Netherlands Arie Luyendyk
Chronology
Previous season Next season
1996 1998

The 1996–97 Indy Racing League season was a result of the league abandoning the concept of ending each season with the Indianapolis 500. The 1996–97 season would ultimately comprise the events following the Indy 500 in 1996, and all events contested in the calendar year of 1997.

The 1996–97 season was originally scheduled to begin at New Hampshire in August 1996 and end with the Indianapolis 500 in May 1997. At some point in 1996, the consensus regarding the unusual split-calendar season was decidedly unfavorable. Omitting the normal winter offseason caused potential difficulty with driver contracts, sponsor contracts, and equipment purchasing, which all traditionally followed a calendar-based schedule. In addition, the months of November, December, and the remainder of January were not expected to be filled with race dates, since few suitable venues, outside of Orlando, were available for the IRL in warm-weather locations.

Following the 1996 races at New Hampshire and Las Vegas, on October 9, 1996, the Indy Racing League announced that the league would revert to a calendar-based schedule for 1998. To prevent from awarding four championships in less than two and a half years, all events contested in the calendar year of 1997 were added to the last two races in 1996. Now combined, a single seventeen-month 1996–1997 championship would be awarded in October 1997.

The two remaining races in 1996 (New Hampshire and Las Vegas) were contested with the same equipment as the 1996 season. All races that took place in 1997, starting with the race at Orlando, were contested with all new purpose-built oval chassis from G-Force and Dallara with stock block naturally aspirated 4.0 liter V8's from Oldsmobile and Infiniti. Only seven drivers competed in all ten races of this seventeen month long marathon schedule.

Calendar[edit]

All races running on Oval/Speedway.

Date Race Track Laps Distance Pole Position Fastest Lap Winning Driver Most Laps Led
1 August 18 New Hampshire International Speedway 200 211.6 mi (340.5 km) United States Richie Hearn United States Tony Stewart United States Scott Sharp United States Tony Stewart
2 September 15 Las Vegas Motor Speedway 208 312 mi (502 km) Netherlands Arie Luyendyk United States Richie Hearn United States Richie Hearn United States Richie Hearn
3 January 25 Walt Disney World Speedway 149* 149 mi (240 km) United States Tony Stewart United States Tony Stewart United States Eddie Cheever United States Tony Stewart
4 March 23 Phoenix International Raceway 200 200 mi (320 km) United States Tony Stewart United States Tony Stewart United States Jim Guthrie United States Tony Stewart
5 May 26–27 Indianapolis Motor Speedway 200 500 mi (800 km) Netherlands Arie Luyendyk United States Tony Stewart Netherlands Arie Luyendyk United States Tony Stewart
6 June 7 Texas Motor Speedway 208 312 mi (502 km) United States Tony Stewart United States Tony Stewart Netherlands Arie Luyendyk United States Tony Stewart
7 June 29 Pikes Peak International Raceway 200 200 mi (320 km) United States Scott Sharp United States Jimmy Kite United States Tony Stewart United States Tony Stewart
8 July 27 Charlotte Motor Speedway 208 312 mi (502 km) United States Tony Stewart United States Billy Boat United States Buddy Lazier United States Tony Stewart
9 August 17 New Hampshire International Speedway 200 211.6 mi (340.5 km) Brazil Marco Greco Italy Vincenzo Sospiri United States Robbie Buhl United States Eddie Cheever
10 October 11 Las Vegas Motor Speedway 208 312 mi (502 km) United States Billy Boat United States Billy Boat Chile Eliseo Salazar Chile Eliseo Salazar

* - reduced from 200 laps, 200 miles (320 km) due to rain.

Race summaries[edit]

True Value 200[edit]

This race took place August 18, 1996 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Richie Hearn won the pole. Tony Stewart had led 165 laps and had a nearly three-lap lead over second place, but coasted into the pits with 18 laps to go. Scott Sharp took over the lead, and stretched his fuel to the finish. The win was Sharp's first in an Indycar, and the first win for A. J. Foyt Enterprises since Pocono in 1981.

Top ten results

  1. 1- Scott Sharp
  2. 12- Buzz Calkins
  3. 33- Michele Alboreto
  4. 10- Mike Groff
  5. 14- Davey Hamilton
  6. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  7. 40- Marco Greco
  8. 22- Stephan Gregoire
  9. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  10. 18- John Paul, Jr.

