David Reininger - motorsport.com Phoenix, AZ (March 19, 2000) - Buddy Lazier won the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway this afternoon, his third career win the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Lazier started 26th in his...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Phoenix, AZ (March 19, 2000) - Buddy Lazier won the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway this afternoon, his third career win the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Lazier started 26th in his Coors Light/Delta Faucets Riley & Scott Oldsmobile, the last starting position, after his team realized there was a problem with the primary car.
Lazier's first time in this chassis was this morning, in the half-hour practice session
"When we came here we never ran good," said Lazier's team owner, Ron Hemelgarn. "After Buddy qualified and almost took out the fence, I knew we had a problem. I just had a gut feeling there was something wrong with that chassis."
"I couldn't have Buddy running around there, almost wrecking every lap."
After qualifying on Saturday, the team rolled out a brand new Riley & Scott chassis, forcing Lazier to start from the rear of the field.
"My guys did a great job," said Lazier. "Ron (Hemelgarn) made the decision to roll out the backup car, and the guys worked through the night. We started last. I can't believe we can come through the field like that from last to first."
"Buddy is a very aggressive driver," Hemelgarn said. "On a start he's always good at jumping cars and passing quite a few. Each lap he was picking off more and more. After just a few laps he was halfway through the field."
Lazier moved swiftly through the field, passing four cars on the first lap and seven more by end of lap ten. Lazier was firmly into the top-ten by lap 50. He took the lead for good on lap 161, leading the last 39 laps to give Riley & Scott their first Indy Racing victory.
Scott Goodyear, driving Panther Racing's Pennzoil car, finished second after running in the top-ten throughout the race. "The car was good all day," said Goodyear. "It was very strong. I thought I could catch Buddy on the restarts but I couldn't. I had a better car than Buddy in turns 3 and 4, but he had me in turns 1 and 2."
"I had hoped that traffic might help us in the end, but it didn't happen that way."
Cahill Racing's hiring of engineer Darrell Soppe paid dividends as Donnie Beechler brought Cahill's No.98 car home in third place this afternoon. "Our car was good off the corners," said Beechler, who thought the team just missed the optimum setup, "but we were about 2 mph slow down the straight."
Although eager to capture his first victory in Indy Racing competition, Beechler was pleased with his third place finish, a career best. "This is a tough series to win in, and I'm very pleased with this result. To run against Little Al (Unser), and Eddie Cheever, who have good reputations, and know what it takes to win, I'm happy."
Finishing fourth in the Rio A. J. Foyt Racing No. 11 was Eliseo Salazar. "I'm happy," said Salazar. "We finished fifth in Orlando and fourth here. The way we're going, we'll be second by the Indy 500. We're happy but a little unhappy because we could have been running for the lead."
Scott Sharp finished fifth, ten seconds ahead of sixth place finisher Billy Boat. Boat fought with a loose car for most of the race but still managed to hold off a charging Robbie Buhl who finished two one-hundredths of a second behind.
Boat thought he secured sixth place when he cleared a slow moving Sarah Fisher in turn three with two laps to go. His move around Fisher opened a small gap as Buhl had to wait to make his pass of Fisher on the front straight. But the gap closed quickly. As Boat and Buhl made their final bid off turn four, a slow moving Jeff Ward was the final obstacle between the last turn and the checkered flag.
"I dove to the inside," said Boat, "knowing Robbie would do the opposite."
"I'll take a sixth place," Boat continued. "I think it's a good performance for this team. We ran in the lead pack and were competitive all day"
Buhl, who won the season opener at Orlando wasn't as pleased with his result, but still enjoyed the good race to the finish. "That was real exciting. It was a good race. I thought I could get him. But that's racing."
Jeret Schroeder was the top finishing rookie this afternoon. Schroeder finished 12th after running in the top-five for most of the race. Schroeder touched Eddie Cheever with 40 laps to go, damaging his front wing. The incident forced an extend pit stop to make repairs, dropping Schroeder several laps off the pace.
"I'm disappointed. I'm frustrated. I'm heartbroken," said Schroeder, who now leads the rookie of the year point standings. "I had a fourth place, and it might have been even higher because some guys hadn't pitted yet. And we had our last pit stop behind us."
The Indy Racing Northern Light Series moves next to Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 22, 2000 for the third round in the championship series.