IRL: Phoenix Buddy Lazier and Oldsmobile Break the Drought

PHOENIX - Buddy Lazier broke a three-year dry spell with a convincing victory today in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Lazier went from last to first, starting his brand-new ...

PHOENIX - Buddy Lazier broke a three-year dry spell with a convincing victory today in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Lazier went from last to first, starting his brand-new Oldsmobile-powered Riley & Scott chassis at the back of the 26-car field. After 200 laps around the low-banked one-mile oval, Lazier took the checkered flag with a 4.191 second margin of victory over Scott Goodyear.

"We've had a long dry stretch, and it feels good to finally bring home a win," said Lazier, who scored his last IRL victory in Charlotte, N.C., in 1997. "I had stomach flu, and it's been a terrible week. We unloaded this car in pieces last night and the guys put it together - it had never been driven before this morning's practice. I had no expectations.

"We had a lot of good luck today," Lazier added. "Everything had to fall right, because we had a long way to go."

In addition to luck, Lazier's Hemelgarn Racing Delta Faucet/Coors Light Riley & Scott also had a 3.5-liter IRL Aurora V8 engine. Lazier scored Oldsmobile's 31st straight victory as IRL Aurora V8 engines powered the top nine finishers.

Runner-up Scott Goodyear relied on an Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 built by Speedway Engine Development in Indianapolis to power his Pennzoil Panther Racing Dallara - the same shop that supplied Lazier's winning motor. "He was strong down the straightaways," Goodyear observed. "He has Speedway engines just like I do, so we didn't have any horsepower advantage. His car was handling well in the first and second turns, but I could get through three and four better. It was a case of trying to get the best out of the car.

"The motors were strong," Goodyear reported. "We had some new parts that were pretty aggressive, but the Speedway guys did a great job and the motor stayed under us all day with no problems."

Donnie Beechler posted a career-best third-place finish in Cahill Auto Racing's Big Daddy Specialty Foods Oldsmobile-Dallara. "This is a shot in the arm for us," said the veteran open-wheel driver. "Larry has given me the best equipment this year we could possibly have. We switched to Oldsmobile engines from Comptech. You've got to have the same power the other guys have. We've got that now and I'm pumped up!"

Al Unser Jr. led 22 laps in Galles ECR Racing's Ticket.com Oldsmobile G-Force after starting 20th on the grid. Savvy pit strategy put Unser on the point, but a caution immediately following his final green-flag stop cost Unser valuable track position. He finished ninth, the last driver on the lead lap.

"The team prepared the car really well and it was spot-on all day," said Unser. "We pitted on green, and the yellow came out just as we were leaving the pits. We led laps, and it was awesome - but I am heartbroken for my team and sponsors."

The race was slowed by seven caution periods for a total of 56 laps. Driver Buzz Calkins was admitted to St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix for observation after a single-car accident complaining of back pain. IRL medical director Dr. Henry Bock reported that preliminary evaluation was negative.

The upcoming Las Vegas 500 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 22 will be the final warm-up before the Indianapolis 500 - and the first race for the new 3.5-liter version of Oldsmobile's undefeated IRL Aurora V8 on a superspeedway.

RACE SUMMARY: Track: Phoenix International Raceway, 1-mile oval Winner: Buddy Lazier, Hemelgarn Racing Delta/Coors Light Oldsmobile-Riley & Scott Margin of Victory: 4.191 seconds Average Speed: 111.957 mph

-Rick Vogelin-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buzz Calkins , Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Scott Goodyear , Donnie Beechler
Teams Panther Racing