IRL: Buddy Lazier, Hemelgarn Ready to Roll the Dice at Las Vegas

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 17, 2000 - It is only appropriate for Buddy Lazier and the Hemelgarn Racing team that the next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval, because the dice keep ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, April 17, 2000 - It is only appropriate for Buddy Lazier and the Hemelgarn Racing team that the next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval, because the dice keep rolling their way in the 2000 season. The team looks to continue its good fortune at Las Vegas on April 22 as Lazier, currently the Northern Light Series championship points leader, will do battle with his fellow competitors in the Vegas Indy 300. Hemelgarn Racing, which has fielded cars for Lazier throughout his five-year Northern Light Series career, took a chance this season by running Riley & Scott's new Mark VII chassis. The Riley & Scott is an American-built car that was, prior to this season, winless since it began competing in the Northern Light Series in 1997. But Hemelgarn's risk paid big dividends when Lazier won the MCI WorldCom Indy 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, only the second race of the year. The celebration did not last long, according to Lazier, because the team and Riley & Scott know there is much work to be done. "For an all-new car, that was a great success for them (Riley & Scott), but I don't think anybody's sitting back on their laurels," said Lazier, of Vail, Colo. "We all realize we have to celebrate the win then forget about it, because you need to get back to work and be very hungry. "The car still needs a lot of work, but it has tremendous potential. We had success on the short tracks, and now we're entering the stage where we go to high-speed racetracks. We're focused on making the car run well on those tracks." Lazier is enjoying the best start in his five-year Northern Light Series career, starting fifth and finishing second at the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway on Jan. 29, and starting 26th and finishing first at Phoenix. The Phoenix win marked two milestones for the series and for Lazier. No one had ever started as far back and won a Northern Light Series event (Robbie Buhl started 22nd and won this year's Delphi Indy 200). And for the first time in his career, Lazier vaulted to the top of the series points standings. He currently has a 12-point lead over Buhl. It's hard to fathom that Lazier has never led the championship points, given his three career victories and reputation as a consistent front-runner, but it's true. Leading the points has the possibility of winning the Northern Light Series championship foremost on the minds of Lazier and the Hemelgarn team. "We haven't been in this position before, and we know how much hard work it took to get us here and how hard it will be to stay in front," said Lazier. "This is our best start to a season, and it holds a lot of promise for us. We're hoping to not only complete every race, but to be in a position to win or get on the podium. That's what it takes to win a championship." Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a state-of-the-art facility situated just north of the city in the Nevada desert, has superspeedway form with its 1.5-mile length, wide straightaways and sweeping turns. But the relatively flat 12 degree banking in the turns and nine degree banking on the front straight put Northern Light Series drivers on the edge above 200 mph. And that, according to Lazier, is what makes the Vegas Indy 300 one of the toughest events on the schedule. "Vegas is an awesome facility," said Lazier. "It's an interesting track in the philosophy of how you set your car up. Qualifying takes a completely different setup than the race because you can go wide open for a couple laps without much downforce, but you can't do that for the race. For the race you really need to put some downforce into it because it gets really slippery due to the temperature and the sand. It's a very interesting facility." With the 84th Indianapolis 500 looming on May 28, Lazier said it could be easy for teams to overlook the Vegas Indy 300. And Lazier knows just how sweet it is to win Indy, after winning in 1996 and finishing second in 1998. But Lazier has reason to be more focused on the matter at hand than ever before. "After all," said Lazier, "Indianapolis and Vegas pay the same in terms of championship points, so it's very important to have a good race."

-IRL/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier