IRL: Kansas pre event notes

The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 marks the first time the Indy Racing Northern Light Series has visited Kansas Speedway. The event also marks the first Indy-style race in the Kansas City area since July 4, 1924, when 1922 Indianapolis 500 winner...

The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 marks the first time the Indy Racing Northern Light Series has visited Kansas Speedway. The event also marks the first Indy-style race in the Kansas City area since July 4, 1924, when 1922 Indianapolis 500 winner Jimmy Murphy won at the Kansas City Speedway, a 1.25-mile board track with a banking of 35 degrees. Tommy Milton, the first two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, won the first event at the speedway on Sept. 17, 1922. Eddie Hearn, who started in the first 500 in 1911, captured the July 4, 1923, race, and Harlan Fengler won his only Indy-style event at Kansas City on Oct. 21, 1923. Fengler would go on to serve as chief steward of the Indianapolis 500 from 1958-73.

RACE NOTES:
Three Indianapolis 500 winners are entered in this event: 1998 champion Eddie Cheever Jr., 1996 champion Buddy Lazier and 1992 and 1994 champion Al Unser Jr.

The Ameristar Casino Indy 200 is the final race in a stretch of four races in five weeks following the Indianapolis 500 for the Indy Racing Northern Light Series. Following Kansas, the series takes a week off before heading to the new 1.33-mile Nashville Superspeedway for the fourth and final night race of the season Saturday, July 21.

Two Indy Racing rookies are confirmed to participate in the Ameristar Casino Indy 200: Felipe Giaffone (Treadway-Hubbard Racing) and Didier André (Galles Racing).

Although he is nicknamed "Lone Star J.R." because of his Texas background, three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford was born in Coffeyville, Kan. Likewise, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rick Mears was raised in Bakersfield, Calif., but born in Wichita, Kan. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Rodger Ward was born in Beloit, Kan.

SERIES NOTES:
Defending series champion Buddy Lazier would become just the second driver in Indy Racing League history to win three consecutive races with a victory in the Ameristar Casino Indy 200. Lazier has won the last two races, on June 17 at Pikes Peak International Raceway and June 30 at Richmond International Raceway. Kenny Brack won in succession in 1998 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Pikes Peak International Raceway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

At 21, Sam Hornish Jr. became the youngest driver to win an Indy Racing League event with his victory at the season opener March 18 in Phoenix. He followed that with a win at Homestead-Miami on April 8 and is one of six drivers in Indy Racing history to win consecutive races.

The Indy Racing Northern Light Series will consist of a record 13 races this year between mid-March and late September. In addition to Kansas City, Mo, five new markets for the Northern Light Series will play host to events in 2001: Chicago, Miami, St. Louis, Nashville, Tenn., and Richmond, Va.

The Indy Racing League will not award qualifying points this year in an effort to discourage teams from building fragile but fast qualifying engines that provide an advantage over those teams lacking the budget to build the costly extra engines.

Sarah Fisher's second-place finish on April 8 at Homestead-Miami was her career best and the best by a woman in the history of Indy-style racing. Fisher also started second at the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 30 at Richmond, a career best and the best by a woman in the history of Indy-style racing.

Rookie Felipe Giaffone is dominating the series Rookie of the Year point standings. Giaffone has 185 points and is fifth overall in the Northern Light Series standings. The next-highest rookie in the standings, Didier Andre, has 96 points and is 17th overall.

While Sam Hornish, Jr. holds a 50-point lead in the overall point standings over second place Buddy Lazier, only 16 points separate Scott Sharp in third place and rookie Felipe Giaffone in fifth place. Sharp has 201 points, fourth-place Eliseo Salazar 191 and Giaffone 185.

Buddy Lazier's victory on June 30 at Richmond was his sixth career Indy Racing League victory, tying Scott Sharp for the most career wins of any driver in league history. Sharp earned his sixth career win June 9 at Texas.

Greg Ray has won 12 career MBNA Poles, a series record. He has three poles in 2001 with his most recent pole coming June 16 at Pikes Peak. He has started in the top four in 23 of the last 26 Indy Racing events. Ray is expected to be cleared to drive for this event after missing the SunTrust Indy Challenge on June 30 at Richmond due to injuries suffered in a practice crash at that race.

Should Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier start this race, they will set a record for most consecutive starts in Indy Racing Northern Light Series competition with 49. Davey Hamilton started 48 consecutive races from the inaugural Indy Racing event in 1996 until the Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway June 9. Injuries suffered at Texas have put him out of competition.

Buzz Calkins has the longest active streak in Indy Racing of running at the finish, running in the last nine races dating back to Kentucky in August 2000. His best finish in that span is third on April 28 at Atlanta.

-IRNLS/IMS-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Sarah Fisher , Greg Ray , Felipe Giaffone , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Didier André , Scott Sharp , Kenny Brack , Jimmy Murphy , Rodger Ward , Sam Hornish Jr. , Johnny Rutherford , Sam Hornis