JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 2, 2001 - Jaques Lazier blew away the competition today in the Windy City, scoring his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory in the inaugural IRL event at Chicagoland Speedway with Team Menard's Oldsmobile ...
JOLIET, Ill., Sunday, Sept. 2, 2001 - Jaques Lazier blew away the competition today in the Windy City, scoring his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory in the inaugural IRL event at Chicagoland Speedway with Team Menard's Oldsmobile Dallara. Sam Hornish Jr. clinched the series' $1 million championship bonus with a runner-up finish in Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara and delivered Oldsmobile's fifth consecutive drivers championship.
In his second race with Team Menard, Lazier won the pole, led 116 of 200 laps and took the checkered flag with a 1.4609-second margin of victory over Hornish. He averaged 172.146 mph in the 200-lap race, the third fastest race in IRL history, and became the fourth driver to win for Team Menard. Lazier notched Oldsmobile's 11th victory of the season and the 48th overall.
"We had a tremendous car and everything we did went right," said Lazier. "We used everything we had. There were times when I had to go from sixth back to the front. At the end I knew I was going to be very difficult for anyone to pass me."
Lazier notched the tenth victory for an IRL Aurora V8 prepared by Menard Engine Development. "The engine was flawless!" he exclaimed "We had such a strong motor that we were able to put some more downforce in the car."
With the championship on the line, some expected Hornish to run a conservative race. They were mistaken; he sliced, diced, dodged and drafted his way to the front from his eighth starting position, gaining four spots on the first lap.
"It wouldn't matter if we were racing for one dollar or a million dollars," Hornish asserted. "To have your name on that trophy and know that you accomplished that deed is good enough for us."
Hornish and the Pennzoil Panther team have been the epitome of consistency this season. Running at the finish of every race, Sam has posted nine podium finishes and 11 Top Ten finishes in 12 events. At 22, he is the youngest driver to win a major American open-wheel championship.
"Every time we go out on the track we want to be first," Hornish explained. "Whether it's practice, qualifying or the race, it doesn't matter.
"Speedway Engine Development and the Oldsmobile engines they build for us have just been awesome," he continued. "We've had a couple small problems, but if you look down the line, they've been very minor. It's a pleasure to work with the people from Speedway. They've won the championship two straight years and finished first and second two straight years. If that doesn't say that they're doing the right thing, I don't know what does."
Lazier took the lead for good from Felipe Giaffone on the 175th lap. Giaffone, who has already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year title with Treadway-Hubbard Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force, drove like a seasoned veteran. He led 34 laps and was running at the front when a coolant leak overheated his engine and sidelined the Brazilian racer. He finished tenth.
Jaques became the second member of the Lazier family to stand in the winner's circle this season after his brother Buddy posted four victories. Buddy's bid for the IRL championship ended when he finished 11th, two laps behind his younger brother.
"All I've ever wanted was a home where I could stay for several years to develop a program like my brother has done at Hemelgarn Racing," Jaques confided. "I truly believe we have a home at Team Menard. I look forward to this being the first of many wins."
With the championship decided, Hornish will have a chance to relax before the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season finale. The Chevy 500 will be held at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, Texas, on Sunday, Sept. 16. The race will be televised on ESPN at 4:30 p.m. EDT. <pre>
Track: Chicagoland Speedway, 1.5-mile oval Winner: Jaques Lazier, Team Menard Oldsmobile Dallara Margin of Victory: 1.4609 seconds Average Speed: 172.146 mph Pole: Jaques Lazier/Oldsmobile, 221.740 mph Fastest Lap: Robbie Buhl/Infiniti, 222.137 mph
Top Five Finishers
Pos./Driver/Engine/Laps 1. Jaques Lazier/Oldsmobile, 200 laps 2. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 200 3. Eddie Cheever Jr./Infiniti, 200 4. Jeff Ward/Oldsmobile, 200 5. Donnie Beechler/Oldsmobile, 200
Laps Led: Oldsmobile 168, Infiniti 32 Starters: Oldsmobile 23, Infiniti 2 Running at Finish: Oldsmobile 14, Infiniti 1
After 12 of 13 events Driver/Engine/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Sam Hornish Jr./Oldsmobile, 451 (2) *clinched championship 2. Buddy Lazier/Oldsmobile, 385 (4) 3. Scott Sharp/Oldsmobile, 315 (1) 4. Billy Boat/Oldsmobile, 295 Felipe Giaffone/Oldsmobile, 295
Manufacturer/Points (victories in parentheses) 1. Oldsmobile, 117 (11) *clinched championship 2. Infiniti, 87 (1)
Sept. 16, 2001, Chevy 500, Texas Motor Speedway, Fort Worth, Texas, 1.5-mile oval TV: ESPN, 4:30 p.m. EDT