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1996–1997 American Championship Car season
Series  : Indy Racing League
Champion : USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
Previous: 1996 Next: 1998

The 1996–97 Indy Racing League season was a result of the league abandoning the concept of ending each season with the Indianapolis 500. The 1996–97 season would ultimately comprise the events following the Indy 500 in 1996, and all events contested in the calendar year of 1997.

The 1996–97 season was originally scheduled to begin at New Hampshire in August 1996 and end with the Indianapolis 500 in May 1997. At some point in 1996, the consensus regarding the unusual split-calendar season was decidedly unfavorable. Omitting the normal winter offseason caused potential difficulty with driver contracts, sponsor contracts, and equipment purchasing, which all traditionally followed a calendar-based schedule. In addition, the months of November, December, and the remainder of January were not expected to be filled with race dates, since few suitable venues, outside of Orlando, were available for the IRL in warm-weather locations.

Following the 1996 races at New Hampshire and Las Vegas, on October 9, 1996, the Indy Racing League announced that the league would revert to a calendar-based schedule for 1998. To prevent from awarding four championships in less than two and a half years, all events contested in the calendar year of 1997 were added to the last two races in 1996. Now combined, a single seventeen-month 1996–1997 championship would be awarded in October 1997.

The two remaining races in 1996 (New Hampshire and Las Vegas) were contested with the same equipment as the 1996 season. All races that took place in 1997, starting with the race at Orlando, were contested with all new purpose-built oval chassis from G-Force and Dallara with stock block naturally aspirated 4.0 liter V8's from Oldsmobile and Infiniti. Only seven drivers competed in all ten races of this seventeen month long marathon schedule.

CalendarEdit

All races running on Oval/Speedway.

Date Race Track Laps Distance Pole Position Fastest Lap Winning Driver Most Laps Led
1 August 18 USAflagsmall New Hampshire International Speedway 200 211.6 miles
(340.5 km)
USAflagsmall Richie Hearn USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Scott Sharp USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
2 September 15 USAflagsmall Las Vegas Motor Speedway 208 312 miles
(502 km)
22px-Flag of the Netherlands Arie Luyendyk USAflagsmall Richie Hearn USAflagsmall Richie Hearn USAflagsmall Richie Hearn
3 January 25 USAflagsmall Walt Disney World Speedway 149* 149 miles
(240 km)
USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
4 March 23 USAflagsmall Phoenix International Raceway 200 200 miles
(322 km)
USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Jim Guthrie USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
5 May 26–27 USAflagsmall Indianapolis Motor Speedway 200 500 miles
(805 km)
22px-Flag of the Netherlands Arie Luyendyk USAflagsmall Tony Stewart 22px-Flag of the Netherlands Arie Luyendyk USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
6 June 7 USAflagsmall Texas Motor Speedway 208 312 miles
(502 km)
USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Tony Stewart 22px-Flag of the Netherlands Arie Luyendyk USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
7 June 29 USAflagsmall Pikes Peak International Raceway 200 200 miles
(322 km)
USAflagsmall Scott Sharp USAflagsmall Jimmy Kite USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
8 July 27 USAflagsmall Charlotte Motor Speedway 208 312 miles
(502 km)
USAflagsmall Tony Stewart USAflagsmall Billy Boat USAflagsmall Buddy Lazier USAflagsmall Tony Stewart
9 August 17 USAflagsmall New Hampshire International Speedway 200 211.6 miles
(340.5 km)
25px-Brazilflag Marco Greco 22px-Flag of Italy Vincenzo Sospiri USAflagsmall Robbie Buhl USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever
10 October 11 USAflagsmall Las Vegas Motor Speedway 208 312 miles
(502 km)
USAflagsmall Billy Boat USAflagsmall Billy Boat 22px-Flag of Chile Eliseo Salazar 22px-Flag of Chile Eliseo Salazar

* - reduced from 200 laps, 200 miles (322 km) due to rain.

Race summariesEdit

True Value 200Edit

This race took place August 18, 1996 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Richie Hearn won the pole. Tony Stewart had led 165 laps and had a nearly three-lap lead over second place, but coasted into the pits with 18 laps to go. Scott Sharp took over the lead, and stretched his fuel to the finish. The win was Sharp's first in an Indycar, and the first win for A. J. Foyt Enterprises since Pocono in 1981.

Top ten results

  1. 1- Scott Sharp
  2. 12- Buzz Calkins
  3. 33- Michele Alboreto
  4. 10- Mike Groff
  5. 14- Davey Hamilton
  6. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  7. 40- Marco Greco
  8. 22- Stephan Gregoire
  9. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  10. 18- John Paul, Jr.

