IRL: Lazier close to Northern Light Cup after victory at Kentucky

</pre> SPARTA, Ky., Sunday, Aug. 27, 2000 -- Resolute Buddy Lazier drove to victory Sunday in The Belterra Resort Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway to zero in on the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship. Scott Goodyear...

</pre> SPARTA, Ky., Sunday, Aug. 27, 2000 -- Resolute Buddy Lazier drove to victory Sunday in The Belterra Resort Indy 300 at Kentucky Speedway to zero in on the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship. Scott Goodyear finished second, with rookie Sarah Fisher earning a career-best third. 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Lazier now needs to finish just 13th or better at the season-ending Excite 500 on Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway to clinch his first Northern Light Cup as series champion. He has 258 points, while Goodyear climbed to second with 220. Eddie Cheever Jr., who finished fourth, fell from second to third in points with 217. Lazier, Goodyear and Cheever are the only drivers mathematically eligible to win the title at the season finale. The season champion earns a $1-million bonus from Northern Light. "I'm just thrilled; this was just what I needed," said Lazier, 32, of Vail, Colo. "This doesn't mean we've got the championship won. We don't have it won, but we've got the advantage." Lazier started seventh. He led three times for 48 laps in his Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone, assuming the pace-setting spot for the final time on Lap 171. He held off Goodyear, whose 65 laps led earned him two points for leading the most circuits around the 1½-mile oval, by 1.879 seconds. Lazier earned a check for $126,300 from a total purse of $1,094,000. It was his fourth career victory and his second this season. He became the first driver to win more than once in the Northern Light Series this year. Lazier almost didn't see the checkered flag in front of a near-capacity crowd. "I swear this has never happened," he said. "I crossed the finish line, and I literally broke the gearbox." This was the first 300-mile race on a 1.5-mile track for the Northern Light Series. All other races on 1.5-mile tracks have been 208 laps, or 500 kilometers. "Thank God we didn't have a 208-lapper," said car owner Ron Hemelgarn. Goodyear will make his farewell with the Pennzoil Panther Racing team at the season finale at Texas. He nearly pulled off a weekend double by winning both the pole and the race. "First of all, I've never been on the podium with someone who couldn't legally drink," he jested as he looked over at Fisher. "It was a little disappointing to not win. We had to win to have a shot at the championship. The crew did a great job. Great pit stops all day." Another major story of the race were the performances by some of the series ' rising young stars - Fisher, 19; Sam Hornish Jr., 21; Jimmy Kite, 24; and Lazier's 29-year-old brother, Jaques. Fisher, who will turn 20 on Oct. 4, charged to third place, only 7.749 seconds behind Lazier. That's the highest finish ever by a woman in Indy Racing. Hornish led 38 laps and appeared to have the fastest car in the race. However, his car ran out of fuel while leading, and then he was black-flagged for passing the Pace Car on the exit of the pits after a hurried stop. He lost a lap but still raced back to finish ninth. Kite led 16 laps and was in front when his engine failed on Lap 156. Jaques Lazier also was in contention when his car lost an engine, too. Fisher brought the crowd to its feet when she took the lead on Lap 162. It was the first time she led in eight career Indy Racing starts. She was able to move into the front with her Walker Racing Cummins Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone because car owner Derrick Walker called her in during a previous caution and gave the car a splash of fuel. "I think it's been a real sharp learning curve jumping from a midget to one of these cars," Fisher said. "But that doesn't mean you can't make the jump. "I'm not done, by far. There's a lot to learn, but I'm willing to learn all I can." About leading for the first time, she said, "I got goose bumps." Winner Buddy Lazier saluted the newcomers. "They're all young, hungry and talented," he said. Three contenders for victory were eliminated in a crash on Lap 3. Eliseo Salazar, starting second, and Jeret Schroeder, starting sixth, jumped to the front on Lap 2. Their cars touched in Turn 1 on Lap 3. Schroeder spun into the wall between Turns 1 and 2, and Salazar hit the wall in the exit of Turn 2. Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. hit the outside wall in Turn 2 trying to avoid Schroeder's spinning car. Unser suffered a bruised leg, while Schroeder and Salazar were unhurt.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Buddy Lazier , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder , Jaques Lazier  , Jimmy Kite , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing