Track: Kentucky Speedway
Date: Sunday, August 27, 2000
Start time: 2:37 PM EDT
Weather: Muggy, mostly cloudy
IRL historical: #8 of 9 in 2000 season, IRL race #42 overall
Track historical: IRL race #1, Indy car race #1 at this track
Track configuration: 1.5-mile trioval, flat track
Wing package: Speedway
The inagural Indy Racing event at the new Kentucky Speedway produced a number of surprises, most of them pleasant. The surprises started in practice and continued in qualifying. The first practice found Scott Goodyear dueling with Sarah Fisher for the top of the speed charts, while Buzz Calkins dominated a later session. Greg Ray was slow in the initial sessions but found speed in time to qualify third; Scott Goodyear took the pole, becoming only the third driver other than Ray in the 2000 season to earn a pole position. Eliseo Salazar made a surprisingly good qualifying run to take second, and Fisher showed well with a fourth-place effort. Mark Dismore found himself starting in a very unaccustomed position, 24th, after his initial qualifying run was disallowed when his rear wing was found to not have the specified angle.
The race started under a rapidly changing sky; the sun had been out for several hours earlier in the day, but just before race time the sky clouded up, and it remained that way for the duration of the race. Baseball legend Pete Rose gave the start-engines call, a very popular choice for the Cincinnati-area fans. On the grid, Roberto Guerrero (making his first IRNLS start since Indy 1999) driving for Team Coulson (making their first-ever IRNLS start after three years of trying), found that his engine wouldn't start. The crew frantically pushed the car to their pit, and just managed to get it rolling in time for the final pace lap. (Guerrero's day was destined to be short; he retired with engine failure after 48 laps.) At the green, Salazar jumped out in front of Goodyear and assumed the point. As Ray and Fisher dropped back rapidly, Schroeder carved up the field and after two laps found himself dogging Salazar for the lead. Schroeder moved inside as they went down the front stretch, and went into turn 1 with a wheel alongside. Regardless of that, Salazar dropped down to the inside, forcing Schroeder onto the apron. Schroeder spun and the two cars touched, trigging a huge accident. Schroeder slid across the track and smacked the wall hard. Al Unser hit oil from Schroeder's car and pushed up into the wall in turn 2, also very hard. Salazar went a bit further, trying to save it, before he also spun and hit the wall exiting turn 2. Scott Sharp and Airton Dare were hit by debris; Sharp's car came to a stop on the back stretch with the left front wheel locked, while Dare made it back to the pits with minor damage. And Davey Hamilton's day started off badly when he had to pit during the caution for engine problems.
The mess took some time to clean up, and with Goodyear back on the point, green finally flew on lap 17. Goodyear set about establishing a blistering pace and drove away. The big surprise at this point was Jimmy Kite, who got a good restart to move up to third and then promptly took Ray for second. On lap 25, Goodyear had about a 2-second lead over Kite, who was followed by Ray, Ward, and the Lazier brothers. The latter of these was another surprise: Jacques Lazier, making his first start for the previously uncompetitive Mid-American team, had been fast in practice and was up to sixth. The even bigger surprise of the field was about to emerge: Sam Hornish. PDM had intended to enter another driver (Atlantics driver David Pook), but that driver had resigned the ride after his rookie test, and Hornish, who had left the team when they ran out of money after Pikes Peak, stepped back into the car at the last minute. Defying conventional logic, around lap 25 Hornish found that he could run the outside groove, and began blowing by the field on the outside. The crowd watched in amazement as Hornish embarassed one IRNLS veteran after another with outside moves, simultaneously taking Ray and Ward for third place on lap 29. It took him only three more laps to whip around Kite and Goodyear, taking the lead on lap 32. As he did this, Ray was dropping back, having difficulty keeping his car in gear.
Buddy Lazier was also moving up, and he took second from Goodyear on lap 38. Goodyear, running a somewhat different setup than most other teams, found that his car wouldn't handle on old tires, and he was forced to drop back. Meanwhile, Lazier went to work on Hornish, making up a 1-second advantage to take the lead on lap 41. Taking a cue from Hornish, he made the pass on the outside, and other teams took note of this also. With the green flag still out on lap 50, Kite entered the pits for routine service. Unfortunately for him, just as he was exiting the pits, the unfortunate Sharp (who had just returned to the track after extensive front suspension repairs) blew an engine and came to a stop on the back stretch, bringing out the yellow and setting Kite a lap down. He did get a small break in that all of the leaders stopped during the caution, putting Kite at the head of the field on the restart.