1996 Las Vegas 500KEdit

This race took place September 15, 1996 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Arie Luyendyk won the pole. This race was carried live on ABC, but a slow pace caused by several cautions saw the broadcast run late, and was ultimately cut off before the conclusion of the race.

Top ten results

  1. 4- Richie Hearn
  2. 22- Michel Jourdain, Jr.
  3. 10- Mike Groff
  4. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  5. 33- Michele Alboreto
  6. 12- Buzz Calkins
  7. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  8. 54- Robbie Buhl
  9. 40- Marco Greco
  10. 34- Affonso Giaffone

Indy 200Edit

This race took place January 25, 1997 at Walt Disney World Speedway. It was the first race with the new chassis and 4000 cc naturally aspirated engines. Race shortened due to rain, originally scheduled for 200 laps. Tony Stewart won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 51- Eddie Cheever
  2. 10- Mike Groff
  3. 6- Scott Goodyear
  4. 1- Scott Sharp
  5. 91- Buddy Lazier
  6. 27- Jim Guthrie
  7. 14- Davey Hamilton
  8. 22- Marco Greco
  9. 33- Fermín Velez
  10. 2- Tony Stewart

Phoenix 200Edit

This race took place March 23, 1997 at Phoenix International Raceway. Tony Stewart won the pole.

After leading 85 laps, Tony Stewart along with Davey Hamilton, trailed Jim Guthrie on lap 154. On lap 180, a crash involving Sam Schmidt and Kenny Brack brought out a long yellow flag. Guthrie stayed out, looking to stretch his fuel over the final 82 laps. Going into the race, Guthire, the fledgling owner/driver of tiny Blueprint Racing, was forced to take out a second mortgage on his home to purchase his chassis.

During the final yellow, only 9 cars were still running, with only 3 on the lead lap. Tony Stewart pitted twice under the caution, once for tires and once for a wing adjustment, in an effort to run down Guthrie after the restart. With ten laps to go, the green came out, and Stewart closed the gap. Guthrie held him off, and won by 0.854 seconds. The $170,100 payoff for the victorious Guthrie helped settle his debts, and he later secured the sponsorship of Jacuzzi for Indianapolis.

Top ten results

  1. 27- Jim Guthrie
  2. 2- Tony Stewart
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton
  4. 22- Marco Greco
  5. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  6. 10- Mike Groff
  7. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  8. 12- Buzz Calkins
  9. 18- John Paul, Jr.
  10. 16- Sam Schmidt

81st Indianapolis 500Edit

The Indianapolis 500 was scheduled for May 25, 1997. Rain postponed the start until the following day, Monday, May 26. After 15 laps were run on Monday, rain fell again, halting the race, and postponing it for another day. It was resumed and run to conclusion Tuesday May 27. Arie Luyendyk sat on pole.

With just over two laps to go, Arie Luyendyk led teammate Scott Goodyear. Tony Stewart brushed the outside wall in turn 4, which brought out the yellow light. The pace car did not enter the track, however, to pick up the leader. Under caution pace, the field came down to complete the 199th lap. Without warning, the green and white flag were displayed at the starter's stand, signifying the field was back to racing conditions. None of the cars in the field were prepared for the restart, and yellow lights remained illuminated for many seconds afterwards. Luyendyk held on to win, but controversy about the officials' poor handling of the situation erupted afterwards.

Top ten results

  1. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  2. 6- Scott Goodyear
  3. 52- Jeff Ward
  4. 91- Buddy Lazier
  5. 2- Tony Stewart
  6. 14- Davey Hamilton
  7. 11- Billy Boat
  8. 3- Robbie Buhl
  9. 30- Robbie Groff
  10. 33- Fermín Velez

True Value 500Edit

This race took place June 7, 1997 at Texas Motor Speedway. It marked the first American open-wheel superspeedway night race. Tony Stewart won the pole. Tony Stewart was scored as the leader in the waning laps, and appeared to have nearly a one-lap lead over second place Billy Boat. Stewart was looking for his first career Indycar win, and the first win for Team Menard in Indy car racing. However, as Stewart crossed the line for two laps to go, he blew his engine. The car spun in turn 1, and he crashed into the outside wall. Billy Boat caught up, and appeared to take the lead. Race officials presented the checkered flag to Billy Boat as winner of the race, but Arie Luyendyk stormed to victory lane claiming he had won the race. Boat's owner A.J. Foyt slapped Luyendyk and told him to leave. The race tape was reviewed and it was determined that laps where Luyendyk, and in fact some other drivers, passed through pit road were not properly counted by the scoring system. Officially Luyendyk was declared the winner the following day. The entire top ten was shuffled about when the final official results were posted. Foyt, however refused to return the trophy and retains the original to this day. A duplicate was awarded to Luyendyk.