1996 Las Vegas 500K[edit]

This race took place September 15, 1996 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Arie Luyendyk won the pole. This race was carried live on ABC, but a slow pace caused by several cautions saw the broadcast run late, and was ultimately cut off before the conclusion of the race.

Top ten results

  1. 4- Richie Hearn
  2. 22- Michel Jourdain, Jr.
  3. 10- Mike Groff
  4. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  5. 33- Michele Alboreto
  6. 12- Buzz Calkins
  7. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  8. 54- Robbie Buhl
  9. 40- Marco Greco
  10. 34- Affonso Giaffone

Indy 200[edit]

This race took place January 25, 1997 at Walt Disney World Speedway. It was the first race with the new chassis and 4000 cc naturally aspirated engines. Race shortened due to rain, originally scheduled for 200 laps. Tony Stewart won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 51- Eddie Cheever
  2. 10- Mike Groff
  3. 6- Scott Goodyear
  4. 1- Scott Sharp
  5. 91- Buddy Lazier
  6. 27- Jim Guthrie
  7. 14- Davey Hamilton
  8. 22- Marco Greco
  9. 33- Fermín Velez
  10. 2- Tony Stewart

Phoenix 200[edit]

This race took place March 23, 1997 at Phoenix International Raceway. Tony Stewart won the pole.

After leading 85 laps, Tony Stewart along with Davey Hamilton, trailed Jim Guthrie on lap 154. On lap 180, a crash involving Sam Schmidt and Kenny Brack brought out a long yellow flag. Guthrie stayed out, looking to stretch his fuel over the final 82 laps. Going into the race, Guthire, the fledgling owner/driver of tiny Blueprint Racing, was forced to take out a second mortgage on his home to purchase his chassis.

During the final yellow, only 9 cars were still running, with only 3 on the lead lap. Tony Stewart pitted twice under the caution, once for tires and once for a wing adjustment, in an effort to run down Guthrie after the restart. With ten laps to go, the green came out, and Stewart closed the gap. Guthrie held him off, and won by 0.854 seconds. The $170,100 payoff for the victorious Guthrie helped settle his debts, and he later secured the sponsorship of Jacuzzi for Indianapolis.

Top ten results

  1. 27- Jim Guthrie
  2. 2- Tony Stewart
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton
  4. 22- Marco Greco
  5. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  6. 10- Mike Groff
  7. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  8. 12- Buzz Calkins
  9. 18- John Paul, Jr.
  10. 16- Sam Schmidt

81st Indianapolis 500[edit]

The Indianapolis 500 was scheduled for May 25, 1997. Rain postponed the start until the following day, Monday, May 26. After 15 laps were run on Monday, rain fell again, halting the race, and postponing it for another day. It was resumed and run to conclusion Tuesday May 27. Arie Luyendyk sat on pole.

With just over two laps to go, Arie Luyendyk led teammate Scott Goodyear. Tony Stewart brushed the outside wall in turn 4, which brought out the yellow light. The pace car did not enter the track, however, to pick up the leader. Under caution pace, the field came down to complete the 199th lap. Without warning, the green and white flag were displayed at the starter's stand, signifying the field was back to racing conditions. None of the cars in the field were prepared for the restart, and yellow lights remained illuminated for many seconds afterwards. Luyendyk held on to win, but controversy about the officials' poor handling of the situation erupted afterwards.

Top ten results

  1. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  2. 6- Scott Goodyear
  3. 52- Jeff Ward
  4. 91- Buddy Lazier
  5. 2- Tony Stewart
  6. 14- Davey Hamilton
  7. 11- Billy Boat
  8. 3- Robbie Buhl
  9. 30- Robbie Groff
  10. 33- Fermín Velez

True Value 500[edit]

