SPARTA, Ky., Sunday, August 12, 2001 - Buddy Lazier was hotter than a summer heat wave today as he posted a season-record fourth victory in five IRL races. Lazier reprised his winning performance last year at Kentucky Speedway, capturing the ...
SPARTA, Ky., Sunday, August 12, 2001 - Buddy Lazier was hotter than a summer heat wave today as he posted a season-record fourth victory in five IRL races. Lazier reprised his winning performance last year at Kentucky Speedway, capturing the Belterra Casino Indy 300 with Hemelgarn Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara for the second time and pulling to within 25 points of Sam Hornish Jr. in the championship race.
"We love this place!" Lazier declared. "We feel like we own it."
No Kentucky Derby could rival the drama that took place on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval as drivers jockeyed for position through 200 laps of intense, breathtaking competition. Lazier defended the low line tenaciously in a late-race duel with Robbie Buhl and took the lead for good on lap 195. He was first to the stripe by 1.5822 seconds over polesitter Scott Sharp after Buhl's Infiniti ran out of fuel. Sam Hornish Jr. displayed the trademark consistency that has sustained his championship run, finishing third in Panther Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara - his eighth Top Five finish of the season.
Lazier credited his Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 prepared by Speedway Engine Development for his record-setting eighth career IRL victory. "Speedway has won more races than any engine builder has won in a season," Lazier said. "They've led more laps, they won the championship last year and they're first and second this year. They deserve a lot of credit."
Lazier tallied Oldsmobile's ninth win of the season and 46th overall in IRL competition. Oldsmobile engines powered the top eight finishers (all on the lead lap), and 17 of the 18 cars running at the finish. Oldsmobile had a near-perfect reliability record with only one reported mechanical problem among the 20 Oldsmobile starters.
Sharp dominated the first half of the race, leading 105 laps from the pole in Kelley Racing's Oldsmobile Dallara. "We had an untouchable car, but then the shocks went away a little and we struggled going over the bumps," said Sharp. "We had a unbelievable weekend for the Delphi team, winning the pole, leading the most laps and finishing second."
Hornish now leads Lazier 374 to 349 in the championship standings with three races to go. "I'd push the car just as hard if I was 200 points ahead or 200 points behind," said Hornish. "Seconds and thirds are good, but we want to step it up a little. I go out there to win every race."
Al Unser Jr. started ninth and finished fourth in Galles Racing's Oldsmobile G-Force. "I can't say enough about my crew," said the two-time Indy 500 winner. "They passed more cars in the pits than I did on the track. My car was not handling well on the restarts so I wasn't able to really race with the leaders after each yellow."
Easily overlooked in the struggle between the frontrunners, Donnie Beechler started dead last after problems in qualifying but brought A.J. Foyt's Oldsmobile Dallara home in fifth place, gaining 17 positions. "The car was good but we could have been a little closer on the gearing," he explained. "I'd get a run on people and then I'd hit the rev limiter."
Hornish and Lazier will resume their battle for the $1 million Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship at the Gateway Indy 250, the series' inaugural event at Gateway International Raceway, on Sunday, August 26. The race will be televised on ESPN at 3 p.m. EDT.