Indy 500 notebook: News in brief

BRICKYARD BRIDESMAID

Indy 500 notebook: News in brief

Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion, finished in second place for the second time in the last three Indy 500s. He was also second in 1998.

"I think we were very close and we could have won, but I just got hammered in traffic," Lazier said. "I kind of thought the IRL guys would stick up for one another, but it seemed like Juan (Montoya) would get through and then I'd get bottled up. I really got bottled up where he didn't. And I really think that was the difference. I think the replay will show if we just had a little bit of a break on traffic, we would have been a lot closer to 'em and been able to make a run at the end.

Lazier said it's "a strange emotion" to finish second in the 500.

"It's hard, there's no doubt," Lazier said. "It's like we're the first loser. You feel so empty because you're so close to winning and that's all that matters here. But at the same time you're thrilled because you are second and that's a big paycheck."


The joy of victory crackled over the radio channel used by Juan Montoya and his team when Montoya crossed the yard of bricks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to win the 84th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Montoya was screaming "Hooooo! into his microphone even before he finished steering his Target G Force Oldsmobile racer through the fourth turn on his 200th and final trip around the Speedway.

Then the winning driver's voice was blotted out by the shouts of the winning car owner, Chip Ganassi.

"You are the winner of the Indianapolis 500, pal!" Ganassi shouted as Montoya flashed under the checkered flag. "You are the winner! You are the man! You are the most famous race driver in the whole world!"

"Beautiful," replied Montoya. "Unbelievable." Then he asked: "Where did (teammate) Jimmy (Vasser) finish?"

Vasser finished seventh, the first driver one lap down.

Ganassi and Montoya even had time for lighthearted banter on the radio during Montoya's dominating run to victory lane.

"We were talking about what good mileage this car got on the yellows compared to the CART car," said Ganassi. "I was joking with Juan about talking to the CART team about getting better mileage."


Juan Montoya had the edge on teammate Jimmy Vasser throughout the practice sessions and time trials this May at Indy, and Sunday was no different.

Vasser led only five laps, including laps 176 through 179, when he decided to skip a pit stop to gain track position. Montoya re-passed Vasser for the lead going into turn three on lap 180. Vasser then had to pit on lap 196 for five seconds to get a splash of fuel. The stop put him a lap down.

"We had a good car today, we just made a few wrong decisions that got us into trouble," Vasser said. "I think we tried to get a little too tricky with our pit strategy. I was hoping to save fuel and get a yellow (by not stopping), but it didn't happen.

"Hats off to the IRL," Vasser said. "They did a great job and provided tough competition. It's great to be here again with such a great team."


Juan Montoya was the seventh rookie to win the 500. The last to do it before Montoya was Graham Hill in 1966. Before that, five rookies were among the winners of the first 15 races, the last being George Souders in 1927.


Greg Ray was the first pole winner to finish dead last since Pancho Carter in 1985, who lasted only six laps before an oil pump broke.

But it took two crashes-a rarity in open wheel racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway-to finally put Ray out of the race.

After leading the first 26 laps, Ray had his first crash on lap 66, when he smacked the outside wall coming out of turn two.

"We got caught by the wind," Ray said while his team repaired his car in Gasoline Alley. "With the gust coming down out of (turn) two, what can you do?"

Ray said he wanted to return to the race to see if he could pick up a few additional IRL championship points. His team replaced the entire right side of his car before he went back out.

But it was to no avail. On lap 143, Ray hit the turn two wall again, thus giving him the rare distinction of causing two yellow flags in a single Indy 500.

Jeff Ward, who finished fourth Sunday, said he had a good car all afternoon, but just didn't get the breaks he needed. It was Ward's third top-five finish in the last four races.

"My car was perfect all day long," Ward said. "Never missed a beat. It just wasn't our year this year. We were really strong in the middle of the race. Unfortunately, lappers (lapped cars) got in the way a few times and guys got runs on you. There was nothing you could do."

Ward said the fact that a CART driver, Juan Montoya, won the Indy Racing League's biggest race would help the IRL.

"I think it showed how competitive we were," Ward said. "Jimmy Vasser wasn't in the game. And Montoya wins pretty much everywhere he goes. He's a front runner. So I think it was good for the IRL. Montoya is going back to CART and I'm sure he'll probably win the next race over there."

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