IRL: Late Pass Wins Orlando Season Opener

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 29, 2000 -- Robbie Buhl won the first major auto race of the new millennium Saturday with a team as new as the century and strategy as old as the sport. Buhl, driving the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold...

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla., Sunday, Jan. 29, 2000 -- Robbie Buhl won the first major auto race of the new millennium Saturday with a team as new as the century and strategy as old as the sport. Buhl, driving the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Aurora/Firestone car that was assembled less than a month ago, dashed and darted through traffic in the final laps of the Delphi Indy 200 Indy Racing League season opener at Walt Disney World Speedway to get around Buddy Lazier and Eddie Cheever Jr. and score his second career Northern Light Indy Racing League victory. Leaders Lazier and then Cheever, both Indy 500 winners, charged up on a slower car in the waning laps, had to brake and take an evasive way around. Buhl exploded to the front midway through Lap 199 and raced on to the checkered flag. "We had a car capable of winning and put ourselves in a good position," said Buhl, who averaged 102.292 mph in a race that had eight leaders and same number of caution flags. "We don't think we had anything handed to us today. "Obviously, we all want to win Indy. But I just remembered when Buzz Calkins won this first race down here (1996) all the attention he got. So I said, 'Yeah, that's something else I want to win.' So it's good." Buhl crossed the finish line 3.156 seconds in front of Lazier, with Cheever and Scott Goodyear another blink of the eye behind them. Eliseo Salazar, the veteran from Chile, rounded out the top five, only 6.990 seconds behind, in his first drive for four-time Indianapolis 500 champion A.J. Foyt. Al Unser Jr., two-time Indy 500 winner making his Indy Racing debut, dropped out in 25th place with engine problems after 65 laps. Buhl, from Indianapolis, began assembling the team at the end of the last season. Dennis Reinbold and Eric DeBord joined him in partnership, and the team announcement was made just 11 days ago. The key to their instant success - the car was completed only three weeks ago - was that veteran Mitch Davis was brought on as team manager and John O'Gara hired as crew chief. O'Gara was chief on Greg Ray's 1999 Menard's championship team, winning the Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year Award, but had worked with Buhl the year before. Buhl's victory wasn't a fluke. He led the most laps, 49, to Lazier's 47. He came from 22nd starting position - the greatest climb to victory in league history -- and credited an early pit stop on a yellow called by Davis for getting him into sync with the other contenders. "What this win does is bring us all closer together," said Buhl, who earned $139,000 for the victory. Both Lazier and Cheever drove Riley & Scott chassis, and Cheever's car also was powered by an Infiniti engine. Neither the chassis nor the engine has been in victory lane yet. "I so badly wanted to give them that first win," Cheever said about his engine manufacturer. About the problem he encountered with the slower car, he said: "It's really annoying. I'm very angry at the back markers who got in my way, but I am even madder at myself. I don't know exactly what happened, but back markers should know better than to get in the way of people who are faster. I should have followed that advice today." Lazier felt the same way. He said his tires picked up grit when he was forced out of his groove and he had to back off. This was Buhl's first Indy Racing victory since 1997 when he won at New Hampshire. His victim in that race also was Cheever, who was leading with two laps to go when his gearbox broke. Davey Hamilton and Jaques Lazier each suffered minor back fractures in separate accidents. Both are in good condition. Hamilton was expected to be released from Sand Lake Hospital later today, while Lazier is expected to be admitted to Orlando Regional Medical Center today and be released Sunday. The next Indy Racing event is the MCI WorldCom 200 on March 19 at Phoenix International Raceway.

-IRL/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Davey Hamilton , Scott Goodyear , Jaques Lazier  , A.J. Foyt
Teams Dreyer & Reinbold Racing