The veteran wins the race easily and the young driver is the new champ.
By JOANNE KORTH, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published August 4, 2002
INDIANAPOLIS -- Dale Jarrett took the lead on the first lap and kept it the rest of the way Saturday, winning the final race of the 2002 International Race of Champions series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Kevin Harvick finished fifth, good enough to win the series championship in his first IROC season. Harvick, last year's Busch Grand National series champion and Winston Cup rookie of the year, became the first rookie to win the IROC title since Ricky Rudd in 1992.
"It's something I didn't really expect, but it's pretty awesome when you do it in front of the fans at Indianapolis," said Harvick, who won $250,000 for the title.
Harvick, who won the IROC race at California Speedway, tallied 54 points, five more than Jarrett and Buddy Lazier of the Indy Racing League.
Jarrett, who began the day 11th in the standings, passed pole-sitter Kenny Schrader, a substitute driver for injured World of Outlaws champion Danny Lasoski, on the backstretch of the first lap.
"I knew it was important to get my car out front and I fought Schrader as hard as I could there on that first lap, trying to get the lead," Jarrett said. "I knew the car was going to tighten up later on, and if I could get out front, I'd have a better chance."
IROC, which puts top drivers from several North American series in identically prepared Firebird Trans-Ams, usually produces exciting racing. But at Indy, a flat track where passing in stock cars is difficult, the 40-lap race was a single-file affair.
Two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves ran second to Jarrett throughout, never able to make a move on the 1999 Winston Cup champion. But he still had fun driving a stock car.
"Dale didn't make any mistakes," said Castroneves, a contender for the IRL championship. "Obviously, he knew what he was doing."