Iracingone Replay: IRNLS 2000/Ibrmagic In Texas
December 20, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
But that was only half the story.
Sharp and McGehee’s nose-to-tail and side-by-side battle consumed the final six laps of the race. The other 202 laps were much the same, with packs of cars running just a few feet apart at more than 210 mph.
There were 31 official lead changes among eight drivers, and countless other unofficial lead changes on the 1.5-mile, high-banked track. Six cars finished on the lead lap and the top 14 were running at the finish.
All this was accomplished without a single accident, although the caution flag was displayed for 23 laps for rain and three blown engines.
When it was all said and done, Sharp’s margin of victory was the closest in the five-year history of the IRNLS and his race average of 169.182 mph established a series record.
"It was awesome," said Sharp, who became the first five-time winner in the IRNLS. "That was a great race. I was all out every time, the whole (final) lap.
"When you’re out there wide open, there’s not much you can do."
McGehee can attest to that. Stuck in the outside groove, McGehee couldn’t generate enough momentum to pull past Sharp during the closing laps, although he did officially lead laps 202 and 203 by nosing ahead at the start-finish line.
"All I could do was take the outside line," McGehee said. "I knew it wasn’t the best line. I tried to cut under him on the backstretch, but he had the bottom line covered.
"Getting him and passing him were two different things. I probably made a mistake. I should have done everything I could to get the inside lane.
"It was the most exciting racing I’ve ever been involved in."
Al Unser Jr., competing in his first race at TMS, was impressed, too.
"I’ve never had this much fin in a single-seat, open-wheel car in my life," said Unser, who led a race-high 79 laps and finished third. "You don’t get this type of racing anywhere else in single-seat racing.
"This formula is the formula of the future. Whoever watched this race saw a preview of racing in the years to come. I was sitting in the car, but I was standing up the whole race."
Buzz Calkins achieved a season-best fourth-place, and Scott Goodyear rounded out the top five. With a seventh-place finish, eventual IRNLS champions Buddy Lazier retained first place in the point standings. Goodyear ended the day second in the point standings, and Eddie Cheever Jr. moved up to third in the standings with a ninth-place finish in the race.
Rookie Shigeaki Hattori finished eighth in his first-ever IRNLS race. Airton Dare captured his first top-10 finish of the year on his way to the 2000 rookie of the year title.
Qualifying was rained out, giving the pole to points leader Lazier. The next day, the race itself was rained out, pushing it to Sunday afternoon instead of Saturday night under the lights.
1) Buddy Lazier, 164
2) Scott Goodyear, 142
3) Eddie Cheever Jr., 126
4) Robbie Buhl, 124
5) Eliseo Salazar, 123
6) Scott Sharp, 122
7) Mark Dismore, 122
8) Al Unser Jr., 115
9) Robby McGehee, 103
10) Billy Boat, 98