Martin Wins IROC Race Earnhardt The Title
August 4, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
INDIANAPOLIS -- Mark Martin made history Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Dale Earnhardt walked away with the big check at the conclusion of the 2000 True Value IROC at Indy.
Martin, the relentless driver from Arkansas, scored a runaway victory in the fourth and final event of the yearly series for racing's foremost stars.
It was his third straight IROC at Indy victory -- he's the only IROC winner at Indy -- and became the first driver ever to win the same race at IMS three times in a row.
No driver had won even two in a row since Al Unser took the checkered flag in back-to-back Indianapolis 500 races in 1970-71. Unser came close to accomplishing the three-peat by finishing second in 1972.
"That's pretty cool," said Martin, who was surprised to learn he had done something no one else had accomplished at the historic 2.5-mile oval. "The trophies look nice in my trophy case."
Martin crossed the finish line 1.327 seconds in front of runner-up Earnhardt, but Martin slowed in the final yards to the flag after leading by 3.474 seconds when he started the 40th and final lap. Still, he recorded the widest margin of victory in IROC since Geoff Brabham beat Rusty Wallace by 2.598 seconds in 1992 at Michigan Speedway.
Earnhardt, who started last in the 12-car field, held off a late-challenging Tony Stewart to take second. That was all Earnhardt needed to earn his fourth True Value IROC championship -- tying Martin for the most in series history -- and the accompanying $225,000 prize. He also won titles in 1990, 1995 and last year.
"We did what we had to do," said Earnhardt, who continues his chase for a record eighth NASCAR Winston Cup championship in the Brickyard 400 Saturday on the same racetrack. "I'd like to have won the race. Mark won with ease from where I sat. He ran a great line. He seemed effortless through the corner. He ran just a great race. He's a tough competitor. He deserved to win this title as much as I did."
Earnhardt won the crown with 74 points, three more than Martin. Last year, Earnhardt edged Martin, 75-74, in the final rundown.
The two drivers started next to each other in the back row. Martin averaged 155.106 mph in the victory. Yellow laps did not count.
Mark Dismore, one of three Indy Racing Northern Light Series representatives, started from the pole and led the first six laps. Then Jeff Gordon, two-time Brickyard 400 winner, passed him on the inside exiting Turn 4.
On Lap 8, 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray and Dismore touched entering Turn 1. Dismore spun around and backed into the wall, while Ray skidded sideways to a halt in the warm-up lane between Turns 1 and 2 with his nose pointing toward the infield. Dismore climbed out of his car unharmed.
The race was delayed about 10 minutes while debris from Dismore's accident was cleaned from the track. Ray retired later after racing resumed because his front spoiler was ripped off during the spin, ruining his car's handling in the corners.
Gordon led Lap 8 on the restart. But Martin's red machine zipped past him between the first and second turn of Lap 9, and he never trailed again en route to victory. Out in front, he expanded his lead over Earnhardt lap by lap, with the differential reaching 3.658 seconds on Lap 36.
"Here you don't need a (drafting) partner," Martin said. "You do the work yourself.
"Dale Earnhardt is the pure master. When I got the lead, I didn't think he would get second. But a lap later there he was. All I could do was go faster and not give him a tow."
Stewart and Gordon finished third and fourth, respectively. They were followed by Wallace, Bobby Labonte, Eddie Cheever Jr., Dale Jarrett and Dale Earnhardt Jr. across the finish line.
Ray, Dismore and Jeff Burton failed to complete the race. Burton had engine problems on the first lap.
Martin earned $100,000 for his second-place finish in the final standings.
Placing behind the front two were Stewart, Labonte, Cheever Jr., Gordon, Burton, Wallace, Jarrett, Earnhardt Jr., Ray and Dismore.