LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The first race of the 2000 Indy Racing League season saw new engines, new chassis, and new drivers on the roller coaster Walt Disney World Speedway one-mile oval - but the final result was very familiar as Oldsmobile's...
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The first race of the 2000 Indy Racing League season saw new engines, new chassis, and new drivers on the roller coaster Walt Disney World Speedway one-mile oval - but the final result was very familiar as Oldsmobile's IRL Aurora V8 scored its 30th consecutive IRL victory. Oldsmobile's winning streak was in jeopardy until the final seconds of the Delphi Indy 200. With three laps to go, Eddie Cheever Jr, the only Infiniti driver in the 26 car field, was leading the 200-lap contest, with Oldsmobile drivers Robbie Buhl and Buddy Lazier in close pursuit. As Cheever slowed to avoid traffic on lap 198, Buhl made an opportunistic pass to take the lead. Lazier also drove by Cheever to give Oldsmobile a 1-2 finish. "My car was better that Cheever's in Turn 1, but that didn't necessarily mean I could get by him," said Buhl, who scored his second career IRL win by a 3.165-second margin of victory. "It was just a matter of waiting for traffic and seeing who was going to get hung up - and it worked to our advantage. "We were capable of winning, and we put ourselves in position to win," Buhl declared. "That's what racing on one-mile ovals is all about." The season-opening race marked the competition debut of the new 3.5-liter version of the undefeated IRL Aurora V8 racing engine. A new 180-degree crankshaft, a revised firing order, and a higher 10,700 rpm rev limit (up from 10,000 rpm in 1999) brought a new sound of speed to the open-wheel series. "Even sitting in the driver's seat, you can hear the motors, and they sound very racy," reported runner-up Lazier. "The horsepower is very similar to where we started with 4-liter engines in '97, and I don't think it will be long before we get the horsepower back where it was. The smaller engines aren't quite as fast at the end of the straightaway, but with the increased rpm, they get up and go. Obviously the new engines are very reliable. I think it's a super package." Buhl started 22nd after rain washed out qualifying and the starting grid was determined by last season's entrant points. Team manager Mitch Davis called for a pit stop when the first yellow flag flew on lap 24. That savvy call gained valuable track position and put Buhl in contact with the leaders. "We started at the back, but I knew if we could get an early yellow and get out of sequence, we could have the lead," said Davis. "The car was prepared meticulously. We tested 200 miles here and didn't have even a blip." Al Unser Jr. made his IRL debut in Galles ECR Racing's Ticket.com Oldsmobile G-Force. Unser started 24th based on his practice speed, since the new team had no points from the previous season. He was moved swiftly through the field and was running in the Top Ten, but retired from the race with a mechanical problem after 64 laps. The race was slowed by eight caution periods for a total of 65 laps. Drivers Davey Hamilton and Jaques Lazier were transported to Orlando Regional Medical Center for further observation after single-car accidents. IRL medical director Dr. Henry Bock reported that both drivers were awake and alert but complaining of back pain. Development of the new generation of 3.5-liter engines will continue when the IRL travels of the Valley of the Sun for the second round of the ten-race series at Phoenix International Raceway on March 19, 2000.
RACE SUMMARY: Track: Walt Disney World Speedway, 1-mile oval Winner: Robbie Buhl, Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Oldsmobile G-Force Margin of Victory: 3.165 seconds Average Speed: 102.292 mph
Top Five Finishers: Pos./Driver/Engine Laps 1. Robbie Buhl/Oldsmobile 200 2. Buddy Lazier/Oldsmobile 200 3. Eddie Cheever Jr./Infiniti 200 4. Scott Goodyer/Oldsmobile 200 5. Eliseo Salazer/Oldsmobile 200
Pole: Greg Ray/Oldsmobile (Qualifying canceled due to rain; starting grid determined by 1999 team points and practice speeds)
Fastest Lap: Mark Dismore/Oldsmobile, 162.126 mph
Manufacturer Results: Oldsmobile Nissan Laps Led 192 8 Starters 25 1 Running at Finish 17 1
Winning Oldsmobile Engine Builder: Brayton Engineering
POINT STANDINGS: (After 1 of 10 events) Driver/Engine Wins Points 1. Robbie Buhl/Olds 1 52 2. Buddy Lazier/Olds 0 40 3. Eddie Cheever Jr./Infiniti 0 35 4. Scott Goodyear/Olds 0 32 5. Eliseo Salazer/Olds 0 30
Manufacturer Wins Points 1. Oldsmobile 1 10 2. Nissan 0 7
NEXT RACE: Phoenix International Raceway; Sunday, March 19, 2000 TV: ABC live, 4 p.m. Eastern