IRL: Phoenix: Chevy race report

J. Lazier sixth, Fisher fast with Chevy in Phoenix. PHOENIX, March 23, 2003 - Jaques Lazier recovered from a 360-degree spin to bring Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara home in sixth place today at the Purex Dial Indy 200, the top ...

J. Lazier sixth, Fisher fast with Chevy in Phoenix.

PHOENIX, March 23, 2003 - Jaques Lazier recovered from a 360-degree spin to bring Team Menard's Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara home in sixth place today at the Purex Dial Indy 200, the top finishing position for Chevrolet's new Chevy Indy V8 racing engine. Three Chevy engines finished in the top 10 in today's 200-lap contest at Phoenix International Raceway as Sarah Fisher finished eighth and Buddy Rice ninth. All three were on the lead lap. Chevrolet engines again had a perfect reliability record, completing a total of 1,071 laps at PIR.

"I kept the throttle down and kept going," said Lazier of his Turn 2 pirouette. "Right now a sixth-place finish and being the top placing Chevrolet is a spin and win for us.

"I'm really happy with our finish," he continued. "Today was much more indicative of what this team is capable of. We still don't quite have the chassis completely figured out, but the bottom line is that we were running as fast as the leader. We ran all 200 laps, we have the reliability figured out and we have the momentum now that we can be ready to compete for wins in the near future. We're getting all aspects of this team working better - the driver, the chassis, the team and the engine."

Fisher brought the crowd to its feet with a strong mid-race run in Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Chevy-powered Upromise Dallara. Savvy pit strategy put her in second place, and she pressed the leader for 32 laps until a miscue on a pit stop cost her track position.

"I had a beautiful race car today," said Fisher. "The car wasn't there at first, but my engineer Mark Weida kept tuning it and did an excellent job. I could catch the leader, but I couldn't get underneath him. We have to find some more strength out of every piece.

"Chevy has been very supportive this year," she noted. "The GM engineers keep digging, they keep coming up with more pieces and better solutions. They race to win. Chevy's showing that it's committed, and they're not going to fall off the landscape. They keep putting more effort in and hopefully we'll be faster at Indy."

"A number of the Chevy teams were very competitive in this very hard-fought race today," said GM Racing Group Manager Joe Negri. "It was exciting to see Sarah Fisher running in second place and challenging for the lead. We had three cars finish in the top 10 and we extended the Chevy Indy V8's perfect reliability record, so we are continuing to make progress on all fronts. We are optimistic that trend will continue in the next race."

Buddy Rice of Phoenix gave the hometown fans reason to cheer with a strong performance in Red Bull Cheever Racing's Chevrolet Dallara. He ran as high as sixth.

"Today's results will hopefully take some of the heat off Chevy," Rice declared. "Obviously we got our chassis sorted out from Homestead to here, and that put us up with the guys running at the front. We still need to keep working on our whole package, but we showed we can run with those guys. We were right there in the big freight train. It was a big improvement from the first race, so we're very happy."

The race was run under a cloudless blue sky in the Arizona desert with 85-degree air temperature and 117-degree track temperature. The race was slowed 10 times by caution periods and seven cars were involved in accidents. Defending champion Sam Hornish Jr. was sidelined in an accident on lap 32 and finished 21st in the 22-car field. He was uninjured.

Hornish was charging hard in Pennzoil Panther Racing's Chevrolet Dallara, coming from his 17th starting position to ninth when he made contact with the car of A.J. Foyt IV.

"I went to the outside of a lapped car," Hornish explained. "I don't think I moved down, but it's hard to tell because I haven't seen a replay. My instinct is that I got hit. It's a shame, because we had a pretty fast race car. I'm disappointed, but we will do the best we can at the next race. It's a long season."

CHEVY DRIVER QUOTES:

Buddy Lazier, Hemelgarn Racing Delta Faucet/Life Fitness, Chevrolet Dallara, finished 11th:
"We had a real good day going. I thought maybe we had a top-five run going. Then on the last pit stop, when we came out I picked up a big vibration and slid up into the marbles. We finally came in an had a bunch of debris on the left-front tire. I think that really hurt our race. We dropped back to 11th from a possible top 10. Nevertheless, it was a great to finish. We had a fairly strong run, and I think we caught up a lot this weekend."

Robbie Buhl, Purex/Aventis/Dreyer & Reinbold Chevrolet Dallara, finished 12th:
"We'd like to be more competitive, but we're still learning about the car. For a stint there, we were up there running competitively, but it wasn't enough for me to be able to aggressively challenge. It's nice to run all day, but no when it's more of a survival mode than racing. It was important for us to finish the race, so now we'll regroup and chart a new plan for Motegi."

NEXT EVENT
April 13, Japan Indy 300, Twin Ring Motegi, Motegi, Japan TV: ABC, 1 p.m. EST

-gm racing-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Buddy Rice , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing