F1

IRL: Three champions had success at Indy

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2000 -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played a pivotal role in the auto racing championships of 2000 won by Buddy Lazier, Michael Schumacher and Bobby Labonte. For the first time in the storied ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2000 -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway played a pivotal role in the auto racing championships of 2000 won by Buddy Lazier, Michael Schumacher and Bobby Labonte. For the first time in the storied history of the Speedway, races in three major, season-long series took place on the track - the Indianapolis 500, Brickyard 400 and SAP United States Grand Prix. These races brought the finest drivers in the world to Indy and attracted three of the largest crowds in worldwide motorsports. Lazier captured his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship with two victories and a 290-272 points margin over runner-up Scott Goodyear. Schumacher won nine races during the season to capture his third Formula One crown, out-scoring defending champion Mika Hakkinen, 108-89. Labonte won his first NASCAR Winston Cup Series title, holding off seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt and Jeff Burton. Each series has a different scoring system. The Indy Racing League gives 50 points to the winner, 40 for second, and on down, plus 3-2-1 points for qualifying first through third, respectively, and two points for leading the most laps. NASCAR awards 175 points to the winner, but second gets 170. The points reduce to 28 for 45th. Each driver who leads a lap gets five bonus points, and the leader of the most laps receives another five. Formula One gives points - 10-6-4-3-2-1 - to the first six finishers, respectively. Both Labonte and Schumacher won at Indy, while Lazier finished second to 1999 CART champion Juan Montoya but gained the most points by an Indy Racing Northern Light Series regular. Lazier, who celebrated his 33rd birthday on Halloween, came to the 500 trailing points leader Robbie Buhl by 10, 108-98. Lazier didn’t win the race, but the 40 points he earned for second propelled him into the lead, 138-112, over Buhl and Scott Goodyear. Lazier kept the points lead for four of the five races after Indianapolis. His only slip came when he fell to second behind Eddie Cheever Jr. after engine failure on the first lap of the Radisson Indy 200 in June at Pikes Peak. Cheever suffered a similar mechanical fate at the next race, the Midas 500 at Atlanta, and Lazier regained the lead for keeps. Goodyear spent the races after Indy chasing Lazier in the points but fell short, ending up second. Lazier won the penultimate race at Kentucky Speedway and Goodyear the finale at Texas Motor Speedway for a final difference of 18 points. Buhl slipped to eighth in the final standings. Lazier, driving for Hemelgarn Racing, has placed first, fourth, second, seventh and second, respectively, in the Indianapolis 500 since the Indy Racing League started in 1996 and completed 998 of 1,000 laps at Indy during that span. Lazier this year also presented his car owner Ron Hemelgarn with his first championship driving the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Schumacher came to Indy for the first-ever Formula One race at the Speedway trailing defending World Champion Hakkinen by two points. Schumacher, who won world titles with Benetton in 1994-95, had momentum from his win at the previous event at Monza and was trying to provide Ferrari with its first World Driving Champion since Jody Scheckter in 1979. Schumacher dominated the weekend. He was the fastest qualifier and was running away with the race until he lost his concentration and made a half-spin off the wet grass late in the event. He quickly recovered and won anyway by 12.1 seconds. Hakkinen dropped out on Lap 26 with an engine fire and didn’t receive any points. Thus Schumacher departed Indy with an 88-80 lead. He then won at Japan to clinch the title and again at the season finale in Malaysia, giving him a record-tying nine victories for the season. His victory at Indy was the 42nd of his career and moved him past the late, great Brazilian Ayrton Senna into second place all-time. Adding two more wins in the succeeding races, he now needs only eight more to pass Alain Prost’s record of 51. Schumacher will turn 32 on Jan. 3, 2001. Bobby Labonte, 36, has been in the shadow of his older brother, two-time Winston Cup champion Terry Labonte, through much of his NASCAR career. But driving for Joe Gibbs Racing has provided Bobby Labonte with the first-rate ride that moved him ahead of his brother and the rest of the Winston Cup stars. Labonte finished second to Dale Jarrett in the 1999 standings. He came to the Speedway for the Brickyard 400 leading Jarrett, the race winner the previous year, by an easily surmountable 53 points. But Labonte outran Rusty Wallace by 4.229 seconds to end the frustration of finishes of second, third and second in the previous three Brickyard 400 races. Jarrett plugged home seventh and lost 34 points, allowing Labonte to depart with an 87-point lead. If the finishes had been reversed, Labonte’s lead would have been shaved to 19 points. Labonte continued to run strong after Indy, finally clinching the title last weekend at Miami with one race to go. Labonte became the third straight driver to win both the Brickyard and the Winston Cup title in the same season. Jeff Gordon and Jarrett did likewise in 1998 and 1999, respectively. No Indy Racing Northern Light Series driver has won both the Indianapolis 500 and the Northern Light Cup in the same season. Lazier won the 1996 Indianapolis 500, with Scott Sharp and Buzz Calkins sharing the three-race title. Following them have been: 1996-97, Arie Luyendyk (Indy), Tony Stewart (title); 1998, Eddie Cheever Jr. and Kenny Brack; 1999, Brack and Greg Ray, and 2000, Montoya and Lazier. The last driver to win both the Indianapolis 500 and a championship in the same season was Jacques Villeneuve in CART in 1995.

-IMS-

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