1999 Season Review
A Season of New Winners
Fan-favorite Dale Jarrett won his first Winston Cup Series title with consistency on the NASCAR circuit in 1999.
In the series' 34 races, Jarrett finished in the top five 24 times and in the top 10, 29 times. He won four races and beat Bobby Labonte by 201 points to win the driver's championship. He and his father Ned become just the second father-son pair to win Winston Cup titles.
Only three time champion Jeff Gordon can consider his series-leading seven victories a disappointing season. That's because his longtime crew chief Ray Evernham was resigned and he struggled with car problems all year. Rookie Tony Stewart won more races than any other rookie driver ever (3) and nobody will soon forget his double header on May 31 when he finished ninth in the Indianapolis 500 and fourth in the Coca-Cola 600 - in the same day.
The 1999 CART circuit was dominated by a rookie driver from Colombia named Juan Montoya. He won seven races and seven poles en route to the CART Series championship over Dario Franchitti. The season ended on a tragic note, however, when 24-year-old Greg Moore crashed in the final race of the season and became the second CART driver killed (Gonzalo Rodriguez) in 1999.
Texan Greg Ray held off Indianapolis 500 winner Kenny Brack to win the 1999 IRL Series title. Brack announced at the end of the season he'll switch over to the CART circuit and drive for Team Rahal, which is co-owned by Bobby Rahal and late-night talkshow host David Letterman. Word is that CART drivers might be welcomed back to the 2000 Indy 500 for the first time since the CART-IRL split after the 1995 race. Stay tuned.
Ferrari drivers Michael Schumacher and Ernie Irvine's plans to intercept the Formula One World Championship from defending champ Mika Hakkinen came up two points short. Hakkinen's victory at the season-ending Japanese Grand Prix (his fifth of the year) prevented Irvine from winning Ferrari's first title in 20 years. Schumacher's efforts were damaged by a frightening crash that left him with a broken leg. Despite missing six of the year's 16 races, Schumacher won two races and three poles.
The highlight of the 1999 NHRA national schedule was the first annual Winston Showdown on July 10. The finals featured a top fuel vs. funny car battle that was won by John Force, who won his ninth funny car championship this year.
And finally, auto racing fans saw the final laps of two-time Indy 500 champion Arie Luyendyke and 1996 Formula One champion Damon Hill, both of whom retired in 1999.
AP/Wide World Photos