IRL: Notebook 2002-06-27

Delphi renews sponsorship of Chicago race; Double duty for Lazier? INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, June 27, 2002 -- Delphi Corp. has extended its title sponsorship of the annual Indy Racing League event at Chicagoland Speedway through 2003, company and...

Delphi renews sponsorship of Chicago race; Double duty for Lazier?

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, June 27, 2002 -- Delphi Corp. has extended its title sponsorship of the annual Indy Racing League event at Chicagoland Speedway through 2003, company and track officials announced June 27.

The second annual Delphi Indy 300 is scheduled for Sept. 8 on the 1.5-mile oval at Chicagoland Speedway, located in Joliet, Ill. Jaques Lazier won the inaugural Delphi Indy 300 last September.

"The extension of our partnership with Delphi for the Indy Racing League event at Chicagoland Speedway speaks volumes about our facility and the overwhelming support of the race fans in the Chicago metropolitan area for the IRL brand of open-wheel racing," said Joie Chitwood III, Chicagoland Speedway vice president and general manager. "The Indy Racing League put on a great show during the inaugural Delphi Indy 300.

"To sit in a world-class facility and witness two- and three-wide racing at speeds over 215 mph is unbelievable, and that is what the race fans and motorsports marketing partners in this area are looking for."

Said William A. Lafontaine, Delphi director of marketing and customer development, "Our sponsorship of the Delphi Indy 300 not only stresses our belief in motorsports as a proving ground for future Delphi innovations, it also is a valuable opportunity to build the Delphi brand."

Delphi has been involved in open-wheel racing since 1988. Earlier this year, the company announced an extension of its sponsorship of Kelley Racing's driver Scott Sharp and the No. 8 Delphi car through 2005.

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Lazier doubling up?: Buddy Lazier, 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000 Indy Racing League champion, has expressed interest in driving in selected Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series events on the same weekend he competes in Indy Racing League events.

"I mean, it's totally possible," Lazier said. "I don't know how the scheduling would be with the drivers' meetings and that sort of thing, but if nothing else, I'm sure it's possible on a limited schedule. That's something I was thinking of doing. Since they're both there, why not?

"It would be good. I see it a lot like the (NASCAR) Busch (Series) versus (NASCAR) Winston Cup. Why not? Why not have some of the IRL drivers out there? It might be a good thing. Good for people to race against the IRL drivers and see what they're doing, and also good because they're probably going to beat that driver from time to time. It's more racing for us, and that's a good thing."

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Night fliers: The SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 29 at Richmond International Raceway will be the 15th scheduled night race in Indy Racing League history. If either defending champion Buddy Lazier or Scott Sharp, last year's fifth-place finisher, wins, he will become the IRL king of nocturnal racing.

Each driver has won three races under the lights. In addition to the inaugural Richmond race, Lazier, driver of the No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, has taken the checkered flag last year at Nashville and in 1997 at Charlotte. Sharp, who drives the No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, has won night races in 2000 and 2001 at Texas and in 1999 at Atlanta.

Two-time night winners are Greg Ray (Atlanta, 2000, 2001) and Kenny Brack (Charlotte, Atlanta, 1998).

Arie Luyendyk won the IRL's first night race, in June 1997 at Texas. Chilean driver Eliseo Salazar earned the only IRL victory of his career to date later that year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. That was only time the Vegas race was run at night.

Other one-time night winners were Scott Goodyear (Texas, 1999) and Billy Boat (Texas, 1998). Mark Dismore earned his only victory under the lights in the second Texas race in 1999. However, the race was scheduled for a day start that was delayed by rain and finished after dark.

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Lazier sees Richmond as springboard: The SunTrust Indy Challenge this weekend at Richmond International Raceway has come at a perfect time for 2000 Indy Racing League champion Buddy Lazier.

