FOUNTAIN, Colo., Thursday, June 15, 2000 - Colorado native Buddy Lazier has climbed up the race results at each Indy Racing Northern Light Series event at Pikes Peak International Raceway step by step - like Zebulan Pike might have...
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Thursday, June 15, 2000 - Colorado native Buddy Lazier has climbed up the race results at each Indy Racing Northern Light Series event at Pikes Peak International Raceway step by step - like Zebulan Pike might have scaled the nearby imposing mountain that bears his name. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner finished eighth in the first Northern Light Series race at PPIR in 1997. He advanced one position the next year to finish seventh. In 1999 there were two races at PPIR and Lazier, who was born and resides in Vail, Colo., finished fifth and fourth, respectively. Now he's ready to scale the summit and win the Radisson Indy 200 on June 18 at the mile-high, mile-long PPIR oval. "I like the direction we're going," said Lazier, driver of the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "I hope we can keep moving up." Finishing high at PPIR and in the remaining races on the schedule is imperative if Lazier wants to win his first Northern Light Series championship and the $1 million check that goes with it. A fuel miscalculation may have cost him victory in last Sunday's Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, but his seventh place finish has maintained his series point lead by 22 over Scott Goodyear. Lazier carried the points lead out of this year's Indianapolis 500 after he chased winner Juan Montoya across the finish line by 7.184 seconds. Lazier has driven in 37 of 39 IRL races, sharing second with Eddie Cheever Jr. on the all-time participation list. Only Davey Hamilton, who has competed in all Northern Light Series events, has raced more. In 1996, the league's first season, he won Indianapolis but finished 14th in the standings because of an accident at Phoenix International Raceway in March that resulted in severe back injuries, forcing him to miss the Phoenix race. The next season he won at Charlotte and placed eighth in the standings. He finished fifth in the 1998 points, but slipped back to sixth in 1999. Lazier realizes that the team's championship hopes could fade quickly if they do not stay ahead of the game. "We're only like 22 points ahead," he said. "We have a very, very small lead. It makes me nervous just thinking about the championship now. If we continue to run like we've been running early in the season, continue to finish races that's going to be the key. You've got to score points every race from here on out." The winner of the Radisson 200 will receive 50 points, the three fastest qualifiers will receive three, two and one points respectively, and the driver leading the most laps gets an additional two. A back-of-the-pack finish easily could knock him out of the top spot. He understands what can happen, because he has one costly DNF this year. It happened at the Vegas Indy 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where he fell out on Lap 66 with a faulty fuel pump. He collected only eight points in that race. The rest of Lazier's season has been strong, however, having placed second at Walt Disney World, first at Phoenix when he charged to the checkered flag from a last place start, and then second again at Indy. At Indianapolis, Lazier raced as hard as could, but couldn't quite run down Montoya. "We pitted six times, he pitted five times," Lazier said. "We ran the fastest lap of the race two laps from the end. There's a lot to be proud of. My team did an awesome job. "They (Target/Chip Ganassi Racing, which fields Montoya's car) did an awesome job in the pit stops. All the Indy Racing guys lost about 2 seconds per pit stop to Ganassi's team, and it wasn't due to our guys. They were just as fast. They had a mechanism of some sort that allowed them to dump fuel faster than we dumped fuel." The mechanism was in the nozzle, according to Lazier. He assured it's an advantage that all Northern Light Series teams will make up by next year's Indianapolis 500. Lazier still feels that despite the advantage Montoya gained in the pits, if circumstances hadn't gone the Colombian's way and everything else had been equal, he would have had an excellent chance of adding a second Indianapolis victory to his resume. "We actually completed - people have told me - we completed the 500 miles faster than he did," Lazier said. "It's just where we started (16th) and the time we spent in the pits cost us. Also, I got caught in some traffic. It wasn't him doing it as one person. It was that Juan got by on the straightaways and I caught (them) in the corners. "Really, as competitive as the Indy Racing League is, you need a little bit of luck. It fell toward them and fell away from us." PPIR is Lazier's home track on the Northern Light Series. He has the advantage of living in the higher altitude and being accustomed to it. "I don't feel it," he said about the thin air. "I've always heard about the Colorado sports teams, the Denver Broncos, the Avalanche and the Rockies, they always talk about it as a home advantage for them at altitude, because they're adjusted to it, their blood cells. "I don't know if it affects a driver as much as athletes. It's got to have some affect and some advantage for me. Yet I still haven't won there so I don't know how much of an advantage it is. It certainly can't do me any harm." Then Lazier amended his statement and emphasized that race drivers are athletes. He noted that they are piloting what he calls physical beasts throwing 3 to 5 G forces at them. This means he is holding three to five times his body weight up with his head and neck muscles. Also, every G collapses the body's organs and arteries, he added, so this forces his heart to work extremely hard. "You have to be in top physical condition to drive one of these cars," he said. RADISSON INDY 200 NOTEBOOK:
Schedule: The Radisson Indy 200 starts at 2 p.m. (MDT) Sunday, June 18. MBNA Pole qualifying starts at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17. Practice sessions start at 11 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. June 16, and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. June 17.
The USAC MCI WorldCom National/Western Midget Car Series will conduct a race at PPIR on June 18 at 11:30 a.m.
Tickets: Tickets for the Radisson Indy 200 are available by calling (888) 306-RACE.
On The Air: The Radisson Indy 200 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EDT) June 18. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised live at 11 a.m. June 18 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 17. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute pre-race show at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) June 18, followed by the live race broadcast at 4 p.m. The IRRN will air MBNA Pole qualifying at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 17. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com, the world's leading Web broadcast site.
Timing and Scoring: Live timing and scoring reports from Radisson Indy 200 practice, MBNA Pole qualifying and the race will be available on the Internet at www.indyracing.com.
Streaming Video: Live streaming video of all Radisson Indy 200 practice sessions will be available through a partnership with LiveOnTheNet.com. Streaming video of live practice will start at the Radisson Indy 200 on June 16 at Texas Motor Speedway. Practice sessions start at 1 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. (EDT). Practice continues at noon and 6 p.m. (EDT) June 17. All
CARA Party: CARA Charities and Indy Racing will present the second annual Party @ Peaks "Rockin' the Rockies" at 6 p.m. (MDT) June 16 at PPIR. Tickets are $25 and proceeds benefit CARA Charities. "Rockin' the Rockies" will feature 1950s motif, food beverages and activities such as a dunk tank and lip-sync contest.
Autographs: A Northern Light Series driver autograph session for race fans will take place June 17 from 4:45-5:45 p.m. (MDT) in the PPIR garage area.