In the wake of the Texas scoring scandal, and the restart problems two weeks earlier at Indianapolis, USAC was immediately removed from sanctioning the series. The league switched to in-house sanctioning starting with the next event.

Top ten results (Unofficial)

  1. 1- Billy Boat
  2. 14- Davey Hamilton (-5.487 seconds)
  3. 5- Arie Luyendyk (-15.448 seconds)
  4. 2- Tony Stewart (-2 laps)
  5. 7- Eliseo Salazar (-2 laps)
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever (-3 laps)
  7. 8- Vincenzo Sospiri (-3 laps)
  8. 10- Johnny Unser (-4 laps)
  9. 6- Scott Goodyear (-4 laps)
  10. 97- Greg Ray (-4 laps)

Top ten results (Revised - Official)

  1. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  2. 1- Billy Boat (-1 lap)
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton (-1 lap)
  4. 6- Scott Goodyear (-1 lap)
  5. 2- Tony Stewart (-2 laps)
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever (-2 laps)
  7. 7- Eliseo Salazar (-4 laps)
  8. 97- Greg Ray (-4 laps)
  9. 8- Vincenzo Sospiri (-4 laps)
  10. 10- Johnny Unser (-5 laps)

Samsonite 200Edit

This race took place June 29, 1997 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Scott Sharp won the pole.

The win represented Tony Stewart's first Indycar victory.

Top ten results

  1. 2- Tony Stewart
  2. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  3. 14- Davey Hamilton
  4. 51- Eddie Cheever
  5. 12- Buzz Calkins
  6. 22- Vincenzo Sospiri
  7. 6- Scott Goodyear
  8. 91- Buddy Lazier
  9. 17- Affonso Giaffone
  10. 30- Robbie Groff

VisionAire 500Edit

This race took place July 26, 1997 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Tony Stewart won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 91- Buddy Lazier
  2. 1- Billy Boat
  3. 6- Scott Goodyear
  4. 17- Affonso Giaffone
  5. 4- Kenny Bräck
  6. 51- Eddie Cheever
  7. 2- Tony Stewart
  8. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  9. 70- Marco Greco
  10. 7- Eliseo Salazar

Pennzoil 200Edit

This race took place August 17, 1997 at New Hampshire International Speedway. Marco Greco won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 3- Robbie Buhl
  2. 22- Vincenzo Sospiri
  3. 5- Arie Luyendyk
  4. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  5. 4- Kenny Bräck
  6. 21- Roberto Guerrero
  7. 18- John Paul, Jr.
  8. 1- Billy Boat
  9. 51- Eddie Cheever
  10. 30- Robbie Groff

1997 Las Vegas 500KEdit

This race took place October 11, 1997 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Billy Boat won the pole.

Top ten results

  1. 7- Eliseo Salazar
  2. 6- Scott Goodyear
  3. 3- Robbie Buhl
  4. 27- Jim Guthrie
  5. 28- Mark Dismore
  6. 33- Jimmy Kite
  7. 14- Davey Hamilton
  8. 19- Stan Wattles
  9. 77- Stephan Gregoire
  10. 70- Marco Greco