Lazier is tied for 12th in the Indy Racing point standings and winless through seven races this season in the No. 91 Coors Light/Life Fitness/Tae-Bo/Delta Faucet Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. His victory last year at Richmond was one of his four wins en route to finishing second in the final point standings.

"If the saying is true, 'What goes up must come down, we've come down hard,'" Lazier said. "Hopefully, we've hit bottom.

"I am looking forward to Richmond and turning our season around and bouncing back into the championship hunt. Last year it was exciting winning four out of five races, and Richmond was one of the highlights of the summer. It was an unbelievable race especially since it was the inaugural event and the fact that we led the most laps in the Indy Racing League's history."

Lazier led 224 of 250 laps last June at Richmond.

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Family ties: 1999 Indy Racing League champion Greg Ray can catch a glimpse of one of his distant relatives by looking at the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in downtown Richmond this week during the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway.

Ray's family bloodlines also trace back to late British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and notorious gangster Jesse James.

"I would have to check the family tree about Lee because I'm not sure if he's on my mother's side or my father's side," Ray said. "I do know my dad is related to Jesse James, and my mother is related to Winston Churchill, whom we named our first son (Winston) after."

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Fike to drive in USAC race at Richmond: Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series driver Aaron Fike will drive in the Dominic's of New York 100 USAC Weld Racing Silver Crown Series race June 29 at Richmond International Raceway.

The race serves as a support event for the SunTrust Indy Challenge Indy Racing League event later that evening at RIR.

Fike, 19, earned his first USAC National Midget Car victory June 19 at Attica, Ohio. He is the defending champion of the Silver Crown race at Richmond, where he became the youngest winner in Silver Crown history at age 18.

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Wheldon tests with Panther: 1999 U.S. F2000 champion Dan Wheldon, who will make his Indy Racing League debut later this season with Panther Racing, turned 32 laps with the team June 21 at Chicagoland Speedway.

Wheldon, 23, from England, will make his first IRL start Sept. 8 at the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland.

"For one thing, everything happens a lot quicker in an IRL car," Wheldon said of the test. "I'm not at that point yet because of my inexperience. In total, I have only done about 130 laps in an IRL car. This test gives me more seat time, and it makes me more comfortable with the car and the guys I'm working with. That's the biggest thing for me.

"It was fantastic. I got to get more experience in the car at the track where I will make my debut. Problem is, I'm hooked now and I want to start earlier."

Wheldon will be a teammate to 2001 IRL champion Sam Hornish Jr.

"He's very good at helping me from the point of view that something I'm not comfortable with, I ask him what he does, and with his experience he tells me, and that gives me an option," Wheldon said. "He doesn't just tell me, he advises, and he is obviously one of the best out there."

Wheldon finished second as a rookie in Indy Lights last season and second as a rookie in Toyota Atlantic in 2000. He won the U.S. F2000 title as a rookie in 1999.

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Hot laps: Indy Racing League rookie Anthony Lazzaro will team up with NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Jerry Nadeau to drive the No. 7 Nissan-powered Lola fielded by Rand Racing in the Jani-King Paul Revere 250 sports-car race on July 4 at Daytona International Speedway. Lazzaro has driven Rand's No. 8 Nissan-Lola with Terry Borcheller at selected Grand-Am sports-car races this season -- Indy Racing League points leader Helio Castroneves is featured in the July/August issue of Sports Illustrated for Women as part of the magazine's "Sexiest Men in Sports" issue. Castroneves joins such athletes as basketball player Rick Fox, skateboarder Tony Hawk and boxer Roy Jones Jr. in the swimsuit pictorial, available now. Castroneves also is featured in the June edition of Latina Magazine's "Hot Issue," which highlights the hottest celebrities in the Latin community.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jerry Nadeau , Greg Ray , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Arie Luyendyk , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Helio Castroneves , Anthony Lazzaro , Dan Wheldon , Terry Borcheller , Aaron Fike , Jesse James , Paul King , Sam Hornish Jr.