IRL: Lazier, Hemelgarn bask in awards spotlight

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2000 - Buddy Lazier and Hemelgarn Racing took center stage Nov. 11 at the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Awards Ceremony, earning $1 million and the Northern Light Cup for their championship-winning ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2000 - Buddy Lazier and Hemelgarn Racing took center stage Nov. 11 at the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Awards Ceremony, earning $1 million and the Northern Light Cup for their championship-winning season. Lazier won his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship in his fifth season with Hemelgarn Racing, one of Indy Racing's original teams. Lazier won the title with 290 points and two victories in the Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing entry. Tony George, Indy Racing League president and chief executive officer, presented Lazier and team owner Ron Hemelgarn with the Northern Light Cup during the gala ceremonies at the Murat Centre in downtown Indianapolis. David Seuss, chief executive officer of Northern Light, presented Lazier and Hemelgarn with a $1 million bonus for winning the championship. "Championships are hard to come by," Lazier said. "We know that. I've been blessed with an awesome team." The Indy Racing League and its sponsor partners distributed more than $2.5 million in season-ending awards during the ceremony. ABC-ESPN broadcaster Bob Jenkins was the host. "I want to particularly thank the Hulman-George family," Lazier said. "I struggled for so many years. This is the first time in history we've had oval racing this close." Said Hemelgarn: "It's pretty neat. Seventeen years ago, (team manager) Lee Kunzman and I had the bright idea that we could win races and championships. To be honest, we didn't have a snowball's chance in winning anything. "To win this award is great. I've just been along for the ride. I just go out and raise some money, and they (team) spend it." Among the highlights of the evening were the presentation of gold, silver and bronze medals to the respective top three drivers in the final season point standings and their crew members by three United States athletes or coaches from the recent Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Nell Fortner, coach of the gold medal-winning U.S. women's basketball team, presented Lazier and the Hemelgarn Racing crew with gold medals. Ed Moses, who won a silver medal in the 100-meter breaststroke, presented second-place points finisher Scott Goodyear and the Panther Racing crew with silver medals. Chris Huffins, who earned a bronze medal in the decathlon, awarded third-place finisher Eddie Cheever Jr. and the Team Cheever crew with bronze medals.

A recap of the other awards:

Indy Racing League Achievement Award: Chuck Whetsel *Indy Racing League Vice President of Operations Brian Barnhart presented this award to Indy Racing League Manager of Timing and Scoring Whetsel for his extraordinary contributions to the success of the Indy Racing League.

Indy Racing League Special Recognition Award: Leo Mehl *George presented retired Indy Racing League Executive Director Mehl with this award for his dedicated work with the Indy Racing League from 1996-99 that helped the league and series grow and gain credibility.

RaceSearch.com Rookie of the Year Award: Airton Dare *Dare earned a $50,000 bonus for leading the rookie standings in the 2000 season with 142 points in his Uproar.com/TeamXtreme Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry. 1998 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year Robby Unser presented the award to Dare.

MBNA Pole Master Award: Greg Ray *Steve Cochran of MBNA presented this $30,000 bonus to Ray, who earned five MBNA Pole Awards during the 2000 season in the Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry. No other driver earned more than one pole.

WorldCom Long Distance Award: Al Unser Jr. *Andy Deas of WorldCom presented this $50,000 bonus to Unser, who improved his starting position the most at the finish of two races this season in the Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry, more than any other driver.

IRL Crew Most Popular Driver Award: Al Unser Jr. *Danny Williams, president of the IRL Crew, presented Unser with this award after Unser was voted the most popular driver in Crew and fan balloting throughout the season.

Pennzoil Chief Mechanic of the Year Award: Dennis LaCava *Bob Knorr of Pennzoil presented Hemelgarn Racing chief mechanic LaCava with a $25,000 bonus for winning this award. LaCava's skill and quiet, steady leadership helped Hemelgarn Racing and driver Lazier win two races and the Northern Light Cup in 2000.

Championship Team Sponsor Award: Delta Faucet *Bob Reif, Indy Racing League senior vice president of sales and marketing and chief marketing officer, presented John Eberhardt of Delta Faucet with this award for the company's long-time primary sponsorship of 2000 Northern Light Cup champions Buddy Lazier and Hemelgarn Racing.

Championship Team Manager Award: Lee Kunzman *Barnhart presented veteran Hemelgarn Racing team manager Kunzman with this award for his hard work in helping Lazier and Hemelgarn to win the Northern Light Cup in 2000.

Championship Engine Manufacturers Award: Oldsmobile *Barnhart presented this award to Jim Vurpillart of Oldsmobile in recognition of Oldsmobile leading the final engine manufacturers standings with 94 points. Oldsmobile received this trophy for the fourth consecutive year, as its engine powered the winner in eight of the nine Northern Light Series races this year.

In a special presentation before the Awards Ceremony, George presented each member of the Indy Racing League Track Safety Team with a custom-crafted Maurice Lacroix watch for dedicated and precise work during the season. Highlights from the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Awards Ceremony will be televised from 5-6 p.m. (EST) Nov. 14 on ESPN2.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Greg Ray , Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Airton Daré , Scott Goodyear , David Seuss , Tony George , Brian Barnhart
Teams Williams , Panther Racing