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Fast Beginning Likely at the Las Vegas 500K

Auto racing: Very quick race possible at new speedway, but cars will be obsolete afterward.

September 15, 1996|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — The Las Vegas 500K Indy car race today at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will offer an interesting contradiction in racing history.

It will be both a beginning and an ending.

The 500-kilometer race for Indy Racing League cars will inaugurate Richie Clyne's $200-million motor racing complex 10 miles north of downtown. The 1 1/2-mile superspeedway is nowhere near complete, as far as spectator amenities are concerned, but the racing surface has drawn rave reviews from drivers.

Banked at 12 degrees in the turns and freshly paved, it is fast.

Arie Luyendyk, the fastest driver in the Indianapolis 500, continued his display of speed in the 1995 IRL cars with a qualifying lap of 226.491 mph in Treadway Racing's Reynard-Ford. At Indy, on a 2 1/2-mile track, the 1990 Indy 500 winner ran a record 237.498 lap.

Wider than most tracks its size, it also allows for side-by-side racing.

"There are times you'll see cars three abreast through the corners, maybe even four abreast in a squeeze," said Scott Sharp, the IRL points leader after winning the 1996-97 opener at Louden, N.H.

Luyendyk: "You can pass anywhere--inside, outside, through the middle of two cars. There are many grooves. The only thing is if you get up too high in the groove, it will bite you."

"This track is unreal," said Tony Stewart, who will start alongside Luyendyk for the 300 lap race. Stewart, who started on the pole at Indy, ran 224.225 in a Lola-Menard.

The track has 107,000 seats, but Clyne, who calls it the "racetrack for the next century," said he would be pleased with 30,000 for today's race.

"We've been so busy getting things done, like opening our own offramp from I-15 straight into the track on Friday, that we haven't done much promotion work," Clyne said.

The race will be the final one for every chassis and engine on the track. When the checkered flag falls, every car will be obsolete--good for nothing but use as show cars.

Starting with the Indy 200 at Walt Disney World on Jan. 25, all IRL chassis will be either from Dallara of Italy or G-Force of England, and engines will be either Aurora V8 by Oldsmobile or Infiniti Indy by Nissan.

The new cars and engines were unveiled Saturday night at the MGM Grand Hotel in a world premiere atmosphere.

"This is the last race for the Menard [engine], so this is a big race for us," said Stewart, who drives for John Menard, the Wisconsin industrialist who has struggled since 1976 to make a Buick V6 engine competitive in Indy car racing.

Also making his final appearance as an Indy car driver will be Robby Gordon, who will move to Winston Cup stock cars next season.

Indy Car Notes

Galles Racing International, with Davey Jones the driver, announced that it was switching from CART to the IRL next season. Jones finished second in the Indy 500. . . . Richie Hearn, who will start eighth today, will make the opposite switch as car owner John Della Penna announced his team would run in CART races only.

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