By: Spencer Neff
March 30, 2023
This weekend, Texas Motor Speedway will serve as the initial oval event of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, as the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth has done the previous three years. On Sunday, TMS will host its 36th race in 27 years with INDYCAR.
Before on-track activity commences, Rewind looks back at the 1998 Mall.com 500.
Dismore takes first win, Ray clinches title
The fourth Pep Boys Indy Racing League event at the Texas Motor Speedway carried added significance. Concluding the 10-race schedule for the first time, the 208-lap event would crown a champion at its conclusion.
Starting the race, Team Menard’s Greg Ray held a scant 16-point lead over Indianapolis 500 winner and 1998 Series Champion Kenny Brack. Four other drivers, all within 54 points of the lead, were still mathematically eligible for the championship.
Ray took his fourth pole of the season with an average speed of 216.107 mph. Following a lengthy rain delay, the 27-car field was sent out on track (Niclas Jonsson of Blueprint Racing did not start). Defending race winner John Paul Jr., making his first start in nearly seven months, spun in Turn 2 during the initial on-track period.
While officials used the green-yellow to warm up the cars and tires, Ray held the lead but his 19 laps led were not counted toward a potential bonus point for leading the most laps.
Six laps later, Dismore used lapped traffic to usurp the lead as Ray fell back to fourth. The Kelley Racing driver’s time in the lead was short-lived, as June’s winner in Texas, Scott Goodyear, took advantage of traffic and led for 58 laps, the longest of any driver for the day.
Following the opening caution, 84 of the next 96 laps were run under green-flag conditions, with a tow-in for Robbie Buhl and Sam Schmidt’s spin onto pit road being the only interruption. Brack, along with teammates Dismore and Scott Sharp, led 19 laps before Panther Racing’s Goodyear found his way back up front on Lap 109, with 100 to go.
On Lap 116, Goodyear’s hopes for a sweep at TMS were dashed as he spun in Turn 4, making a sizable impact with the outside retaining wall before sliding to a stop on the infield grass.
During the Lap 125 restart, Sharp and Schmidt made contact on the front straightaway, officially ending the latter’s title chances. Like Goodyear, Schmidt was taken to the hospital with a broken foot. 12 additional laps would be logged until Sharp’s day ended via a blown engine and spin on the front straightaway.
While Ray protected his championship bid, Dismore made his way to the lead and spent the last 22 laps up front en route to his first victory. Eight years after sustaining multiple injuries in a violent crash during Indianapolis 500 practice, Dismore scored an emotional win. Galles Racing’s Davey Hamilton finished a lap down in second, the last time a driver has lapped the field.
Dismore joined Billy Boat (June 1998) as drivers to score their maiden victories at TMS. Since then, Jeff Ward (June 2002) and Pato O’Ward (May 2021-Race 2) added their names to that duo. O’Ward is the only driver to win following his breakthrough triumph.
After leading 56 laps, Ray clinched his first championship with a fourth-place effort, joining 1997 Champion Tony Stewart as IRL Champions with Team Owner John Menard. Brack would fall 39 points short of a repeat. Texas Motor Speedway would serve as the season finale the next five years but has not hosted multiple race weekends for INDYCAR since 2004.
Brack moved onto CART with Team Rahal and Chip Ganassi Racing for the next three years. In 2003, he returned to the IRL but suffered injuries in a violent late-race crash during the finale at Texas. In 2005, Brack made his last start, subbing for 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice with the Rahal team, a year after Rice took over in the wake of Brack’s injuries.
The 1999 Mall.com 500 also marked the debut of Sarah Fisher, as the driver of the No. 48 Team Pelfrey entry became the IRL’s youngest driver and joined Lyn St. James as the only women to run in the series to that point. In 2002, Fisher became the first woman to win a pole in a major American open-wheel race, doing so at Kentucky Speedway. Fisher currently serves as one of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ pace car drivers.
Header Image By INDYCAR