Buhl wins IRL season opener

An exciting Delphi Indy 200, round one of the 2000 Indy Racing League, saw three different leaders inside the final 10 laps before Robbie Buhl came through to score a sensational victory for his brand new Purex-backed team on Saturday afternoon at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida.

Buhl wins IRL season opener

Buhl started 22nd in the 26-car field, the grid order for which was decided according to car owner points in the 1999 title-chase after persistent rained caused yesterday's qualifying to be cancelled.

Undeterred, Buhl made up four positions in the early stages, then took the opportunity to make a pit stop during the second of eight full-course caution periods on lap 26.

When the remainder of the leaders made their own first scheduled stops on lap 45, Buhl was left in the lead.

He continued to run up front for the remainder of the day, but was actually in third place - behind the brand-new Riley & Scott Mk.VII's of Buddy Lazier and Eddie Cheever with 10 laps remaining.

That's when things got really hectic. First of all, Lazier fell foul of a slower car on lap 192.

"I don't mind giving backmarkers some room," said a frustrated Lazier, "and I don't even know who it was, but he just stood on the brakes. Literally, he brake-checked me. I almost crashed. All they need to do in the last 10 laps is just give the leaders a bit of room."

The loss of momentum dropped Lazier to third place behind Cheever and Buhl.

Cheever duly looked set to score a sensational first victory for the Nissan Infiniti engine.

The 42-year-old veteran had run a typically canny race - only to suffer a similar fate to Lazier with less than two laps remaining, when he was baulked by unknown modified driver Doug Didero, who was making his IRL debut.

"I tried to pass him in Turn Three and he chopped me off," said Cheever.

"Then I tried to pass him on the outside into Turn One and he pushed me off the road."

Responded Didero: "I seen him in the mirrors and when we got to the start/finish line, I just went to the bottom of the race track to get out of the way. And he just followed me down. I thought, 'What is he doing?'

"Under normal circumstances, I probably wouldn't have tried to go down low, but I wanted to put a car between us," said Cheever.

"I so badly wanted to give Nissan Infiniti that first win today.

"They're a great company, they have a great heritage, and I really wanted to win. So it's very disappointing."

In the blink of an eye, Buhl stormed through on the inside at the exit of Turn One.

And less than a mile later, Cheever fell victim to a spectacular, dive-bomb, inside line pass by Lazier, which dropped him to third place at the finish as Buhl swept on to an unlikely victory.

"It really was the first pit stop, [team manager] Mitch Davis' call, that made all the difference," said a delighted Buhl after taking the second IRL victory of his career.

"When we came in early, that got us on sequence to be able to win the race.

"Later on, it was just a scenario where you had to be in a position to take advantage of traffic. I guess we were in the right place at the right time."

Buhl pulled away to win by 3.156 seconds, with Lazier, Cheever and Scott Goodyear (Pennzoil Panther Racing G Force-Aurora) blanketed by just 0.830 seconds in second through fourth positions.

Eliseo Salazar took a steady drive into fifth on his debut in A.J. Foyt's Rio G Force-Aurora. Several of the day's other front runners were hit by problems, including defending series champion Greg Ray, who led the first 45 laps for Team Menard but later stalled the engine during his second pit stop and finally lost 20 laps to a gearbox problem.

Mark Dismore also led strongly at one stage before losing 17 laps to a gearbox oil cooler leak.

Kelley Racing team-mate Scott Sharp was similarly delayed, while Al Unser Jr.'s much ballyhooed IRL debut lasted only 65 laps before his engine expired.

Unser was running ninth at the time, having started 24th.

Result:




















































































































































1


Robbie Buhl


G Force-Aurora


1h57m18.676s


2


Buddy Lazier


R&S-Aurora


+ 3.165s


3


Eddie Cheever


R&S-Infiniti


+ 3.624s


4


Scott Goodyear


Dallara-Aurora


+ 3.986s


5


Eliseo Salazar


G Force-Aurora


+ 6.990s


6


Donnie Beechler


Dallara-Aurora


+ 14.216s


7


Jeff Ward


G Force-Aurora


+ 19.287s


8


Buzz Calkins


Dallara-Aurora


+ 20.091s


9


Billy Boat


Dallara-Aurora


+ 21.496s


10


Robby McGehee


G Force-Aurora


+ 24.847s


11


Airton Dare


G Force-Aurora


+ 1 lap


12


Niclas Jonsson


G Force-Aurora


+ 2 laps


13


Tyce Carlson


Dallara-Aurora


+ 3 laps


14


Doug Didero


Dallara-Aurora


+ 5 laps

       

Retirements:

     
       
 

Scott Sharp


Dallara-Aurora

 
 

Mark Dismore


Dallara-Aurora

 
 

Greg Ray


Dallara-Aurora

 
 

Stephane Gregoire


G Force-Aurora

 
 

Jeret Schroeder


Dallara-Aurora

 
 

Sam Hornish Jr


G Force-Aurora

 
 

John Hollansworth Jr


G Force-Aurora

 
 

Jon Herb


G Force-Aurora

 
 

Jacques Lazier


G Force-Aurora

 
 

Robby Unser


Dallara-Aurora

 
 

Al Unser Jr


G Force-Aurora

 
 

Davey Hamilton


Dallara-Aurora

 
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