By David Reininger - Motorsport.com Fort Worth, Texas (October 15, 2000) - Scott Goodyear earned his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series win of the season, finishing .140 seconds ahead of Eddie Cheever Jr. in the Excite 500 at Texas ...
By David Reininger - Motorsport.com
Fort Worth, Texas (October 15, 2000) - Scott Goodyear earned his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series win of the season, finishing .140 seconds ahead of Eddie Cheever Jr. in the Excite 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Goodyear earned 50 points for his third career IRNLS victory and another two points in qualifying, finishing the season with 272 points.
Buddy Lazier, who needed to finish 14th or better to claim the Northern Light Cup and the $1 million prize, finished fourth, last car on the lead lap. Lazier claimed 32 points for his fourth place finish, taking the championship 290-272 over Goodyear.
Excite 500 second place finisher Eddie Cheever Jr. started the day with a mathematical chance to win the championship, but needed a win combined with a dose of bad luck for Goodyear and Lazier. The three title contenders coming into final round of the IRNLS, did not change positions in the championship standings as Cheever finished 15 points behind Goodyear.
With a higher than normal attrition rate, Lazier was assured of winning the championship while the race was still in progress. "It really made me feel good to know we had won because that left me free to really go out and win the race. When they radioed that I won the championship, I radioed back, 'You mean if I come back with no wheels, we still win the championship?' They said yes.
With 50 laps to go, the three title contenders fought a fierce battle at the point with Goodyear, Cheever and Lazier all taking turns leading the way.
"When you're going for the championship, you're not taking huge chances," said Lazier. "Today we didn't take huge chances until we knew we had clinched the championship. With a about ten laps to go, the guys let me know we had the championship in the bag so I could run pretty hard."
Zak Morioka's late race crash caused a caution period, which set the stage for a ten lap dash to the finish.
"The most anxious I have been all year was when we were under yellow and I was waiting for the final restart," said Cheever, who led with ten laps to go. "If you're the guy in front, opening a hole for everybody, it's like being a duck in a bowl with people shooting at you."
"My car was getting very wide at the end, but I didn't have enough for Goodyear, and he managed to get around me. Those last few laps racing with Scott, there couldn't have been three inches between us."
Morioka's accident and the ensuing yellow allowed Billy Boat to close the gap to the leaders. When Lazier made a quick pit stop for fuel, Boat inherited third place behind the lapped cars of Scott Sharp and Shigeaki Hattori.
On the restart, Boat quickly dispatched Hattori and Sharp, making a bid for the win. Boat passed Goodyear for second place but lost momentum in his attack on Cheever, allowing Goodyear to regain his position.
Goodyear made a run on Cheever with the pair running side by side on the last two laps. Boat followed close behind.
Boat's season best third place finish, earned him a top-ten finish in the season long championship battle.
"I really have to give a big thank you to not only Team Pelfrey and my whole bunch of new guys, but also Panther Racing, they prepped this whole car and gave us a motor," said Boat. "Overall, I can't complain. Third from 22nd is a good finish for us. It's nice to get back at the front, being able to challenge for the win."
Boat's car, prepped at the shops of Pennzoil Panther Racing for the Excite 500, handled well throughout the race, allowing Boat to run both the high and low on the track. "We were able to keep moving up. We got a break on some yellows and I had a car that could run up high and I could pass. That was the key. I could use the draft to pass someone and I could draft my way to the front. Once we got to the front, we didn't quite have enough to pass on the top to go on by, but it was a good effort."
Eliseo Salazar rounded out the top five.
Al Unser Jr. led 99 laps until a clutch problem sidelined the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner on lap 155.
The Racesearch Rookie of the Year title went to Airton Dare, who enjoyed a two-point lead over Jeret Schroeder coming into the IRNLS final round this weekend. Dare finished 12th while Schroeder finished 16th. Both drivers were running at the end.