Local Hero Lazier Finishes Eighth for Chevy in Pikes Peak IRL Race FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 22, 2004 - The thunderhead that inundated Pikes Peak International Raceway on Saturday was a forerunner of the dark cloud that followed Tomas Scheckter and...
Local Hero Lazier Finishes Eighth for Chevy in Pikes Peak IRL Race
FOUNTAIN, Colo., Aug. 22, 2004 - The thunderhead that inundated Pikes Peak International Raceway on Saturday was a forerunner of the dark cloud that followed Tomas Scheckter and the Pennzoil Panther Racing team in the Honda Indy 225. After starting 13th, Scheckter drove his Chevy-powered Dallara through the 22-car field to second position on the 138th lap. Scheckter was again in contention for a victory, just as he was in the preceding races in Michigan and Kentucky - but then the misfortune that has dogged the Panther Racing team this season spoiled the day when a halfshaft (rear axle) broke as Scheckter was leaving his pit stall on Lap 161. Dario Franchitti scored his second victory of the season in a Honda Dallara.
"I'm still shell-shocked," said Scheckter. "We just had an awesome car and to have it end like this is like falling off a cliff.
"I could run high or low and Chevy gave us a great engine," the South African continued. "Talk about a great heartbeat - we were cookin' all day. To have it end like it did was a huge disappointment for all of us, but we'll learn from this and come back stronger at Nazareth. We're tough, we'll be back."
With Scheckter on the sidelines, local favorite Jaques Lazier, a former resident of Vail, Colo., turned in his best performance of the season with Patrick Racing, finishing eighth with the Stacker 2 Chevrolet Dallara.
"Eighth for this team at this stage of the game is like a victory," declared the elated Lazier. "It was an eventful day. I think we might have had something at the end, but it's so competitive out there that it's difficult to gain positions."
Lazier started 14th and was able to capitalize on an out-of-sequence pit stop to finish on the lead lap.
"We're getting stronger and stronger," he said. "We've got the chassis now where it's working well and we're able to utilize all of the Chevy power. We're going to keep moving forward."
Lazier relishes the next race at Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway, the final short-track race of the season for the IRL IndyCar Series.
"I'm definitely looking forward to going to Nazareth," Lazier said. "We had a good car here today, and that tells us that we had a good mechanical setup. Nazareth is all about mechanical grip so we'll try to continue this momentum."
Alex Barron continued his steady performance for Red Bull Cheever Racing, notching his fifth top-10 finish of the season.
"Everything went flawless and we found out a lot about the car this weekend," said Barron. "We had too much understeer at the start of the race, and after we dialed that out we were able to run consistently. Unfortunately the last yellow caught us out and we lost some positions. Still, we need to find more speed. Top-10s are not what we want; we need top-fives every weekend."
Barron's rookie teammate Ed Carpenter delivered another rock-solid performance on a short track to bring his Red Bull Chevrolet Dallara home in 11th place.
"Our car was the best it's been all weekend," said Carpenter. "As the track rubbered in, our car got a lot better. The radios weren't working well and I couldn't hear the call to come into the pits for fuel. I stayed out an extra lap and the engine was on fumes. It died and had to be restarted on a green-flag stop. Then on the next stop under yellow a wheel gun didn't work.
"We were two laps down and battled back one lap," Carpenter reported. "The longer we ran, the better the car got. We were a bit behind at the start of the weekend, but I'm happy to roll the car into the trailer and get ready for the next race."
Townsend Bell gambled on an alternative pit strategy but didn't get the break he needed. He broke into the top 10 with Panther Racing's Menards/Johns Manville Chevrolet Dallara before finishing 12th.
"We were really quick at the end of the race, but earlier we took a gamble with pit strategy and unfortunately it didn't pay off," said Bell. "On our second stop we had some miscommunication and we took wing (downforce) out of the front when we should have put more in, and that really caused us some problems.
"Chevy races to win," Bell noted, "and Tommy (Tomas Scheckter) and I were right there once again."
Felipe Giaffone fought handling problems in the closing stages of the race and soldiered to a 16th place finish in the Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Chevrolet Dallara.
"We were having a good weekend, but we're missing something in our setup on short tracks," said Giaffone. "We still have Nazareth next week and we have to make things better. As the race goes on, the car goes wicked loose and I just can't drive it. The first part of the race was OK, just like Milwaukee and Nashville, we're good in the first half. But then the car goes really loose and I'm saving it to keep it out of the wall."
The IRL IndyCar Series will conclude its string of three races on three consecutive weekends with the final race to be held at historic Nazareth Speedway. The Firestone Indy 225, the 13th round of the 16-race IndyCar Series, will start at 2 p.m. EDT on Sunday, August 29, and will be televised live on ABC.
August 29, Firestone Indy 225, Nazareth Speedway, 1-mile oval TV: ABC, 2 p.m. EDT