This race took place June 7, 1997 at Texas Motor Speedway. It marked the first American open-wheel superspeedway night race. Tony Stewart won the pole. Tony Stewart was scored as the leader in the waning laps, and appeared to have nearly a one-lap lead over second place Billy Boat. Stewart was looking for his first career Indycar win, and the first win for Team Menard in Indy car racing. However, as Stewart crossed the line for two laps to go, he blew his engine. The car spun in turn 1, and he crashed into the outside wall. Billy Boat caught up, and appeared to take the lead. Race officials presented the checkered flag to Billy Boat as winner of the race, but Arie Luyendyk stormed to victory lane claiming he had won the race. Boat's owner A.J. Foyt slapped Luyendyk and told him to leave. The race tape was reviewed and it was determined that laps where Luyendyk, and in fact some other drivers, passed through pit road were not properly counted by the scoring system. Officially Luyendyk was declared the winner the following day. The entire top ten was shuffled about when the final official results were posted. Foyt, however refused to return the trophy and retains the original to this day. A duplicate was awarded to Luyendyk.

In the wake of the Texas scoring scandal, and the restart problems two weeks earlier at Indianapolis, USAC was immediately removed from sanctioning the series. The league switched to in-house sanctioning starting with the next event.

Top ten results (Unofficial)

  1. 1- Billy Boat
  2. 14- Davey Hamilton (-5.487 seconds)
  3. 5- Arie Luyendyk (-15.448 seconds)
  4. 2- Tony Stewart (-2 laps)
  5. 7- Eliseo Salazar (-2 laps)
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever (-3 laps)
  7. 8- Vincenzo Sospiri (-3 laps)
  8. 10- Johnny Unser (-4 laps)
  9. 6- Scott Goodyear (-4 laps)
  10. 97- Greg Ray (-4 laps)

Top ten results (Revised - Official)

  1. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  2. 1- Billy Boat (-1 lap)
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton (-1 lap)
  4. 6- Scott Goodyear (-1 lap)
  5. 2- Tony Stewart (-2 laps)
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever (-2 laps)
  7. 7- Eliseo Salazar (-4 laps)
  8. 97- Greg Ray (-4 laps)
  9. 8- Vincenzo Sospiri (-4 laps)
  10. 10- Johnny Unser (-5 laps)

Samsonite 200[edit]

This race took place June 29, 1997 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Scott Sharp won the pole.

The win represented Tony Stewart's first Indycar victory.

Top ten results

  1. 2- Tony Stewart
  2. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton
  4. 51- Eddie Cheever
  5. 12- Buzz Calkins
  6. 22- Vincenzo Sospiri
  7. 6- Scott Goodyear
  8. 91- Buddy Lazier
  9. 17- Affonso Giaffone
  10. 30- Robbie Groff

VisionAire 500[edit]

This race took place July 26, 1997 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 91- Buddy Lazier
  2. 1- Billy Boat
  3. 6- Scott Goodyear
  4. 17- Affonso Giaffone
  5. 4- Kenny Bräck
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever
  7. 2- Tony Stewart
  8. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  9. 70- Marco Greco
  10. 7- Eliseo Salazar

Pennzoil 200[edit]

This race took place August 17, 1997 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Marco Greco won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 3- Robbie Buhl
  2. 22- Vincenzo Sospiri
  3. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  4. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  5. 4- Kenny Bräck
  6. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  7. 18- John Paul, Jr.
  8. 1- Billy Boat
  9. 51- Eddie Cheever
  10. 30- Robbie Groff

1997 Las Vegas 500K[edit]

This race took place October 11, 1997 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Billy Boat won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  2. 6- Scott Goodyear
  3. 3- Robbie Buhl
  4. 27- Jim Guthrie
  5. 28- Mark Dismore
  6. 33- Jimmy Kite
  7. 14- Davey Hamilton
  8. 19- Stan Wattles
  9. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  10. 70- Marco Greco

Final points standings[edit]

