Notebook: Nashville sell-out

Outside of the Indianapolis 500, which is sold out a year in advance, the words "Indy Racing League" and "sell-out" had appeared in the same sentence just one time - in the first-ever IRL race at Walt Disney World Speedway in January 1996. The second sell-out in IRL history came at Kansas Speedway on July 8 when 75,000 fans sat in 100-degree heat to watch Eddie Cheever battle Sam Hornish Jr for the win.

Notebook: Nashville sell-out

It took the IRL just one race to get another sell-out as 32,000 fans jammed the new Nashville Superspeedway to see Buddy Lazier score his seventh career win in Saturday night's Harrah's Indy 200.

According to track officials, there were many more requests for tickets but the track simply did not have enough seats built.

The IRL race became the hottest ticket in Nashville since the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League went to the Super Bowl. Lazier gave the fans a positive first impression by winning the race to become the IRL's all-time victory leader.

"I came in today from Nashville and I couldn't believe how backed up the traffic was," Lazier said. "People were coming in early. When we come in for the driver's meeting, it's usually a clear road. Sold out - how about that? We've had two sell-outs in a row and when you have a crowd that is on its feet and it's a capacity crowd, it motivates the competitors. I could see them on their feet cheering, with their hands in the air, and that gives you extra motivation."

After six long years where the IRL has had to overcome a major perception problem, the secret may finally be out on the Indy Racing League.

"I don't think there is any question we are picking up a lot of momentum," Lazier said. "The racing is wheel to wheel and I think I touched a couple wheels tonight, but it was clean racing. It's very exciting and people are catching on to how great a show it is. I love racing in the South."

Lazier's team owner, Ron Hemelgarn, has been a loyal supporter of the IRL since its inception and believes the series has gained tremendous momentum this summer.

"I'm just tickled to death the way the Indy Racing League has progressed," Hemelgarn said. "People don't talk about what has happened between IRL and CART - that's behind us. Now, they are talking about the great wheel-to-wheel racing. Every place we go to, the comments are unbelievable and people look forward to us coming.

"It keeps building and building and I think that each year, it will get stronger. To see this place sold out, I bet next year they will add more seats. There was excitement right here in Nashville. They talked about it at the hotel, in the restaurants they were talking about the Indy Racing League. It's exciting and Buddy put on a heck of a show."

Billy Boat nearly scored the second victory of his IRL career, leading the race one time for 26 laps. He was in front on lap 147 when Buddy Lazier passed him. Lazier would go on to win the race.

"When you get that close, you always want to win, but the CURB Records car did a great job for me," Boat said. "It's easy to get caught in traffic. We got caught out kind of between two cars. We were leading and Buddy got by us, and it's just tough to pass. We really didn't get the breaks we needed in traffic, but we're still gaining. This team is really coming together. They're doing a great job. We look forward to keeping this thing going."

Boat's team, which is co-owned by the Cary Agajanian, Greg Beck, Mike Curb and Boat, has become the latest poster team of the Indy Racing League. It is a team that is doing the most with the resources it has, proving that it doesn't take major dollars to be competitive.

"I'm exceptionally pleased for our performance per the dollar we are spending," Boat said. "We don't have a lot of money, but we try to spend it wisely and we have done a good job of that. It shows what a little bit of testing does for our team. We are going to continue to work hard and do what we can.

"I think we are a perfect example of what the IRL was created to do. We built a team, we started from scratch. We don't have a big budget but we have enough to do it. We're here and we are growing and that is what it's all about."

Jaques Lazier's third-place finish gave Bob Lazier two sons in the top three. Older brother Buddy won the race.

"This is a tremendous run for Sam Schmidt Motorsports," Jaques said. "We were trying to be patient. We knew we had a good car, a top-five car. I'm so proud of the guys. It is not exactly the way we wanted it to end. We tried to stretch the tyres. We have a finish this team deserves.

"This is absolutely huge for Sam Schmidt Motorsports and myself. They have always just about been there. The momentum is building. We are getting a snowball effect. This is a career maker."

Robby McGehee can't walk without the use of crutches after he suffered a broken leg in a crash at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, but he can still mash the accelerator in an Indy car. McGehee finished fourth in Saturday night's race.

"Everything went our way tonight," McGehee said. "The Cahill Racing team had great pit stops. We're real happy. I love this track. It takes a lot of driver skill. I was trying to be very careful, but I think I'm getting my mojo back after the crash at Texas.

"My leg doesn't hurt at all. We were pretty racy tonight, which feels great. We fought a push all night, but the car progressively got better as the race went on. The car was real consistent."

Sarah Fisher had another miserable night, finishing 19th in the 21-car field at Nashville. She started on the outside of the front row and crashed early at Richmond on June 30 and finished 12th at Kansas City two weeks ago.

"We basically stopped because the car wasn't where I wanted it to be," Fisher said of a pit stop to help correct the situation. "We made a couple of changes to the shocks and cross-weights during our pit stops, but we weren't getting anywhere. I was driving out there in the way of the guys who were really racing. So we decided to park it, instead of causing trouble.

"When you look at what happened a couple of laps later, I think we made the right decision. A big thanks to Kroger for staying on board with us this year. We haven't been able to give them the best results so far, but our next race is at Kentucky where we finished third last year. We're testing at Kentucky next week, so we should have a lot better result on August 12."

Fisher was referring to a six-car crash on the 103rd lap that kept the yellow flag out for 16 laps.

After suffering a broken lower back in a crash during the Indianapolis 500, Scott Goodyear was at Nashville Superspeedway to watch Saturday night's race. He was still wearing a back brace but is hopeful that it will be coming off soon so he can begin a return to racing.

"I am finding out next week if I can have this thing off to do the IROC race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Goodyear said. "I know it will only be around eight weeks, so that will be a slim chance. We'll find out, but I cherish Dr. Terry Trammell's advice and his word because when I broke my back at Brazil in 1996, we had a complete full recovery. With all that said, I'm going to do exactly what he recommends.

"I'm prepared for the answer I think I'm going to get, which is no, but we'll take it one step at a time."

Race: Record-breaking win for Lazier

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