Race: Record-breaking win for Lazier

By etching his latest victory in stone - make that concrete - Buddy Lazier is making sure that Sam Hornish Jr's name isn't etched onto the Indy Racing League championship trophy just yet.

Race: Record-breaking win for Lazier

Lazier, the defending IRL champion who entered the race 60 points behind Hornish in the standings, became the IRL's all-time victory leader by winning Saturday night's Harrah's Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. It was the seventh victory of Lazier's career and he now trails Hornish by 40 points - 339 to 299 - with four races remaining.

"I'm tickled to death we are gaining on that yellow car," said Lazier's team owner Ron Hemelgarn of Hornish's car. "We are going to get that championship."

Stop the engraver because Lazier is breathing down on Hornish for the title.

"We've watched Sam in the first half of the season with amazement," Lazier said. "We knew that was an awesome team. They finished second in the championship to us last season and we know that Sam is a very good driver who makes no mistakes. My feeling is that we have to keep pushing.

"Statistics tell you that you will have problems over the course of a season. If you had a full season like they did in the first half, they would be uncatchable. But we have picked up momentum now and in the heat of the summer, the dog days, we have a lot of momentum. There is a lot of racing left. It seemed like a long shot, it will still be difficult to catch them, but every weekend we are chipping away at them. Sam is young, but he is a talented, talented race driver. But I have more experience than he does and that will pay dividends over the long haul."

A sellout crowd of 32,000 fans jammed the new speedway in the first-ever Indy car race in the state of Tennessee. It was the second-straight sellout for the IRL after drawing a full house of 75,000 fans at Kansas Speedway on July 8.

It was Lazier's third victory in the last four IRL races and puts the champion in prime position to catch Hornish for the IRL points lead. Hornish suffered engine problems that slowed him down, beginning on lap 153 of the 200-lap race.

Lazier led the race five for 71 laps. He passed Billy Boat for the lead on lap 149 and was in front until he made his final pit stop on the 174th lap. That gave the lead to his younger brother, Jaques, but after the rest of the drivers on the lead lap pitted for the final time, Buddy Lazier was back in front on lap 177 with a 3-second lead over Boat, his nearest pursuer.

Lazier defeated Boat by 10.6293-seconds. Those were the only two cars on the lead lap. He won at an average speed of 144.809 miles per hour. He won $143,300.

Jaques Lazier was third followed by Robby McGehee and Scott Sharp. Hornish finished sixth because of a stuck fuel injector.

"The car was really fast, the Pennzoil Panther guys did a great job," Hornish said. "We were better in traffic and had a faster car, but we just didn't have any luck. We had a problem with the fuel injector. It's the second injector that's gone bad on us this year - one at Richmond and here.

"It wasn't something that would keep us from finishing, but when you go from 197, 199 mph to 187, people are going to start passing you in a hurry. I know I would have had him (Buddy) today. The Firestone tyres helped really well. The only time they could keep up with me was the first 30 laps of a run. We're still leading the points, but we would like to be a lot farther ahead."

About the only thing that didn't go right for the Lazier family is Jaques Lazier crashed into the second turn wall after his older brother took the chequered flag.

"Jaques was doing a great job and it's a shame that he hit the wall," Lazier radioed to his crew as fireworks lit up the dark middle Tennessee sky.

Lazier was able to get his car to run the best on the concrete racing surface of Nashville when it became slick.

"When the track gets slippery, it's our kind of race track," Lazier said. "It was slippery out there and we were able to battle. This team and I have been together for a long time. We have a lot of experience on this team. We've been doing it a while and it's starting to pay off. We have a shot at winning the title and we have picked up a lot of momentum beginning at Texas."

Even before the race started, pole winner Greg Ray's teams reported a potential problem with his car. Ray was in the lead at the start of the race before Lazier dived to the inside to pass Ray for the lead in the third turn on the seventh lap. Ray's car started having problems as Hornish passed him for second place at the completion of that lap.

Hornish was able to pass Lazier for the lead on the 20th lap.

After two short caution periods for debris on the race course, Lazier and Hornish continued their battle a major crash slowed the race on the 103rd lap.

Eddie Cheever and Ray were battling side-by-side through the second turn before Cheever's car came down on Ray's. The two cars touched in the second turn, starting a vicious chain reaction crash. Airton Dare's car went airborne when it ran into the back of Mark Dismore's car. Dare's car flew into the air and into the back of Cheever. Robbie Buhl drove through the grass to avoid the carnage.

"I was racing Beechler, I had to take the high side as I was lapping Ray for the third time," Cheever explained. "I got up beside Ray and all of a sudden my car turned sharp left. We touched. That's all I could tell at the time. Now, having looked at the replay, there was room for him to go lower and room for me to go higher. It's always the car that's passing that has to take responsibility, but I sure wish he had either let me pass on the straightaway or had kept on the bottom line."

Also involved in the crash were Al Unser Jr. and Dismore. Amazingly, no one was injured in the spectacular crash.

"As soon as I spotted the crash, I went high," Dare said. "Dismore was slower than me, I hit him and the car just took off. I started slowing down, I saw the crash, I tried to brake but it didn't work at all. I thought it was going to hurt real bad, but it didn't."

Unser also survived the incident.

"Greg Ray and Eddie Cheever got together in front of me, and I almost got past it and then went into Donnie Beechler," Unser said. "We didn't have too much damage to the car, but it was enough to put us out of the race. It is a shame, because we were really hooked up."

The green flag finally waved on the 120th lap with Boat in the lead. Lazier passed Boat 51 laps from the finish. He regained the lead after making his final pit stop 23 laps from the finish and was able to win in convincing fashion.

"It's awesome to have the most victories in the series," Lazier said. "My crew chief said Buddy, this year we are going to get you the most career victories. We went out and got it done. There is a huge amount of pride I have in that. I love driving Indy cars. It's the series of the future and something I'm really proud to be a part of. To have the best record is awesome.

"I'm 33 years old and I have a lot of fire left. I sure hope I'm just entering my prime and I have a lot of this left. I really enjoy motor-racing and it's so much fun when you have a fast race car."

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