INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2000 -- New Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier swears he's going to find some time to do some skiing this winter on his home mountain in Vail, Colo. But he will have to find a gap in his...
INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2000 -- New Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier swears he's going to find some time to do some skiing this winter on his home mountain in Vail, Colo. But he will have to find a gap in his hectic schedule that has his foot on a postseason throttle, literally and figuratively. Only a week after he clinched the Northern Light Cup, he was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway running laps faster than 220 mph for four days in a testing session in preparation for the Indianapolis 500. Also testing during the session were 1999 Northern Light Cup champion Greg Ray with Team Menard; Kelley Racing's Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore, the newly merged Hubbard/Treadway Racing team and drivers Davey Hamilton and Shigeaki Hattori, and Team Penske with CART points leader Gil de Ferran. Although Lazier said he was sore after a lengthy, hard run of laps Oct. 22 at the Speedway, the testing in his Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone is the easy part of the schedule because he stays in one place for a few days. Otherwise, appearances will keep him hopping all over the country. At the end of this week, he will participate in a conference on fitness conducted by his team owner Ron Hemelgarn. Then on Halloween, Lazier's 33rd birthday, Lazier will be in Las Vegas for a Firestone function. "I've got one or two every week for the next month or so," he said. Of course, the most important one will come Nov. 11. That's the date for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Awards Ceremony in Indianapolis. Lazier and Hemelgarn will pick up the champion's check for $1 million, pushing Lazier's Indy Racing League career earnings past $6 million. Despite the hectic schedule, Lazier enjoys all the attention he is receiving as champion. "I love it, it's been fun," he said. Lazier was a skiing champion as a youth and an Olympic hopeful. The Vail-Beaver Creek ski resort is the largest in North America. When he was a boy it had one lift, but now there are 40-plus lifts. The slopes open in mid-November and close in April. "I'll be doing a lot of skiing," he said.
*** Sharp, Dismore stay with Kelley: Teammates Scott Sharp and Mark Dismore will return with Kelley Racing for a fourth consecutive season in the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Both drivers battled mechanical adversity during the 2000 season, with Sharp scoring the team's only victory at the Casino Magic 500 in June at Texas. Still, Dismore finished fifth in the final standings, and Sharp was seventh, only six points behind his teammate. In Kelley's first season, 1998, Sharp placed fourth and Dismore 15th. Last season, Dismore closed in third and Sharp eighth. "We had a rough year with reliability," said Sharp, who participated in the Oct. 22-25 Firestone testing session at Indianapolis in his Delphi Automotive Systems/WorldCom Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "It was most disappointing. Personnel-wise, I think we have the best team here." Sharp said he is looking ahead to next season with optimism, because, among other reasons, Kelley Racing has hired Jeff Britton as engineer. Britton joined the team just before the second Texas race after a stint with Treadway Racing. Sharp's fifth victory made him the Indy Racing League career record holder. Dismore, testing in his OnStar/GM BuyPower/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, said that finishing fifth in the standings was "pretty good" after the troubles the car seemed to encounter in mid-race during the season. At Texas on Oct. 15, Dismore was in contention until his gearbox malfunctioned when trying to leave the pits after a pit stop. The team replaced the gearbox assembly in 16 laps, and Dismore returned to place 14th. "That's what saved us," he said about retaining a hold on fifth. Beechler finished sixth in the race and earned 28 points. Dismore picked up 16 points and didn't lose a position in the final standings. Dismore still finished third in laps completed with 1,686 (of 1,832). Sharp led 176 laps and Dismore 157 during the season.
*** Exciting weekend for Mears: Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Rick Mears was part of the crew participating in the Team Penske test at the Speedway on Oct. 22-23 with driver Gil de Ferran. While it was fun for Mears to be back at the Speedway, he also is looking forward to this weekend's CART season-finale at California Speedway in Fontana.
Not only is points leader de Ferran going for the championship, but Mears' nephew Casey will try to win the Indy Lights title and make his CART debut. Casey, son of Rick's brother Roger, passed the Indianapolis 500 Rookie orientation test at the Speedway last April. "It'll be a fun weekend," Rick Mears said.
*** Hot laps: Teams participating in the Firestone test at the Speedway worked out of the Formula One garages adjacent to the pit lane. "I love working out of these garages," Kelley Racing's Scott Sharp said. "I wish we could do it in May." ... Davey Hamilton, who has driven in all 43 Indy Racing League events, was a happy camper as he participated in the tire testing with his new Hubbard/Treadway team. He estimated this was the first time since 1997 that he had done any offseason testing.