Pos Driver NHS
LSV
WDW
PHX
INDY
TXS
PIK
CMS
NHS
LSV
Pts
1 United States Tony Stewart 12* 21 10* 2* 5* 5* 1* 7* 14 11 278
2 United States Davey Hamilton 5 11 7 3 6 3 3 16 17 7 272
3 United States Eddie Cheever 15 25 1 12 23 6 4 6 9* 21 230
4 Brazil Marco Greco 7 9 8 4 16 26 13 9 20 10 230
5 Canada Scott Goodyear 3 17 2 4 7 3 16 2 226
6 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk 13 20 12 22 1 1 15 21 3 25 223
7 Colombia Roberto Guerrero 6 4 17 7 27 13 18 17 6 14 221
8 United States Buddy Lazier 19 24 5 21 4 17 8 1 12 31 209
9 Chile Eliseo Salazar 9 7 24 7 12 10 4 1* 208
10 United States Buzz Calkins 2 6 11 8 11 19 5 21 28 204
11 France Stéphane Grégoire 8 26 19 5 31 Wth 2 8 15 9 192
12 United States Jim Guthrie 23 13 6 1 26 21 DNS 12 24 4 186
13 United States Robbie Buhl 22 8 18 8 16 Wth 1 3 170
14 United States Mike Groff 4 3 2 6 12 DNS 14 DNS 169
15 United States John Paul, Jr. 10 15 18 9 DNQ 11 7 12 163
16 Brazil Affonso Giaffone 10 13 32 20 9 4 18 15 159
17 United States Mark Dismore 20 17 28 11 11 19 11 5 158
18 United States Billy Boat 7 2 19 2 8 23 151
19 Sweden Kenny Bräck 11 33 18 14 5 5 20 139
20 United States Robbie Groff 9 15 10 13 10 18 135
21 Italy Vincenzo Sospiri 17 9 6 20 2 22 134
22 United States Scott Sharp 1 16 4 16 DNQ 22 119
23 United States Dr. Jack Miller 15 20 20 24 16 23 19 29 114
24 United States Johnny Unser DNQ 22 18 10 21 13 19 107
25 United States Tyce Carlson 11 23 19 14 24 84
26 Spain Fermín Vélez 9 14 10 25 82
27 United States Jimmy Kite 20 15 23 6 76
28 United States Sam Schmidt 10 34 23 18 22 27 76
29 United States Greg Ray 25 8 17 22 Wth 30 73
30 United States Jeff Ward 16 3 17 69
31 United States Stan Wattles 16 18 8 63
32 Italy Michele Alboreto 3 5 62
33 United States Richie Hearn 14 1* 59
34 United States Billy Roe 15 22 Wth 13 55
35 United States Jeret Schroeder 14 19 37
36 Mexico Michel Jourdain, Jr. 2 33
37 United States Robby Gordon 14 29 27
38 Australia Brad Murphey 18 27 25
39 Italy Alessandro Zampedri 35 12 DNP 24
40 United States Johnny O'Connell Wth 12 DNQ 23
41 United States Paul Durant 21 26 23
42 United States Danny Ongais 13 DNS 22
43 United States Lyn St. James 13 Wth 22
44 United States Steve Kinser 14 21
45 United States Dennis Vitolo 15 20
46 United States Mike Shank 16 19
47 United States Dave Kudrave 17 18
48 Chile Juan Carbonell 19 16
49 United States Joe Gosek 21 14
50 United States Allen May 22 13
51 United States Johnny Parsons, Jr. 28 7
52 Canada Claude Bourbonnais 30 5
- United States Scott Harrington DNQ Wth 0
- United States Jon Field Wth 0
- United States Randy Tolsma Wth 0
- United States David Steele DNQ 0
- United States Davy Jones DNS 0
- United States Mike Ordway DNS 0
Pos Driver NHS
LSV
WDW
PHX
INDY
TXS
PIK
CMS
NHS
LSV
Pts
Color Result
Gold Winner
Silver 2nd place
Bronze 3rd place
Green 4th & 5th place
Light Blue 6th-10th place
Dark Blue Finished
(Outside Top 10)
Purple Did not finish
(Ret)
Red Did not qualify
(DNQ)
Brown Withdrawn
(Wth)
Black Disqualified
(DSQ)
White Did not start
(DNS)
Blank Did not
participate
(DNP)
Not competing
In-line notation
Bold Pole position
(2 points)
Italics Ran fastest race lap
* Led most race laps
(1 point)
DNS Any driver who qualifies
but does not start (DNS),
earns all the points
had they taken part.
Rookie of the Year
Rookie

In every race, points are awarded to drivers on the following basis:

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
Points 35 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 1
  • Ties in points broken by number of wins, followed by number of 2nds, 3rds, etc., and then by number of pole positions, followed by number of times qualified 2nd, etc.

See also[edit]