Race: Normal Lazier service is resumed

Buddy Lazier dominated Saturday night's Sun Trust Indy Challenge Indy Racing League race at Richmond International Raceway, leading all but 26 laps of the 250-lap event to win his second IRL round in a row.

Race: Normal Lazier service is resumed

By leading 224 laps, it broke the IRL record of 193 led by Tony Stewart in the 200-lap race at Pikes Peak International Raceway in 1997.

The victory at 0.75-mile RIR was the sixth-career win for Lazier, tying him with Scott Sharp for the all-time lead in the 50-race history of the IRL.

"It was very difficult to pass, you just had to time it correctly," Lazier said. "When you have two cars that were within five miles an hour of each other, it was real tough to pass. You had to set it up and be real patient. You had to time it right.

"When I was out in front, I never really felt threatened. I felt pretty strong. I had something for everybody tonight."

Lazier, the defending IRL champion, had not led a lap this season until he was in front for the final 44 laps of the June 17 Radisson 200 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Apparently, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion found his groove in that race and was easily the class of the field in the first short track race in the history of the IRL at Richmond.

He finished 4.828 seconds ahead of early-season pace-setter Sam Hornish Jr. Al Unser Jr. was third, followed by Galles Racing team mate Didier Andre and Scott Sharp.

Lazier is now second in the battle for the IRL points, 50 behind the leader, Hornish. Scott Sharp is third, 18 behind Lazier and 68 behind Hornish, followed by Eliseo Salazar and Felipe Giaffone.

"My team is really on a roll and we have really picked up momentum," Lazier said. "Here we are, we've won two in a row and we're really climbing up in the points."

Lazier drove a flawless race until the 184th lap, when second-place driver Airton Dare went low inside Turn 2, wiggled and ran into the side of Felipe Giaffone's lapped car. That sent both cars into the outside wall as the remainder of the field was waved through the debris.

The caution period allowed Lazier to make his pit stop, but when he came into the pits with Eddie Cheever, he missed his pit completely and had to continue through pit lane and back around the track and enter the pits again. Lazier's miscue cost him a position as he was in third behind Cheever and the leader, Eliseo Salazar, who did not pit.

The green flag waved to restart the race on lap 198, with Salazar in front of Cheever and Lazier and Hornish close behind. But Shigeaki Hattori spun out of the second turn and slid backwards down the backstretch on lap 205 to bring out another yellow flag.

With Salazar in front, the green flag waved again on lap 214 with Cheever and Lazier dogging him for the lead. One lap later, Cheever went to the inside of Salazar down the backstretch with both cars heading into the third turn.

Both cars ran out of room, Cheever's right front tyre hit the left rear wheel on Salazar, sending both cars crashing into the third turn with fire lighting up the night sky. Lazier sensed something bad was about to happen and backed off. It proved to be a wise move.

Both drivers were able to get out of their race cars as the field slowed to clean up the mess. Cheever was treated and released from the infield care centre. Salazar was transported by ambulance to Memorial Regional Medical Center for precautionary X-rays. He was awake and alert.

"I was racing Salazar for the lead, he had older tyres than I did, he got up very high out of Turn 2, and I got a run on him," Cheever explained. "There was enough room for him to stay high and for me to stay low. He came down, and there was no place for me to go. I want to look at the tape, but from my perspective I had more than enough room. I was completely inside."

Earlier in the race, a larger than expected crowd estimated at 40,000 fans saw Jaques Lazier lead the field to the green flag, but he didn't stay in front long as older brother Buddy took the lead in the third turn. Jaques crashed on the 15th lap when he slammed into the fourth turn wall to bring out the first caution flag of the race.

Sarah Fisher, who started on the outside of the front row, crashed in the fourth turn after fighting with a poor-handling car throughout the race.

"I'm sorry, the car was so loose, it was a handful," Fisher radioed to her crew.

Now that Lazier is on a hot streak, that could be bad news for the other teams in the IRL in the battle for the championship.

"The biggest thing is Buddy, once he gets on a role, he keeps on going with that," Hornish said. "I'm not saying we're not on a roll, but we're not on a winning roll. It's going to be hard to change that momentum. To have someone as hooked up as Buddy was tonight is like we were at Homestead and Phoenix earlier this year."

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