Final points standingsEdit

Pos Driver NHS
USAflagsmall
LSV
USAflagsmall
WDW
USAflagsmall
PHX
USAflagsmall
INDY
USAflagsmall
TXS
USAflagsmall
PIK
USAflagsmall
CMS
USAflagsmall
NHS
USAflagsmall
LSV
USAflagsmall
Pts
1 USAflagsmall Tony Stewart 12* 21 10* 2* 5* 5* 1* 7* 14 11 278
2 USAflagsmall Davey Hamilton 5 11 7 3 6 3 3 16 17 7 272
3 USAflagsmall Eddie Cheever 15 25 1 12 23 6 4 6 9* 21 230
4 25px-Brazilflag Marco Greco 7 9 8 4 16 26 13 9 20 10 230
5 25px-Canadaflag Scott Goodyear 3 17 2 4 7 3 16 2 226
6 22px-Flag of the Netherlands Arie Luyendyk 13 20 12 22 1 1 15 21 3 25 223
7 22px-Flag of Colombia Roberto Guerrero 6 4 17 7 27 13 18 17 6 14 221
8 USAflagsmall Buddy Lazier 19 24 5 21 4 17 8 1 12 31 209
9 22px-Flag of Chile Eliseo Salazar 9 7 24 7 12 10 4 1* 208
10 USAflagsmall Buzz Calkins 2 6 11 8 11 19 5 21 28 204
11 22px-Flag of France Stéphane Grégoire 8 26 19 5 31 Wth 2 8 15 9 192
12 USAflagsmall Jim Guthrie 23 13 6 1 26 21 DNS 12 24 4 186
13 USAflagsmall Robbie Buhl 22 8 18 8 16 Wth 1 3 170
14 USAflagsmall Mike Groff 4 3 2 6 12 DNS 14 DNS 169
15 USAflagsmall John Paul, Jr. 10 15 18 9 DNQ 11 7 12 163
16 25px-Brazilflag Affonso Giaffone 10 13 32 20 9 4 18 15 159
17 USAflagsmall Mark Dismore 20 17 28 11 11 19 11 5 158
18 USAflagsmall Billy Boat 7 2 19 2 8 23 151
19 22px-Flag of Sweden Kenny Bräck 11 33 18 14 5 5 20 139
20 USAflagsmall Robbie Groff 9 15 10 13 10 18 135
21 22px-Flag of Italy Vincenzo Sospiri 17 9 6 20 2 22 134
22 USAflagsmall Scott Sharp 1 16 4 16 DNQ 22 119
23 USAflagsmall Dr. Jack Miller 15 20 20 24 16 23 19 29 114
24 USAflagsmall Johnny Unser DNQ 22 18 10 21 13 19 107
25 USAflagsmall Tyce Carlson 11 23 19 14 24 84
26 22px-Flag of Spain Fermín Vélez 9 14 10 25 82
27 USAflagsmall Jimmy Kite 20 15 23 6 76
28 USAflagsmall Sam Schmidt 10 34 23 18 22 27 76
29 USAflagsmall Greg Ray 25 8 17 22 Wth 30 73
30 USAflagsmall Jeff Ward 16 3 17 69
31 USAflagsmall Stan Wattles 16 18 8 63
32 22px-Flag of Italy Michele Alboreto 3 5 62
33 USAflagsmall Richie Hearn 14 1* 59
34 USAflagsmall Billy Roe 15 22 Wth 13 55
35 USAflagsmall Jeret Schroeder 14 19 37
36 25px-Mexicoflag Michel Jourdain, Jr. 2 33
37 USAflagsmall Robby Gordon 14 29 27
38 25px-AustraliaFLAG Brad Murphey 18 27 25
39 22px-Flag of Italy Alessandro Zampedri 35 12 DNP 24
40 USAflagsmall Johnny O'Connell Wth 12 DNQ 23
41 USAflagsmall Paul Durant 21 26 23
42 USAflagsmall Danny Ongais 13 DNS 22
43 USAflagsmall Lyn St. James 13 Wth 22
44 USAflagsmall Steve Kinser 14 21
45 USAflagsmall Dennis Vitolo 15 20
46 USAflagsmall Mike Shank 16 19
47 USAflagsmall Dave Kudrave 17 18
48 22px-Flag of Chile Juan Carbonell 19 16
49 USAflagsmall Joe Gosek 21 14
50 USAflagsmall Allen May 22 13
51 USAflagsmall Johnny Parsons, Jr. 28 7
52 25px-Canadaflag Claude Bourbonnais 30 5
- USAflagsmall Scott Harrington DNQ Wth 0
- USAflagsmall Jon Field Wth 0
- USAflagsmall Randy Tolsma Wth 0
- USAflagsmall David Steele DNQ 0
- USAflagsmall Davy Jones DNS 0
- USAflagsmall Mike Ordway DNS 0
Pos Driver NHS
USAflagsmall
LSV
USAflagsmall
WDW
USAflagsmall
PHX
USAflagsmall
INDY
USAflagsmall
TXS
USAflagsmall
PIK
USAflagsmall
CMS
USAflagsmall
NHS
USAflagsmall
LSV
USAflagsmall
Pts
Color Result
Gold Winner
Silver 2nd place
Bronze 3rd place
Green 4th & 5th place
Light Blue 6th-10th place
Dark Blue Finished
(Outside Top 10)
Purple Did not finish
(Ret)
Red Did not qualify
(DNQ)
Brown Withdrawn
(Wth)
Black Disqualified
(DSQ)
White Did not start
(DNS)
Blank Did not
participate
(DNP)
Not competing
In-line notation
Bold Pole position
(2 points)
Italics Ran fastest race lap
* Led most race laps
(1 point)</span>
DNS Any driver who qualifies
but does not start (DNS),
earns all the points
had they taken part.
Rookie of the Year
Rookie

In every race, points are awarded to drivers on the following basis:

Position 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35
Points 35 33 32 31 30 29 28 27 26 25 24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 1
  • Ties in points broken by number of wins, followed by number of 2nds, 3rds, etc., and then by number of pole positions, followed by number of times qualified 2nd, etc.

See also Edit

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