RICHMOND, Va., Saturday, June 30, 2001 - Buddy Lazier ruled the SunTrust Indy Challenge, leading an Indy Racing League-record 224 of 250 laps en route to a dominant victory June 30 at Richmond International Raceway. It was the second victory of...
RICHMOND, Va., Saturday, June 30, 2001 - Buddy Lazier ruled the SunTrust Indy Challenge, leading an Indy Racing League-record 224 of 250 laps en route to a dominant victory June 30 at Richmond International Raceway.
It was the second victory of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season for Lazier, who also won the last race June 17 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Lazier has six career Indy Racing League victories, tying Scott Sharp for the league record.
Lazier climbed to second in the Northern Light Series point standings with the victory. Points leader Sam Hornish Jr. finished second on the ¾-mile oval, 4.8828 seconds behind defending series champion and 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. finished third. The average speed of the race was 97.435 mph.
It was the first race on a track shorter than 1 mile in Indy Racing League history and took place in hot, humid conditions.
"This is one of the most physically demanding races I've run," Lazier said. "I'm beat. We picked up a lot of momentum. This is two weeks in a row. I can't believe it. It's an amazing day."
So was Lazier's performance. He took the lead on the first lap despite starting fourth, darting past pole sitter and younger brother Jaques Lazier, Sarah Fisher and Eddie Cheever Jr.
Lazier than blitzed the field, leading until a pit stop on Lap 188 during a caution period. Lazier surrendered to Eliseo Salazar on that lap after entering the pits for the second consecutive lap. He missed his pit stall on the previous lap and was forced to drive around to re-enter the pits for routine service.
On the restart on Lap 196, Salazar and Eddie Cheever Jr. were ahead of Lazier. The three cars dueled within a second of each other for the next 10 laps until Shigeaki Hattori did a half-spin exiting Turn 2 on Lap 206.
The battle between Salazar, Cheever and Lazier continued on the restart on Lap 213. But one lap later, Cheever and Salazar made contact in Turn 3 when Cheever tried to pass Salazar with a low move. Both cars hit the outside retaining wall and were out of the race. Cheever was unhurt, while Salazar was transported to a Richmond hospital for precautionary X-rays.
Lazier just missed the melee and inherited the lead. His only challenge thereafter was to navigate lapped traffic en route to the checkered flag and a paycheck of $166,300.
Hornish credited his Firestone tires with being able to hold off Unser for third, despite a small engine problem.
"We were really hooked up there at the end," Hornish said. "We really had a good set of Firestone tires. It was pretty slick to start off, but it kept getting better and better toward the end for me."
There were five other accidents besides the decisive incident between Cheever and Salazar, including pole sitter Jaques Lazier hitting the outside wall on Lap 15 and front-row starter Sarah Fisher hitting the wall on Lap 111. None of the drivers involved in the other incidents were hurt.
The next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is the Ameristar Casino Indy 200 on July 8 at Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, Kan.