Lazier leads start to finish, IRL sweeps trifecta

Joliet, Ill. - Buddy Lazier led every lap as Indy Racing League drivers placed one-two-three in today's IROC race at Chicagoland Speedway. Al Unser, Jr. and Helio Castroneves took second and third, respectively, to complete the IRL's sweep in this...

Joliet, Ill. - Buddy Lazier led every lap as Indy Racing League drivers placed one-two-three in today's IROC race at Chicagoland Speedway. Al Unser, Jr. and Helio Castroneves took second and third, respectively, to complete the IRL's sweep in this the third of four races in the TrueValue International Race of Champions Series 2002 season.

"We were here all week practicing... running the lines that the stock cars like," said Lazier, who started from the pole position. "I had it in the back of my mind to really hammer down hard at the beginning when I had clean air with the hope of keeping the lead for awhile. If I could somehow break the draft... I'd probably pay for it later because I would have run the tires so hard that I figured they'd give up late in the run, but maybe I'd have enough buffer that it would stay. Had there been a yellow of anything, I'd have been in big trouble."

Lazier's margin of victory was a commanding 5.195 seconds. It was the first IROC win by an IRL driver since Eddie Cheever won at Michigan in 2000 and the first IROC race with no lead changes since Mark Martin did it in 1996.

Lazier, Castroneves and Unser held the top three positions from the second lap of the race to the finish. Unser and Castroneves battled throughout before Unser was finally able to pass Castroneves with seven laps to go. However, there was little hope of catching the leader for Little Al. "By the time I got by Castroneves, Lazier was gone," Unser said.

The race marks only the second time that open-wheel drivers have taken the top three spots in an IROC race. The only other occasion was at Talledega in 1996 when Scott Pruett and Robby Gordon joined Unser on the podium. That year was also the last time that someone led an IROC race from start-to-finish, when Mark Martin did it at Charlotte.

With his fourth place finish, Kevin Harvick moved into the IROC points lead in the series with one race left at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on August 3. Harvick picked up 12 points in the race for a total of 44, a five-point lead over second place Unser, Jr. Tony Stewart, who led the standings before the beginning of the today's race, completed only 19 of the race's 67 laps due to engine problems.

"I knew Stewart had dropped out and [Bobby] Labonte wasn't doing too good," Harvick said. "I knew I had to be conservative so I could be the points leader."

Defending IROC champion Bobby Labonte finished 8th and dropped one spot overall to 4th place. Lazier's victory moved him into a tie for fourth place with Labonte.

Danny Lasoski, the only participant from the World of Outlaws series, finished 13 laps back after recovering from a blown header just after the halfway point.

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Series IROC
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kevin Harvick , Robby Gordon , Eddie Cheever , Buddy Lazier , Helio Castroneves , Scott Pruett , Danny Lasoski , Mark Martin