Rocky Mountain Redemption
June 19, 2001 | 4:30 P.M. EST
Al Unser Jr. described it as intimidation.
Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing Northern Light Series vice president of operations, said it was “overly aggressive.”
They all were talking about the style of driving used at Texas Motor Speedway during the Casino Magic 500. The action at TMS included drivers racing side by side, often nearly touching, and three-abreast racing. Four laps from the end of the race Greg Ray, Robby McGehee and Cheever were involved in a wreck that sidelined McGehee with a broken leg.
Barnhart warned the drivers before Sunday’s race that any further acts of “overly aggressive” driving would result in an immediate black flag and possible fines.
Apparently, they listened.
Sunday’s Radisson Indy 200 went-caution free, and there were no major complaints from the participants.
Al Unser Jr. went so far as to compliment his fellow drivers and Barnhart.
“I think that there was some good, clean racing out there today, and I applaud Brian Barnhart and his officiating staff for a job well done this weekend in working with the drivers," said Unser, who finished 11th.
Winner Buddy Lazier praised the drivers for keeping things clean throughout even when there were tight battles for position.
“When you have a race without a wreck, it shows very well on the competition,” Lazier said. “The fact that everyone was able to keep the cars underneath them, it shows the talent in the field.
“I saw some really hard racing, I think the key is in every good series you discover the drivers code of ethics.”
Sam Hornish Jr. agreed.
“I think everyone was pretty careful; it proves we can do it and put a good race on," said Hornish, who finished second and led 152 laps.
Not everyone was 100 percent happy, however. While delivering his upbeat message, Hornish also took a swipe at the slower drivers in the field.
"I think at some points of time there were people that were being lapped and didn’t want to give any room,” he said.
Ray was one of the backmarkers. He parked his ill-handling car on Lap 132 because he thought he was just in the way. During his comments, he took a careful swipe at McGehee, who Ray tangled with last week while trying to lap.
“I had a hard time handling the car and I didn’t want to be a factor in the race,” Ray said. “Based on last week, I didn’t want to be out there with a loose car and interfere with anyone else out there who was going for the points.”
Cheever aired more of his thoughts this week, but this time he lamented the result of the drivers’ rough driving.
“Now we’re going to be treated as children,” Cheever said.
Regardless of the treatment, the outcome was a clean - and fair - race.