Meanwhile, the running order was shuffled by the pit stops. Ward got a great stop and emerged with the lead, followed by Buddy Lazier, Goodyear, Dismore (who also got a great stop, gaining six positions), Fisher, and Eddie Cheever. However, Lazier had made a critical mistake: he didn't stop on his marks, and the fuel hose wouldn't reach. As a result he had to stop again, and he dropped far back in the field. Hornish got a slow stop and dropped back to ninth, although that would not last long. On the green at lap 58, Ward assumed the lead, drawing away from the rest of the field save one: Kite, who drove away from the entire rest of the field as he attempted to make up his lap. Newly acquired sponsor Aramis must have been happy watching Kite draw away from the field and maintain a position in front of the leaders. Kite was only one of the IRNLS's young guns having a good day; it took Hornish all of five laps to work back up to third, and Fisher and Jacques Lazier were also maintaining top-ten positions. Things weren't going so well for Robbie Buhl, whose electrical systems were all gradually failing. And, on lap 64, Tyce Carlson (who had been holding down a top-10 position) suffered a rear suspension collapse on the front stretch. He did a fine job to avoid a wreck and get the car off the track into a safe area at the end of the pits.
On lap 67, Hornish made another of his now-trademark outside moves to take the lead from Ward in turn 3. Dismore and Goodyear fought for third, followed by Fisher, Buhl, and Cheever. These were followed by Donnie Beechler, who had one Lazier (Jacques) on his nose and another one (Buddy) in his mirrors. Both of the Laziers were moving up, and by lap 92 Jacques passed Ward for second. Two laps later, the Mid-American pits were going wild as Lazier and Hornish went toe-to-toe for the lead. Lazier nosed ahead to lead lap 95, the first lap led ever for Mid-American. But the cars remained side by side, swapping the lead back and forth depending on who was able to nose ahead at the start-finish line each lap. The crowd was on its feet as Lazier finally gained the advantage in turn 3 on lap 100, and as Hornish slipped up a bit, Ward was right there to take the advantage and second place. The side by side duel had bunched up the leaders, and Dismore, Goodyear, Fisher, and Buhl were all dueling for position while Buddy Lazier and Cheever bided their time just behind. Also, Shigeaki Hattori cracked the top-10 for the first time.
The first of several heartbreaks for the PDM team occurred on the next lap. As Hornish went through turn 3, the engine lost power and began missing. As Hornish headed for the pits, the team got a good break: Stevie Reeves came to a halt on the front stretch with a right rear wheel bearing seized and on fire, bringing out a caution. The PDM team found their car out of fuel, to their surprise; they refueled the car and got the engine started again, but then it stalled as Hornish left the pits. Frantically, they pushed it off and got it going again, and Hornish took off out of the pits and through the warm-up lane, trying to stay on the lead lap. Regrettably, he was a moment too late, and after the restart he was shown the black flag for passing the pace car; the drive-through penalty put him one lap down and well back in the field. (The team later found that a faulty fuel flow integrator was giving them incorrect high readings on their fuel remaining.)
Meanwhile, a confused situation occurred during the caution: Four drivers -- Ward, Buhl, Buddy Lazier, and Fisher -- for unexplained reasons didn't realize when the pits had been opened. As the other leaders pitted on lap 103, they stayed out, and then pitted on the next lap, putting them well back in the running order. Fisher also had a slow stop, and wound up 14th, the last car on the lead lap. One driver very happy to see the yellow was Kite, who had run fast enough that he was beginning to pass lead-lap cars anyway, but finally got the whole lap back. Dismore emerged from the pits with the lead, but when green flew on lap 107, Goodyear immeidately passed him and, like he had done at the beginning of the race, rapidly pulled away. But, another caution, this one for debris, occurred on lap 115. At this point, the Walker team made an excellent strategic decision: with their driver Fisher the last car on the lead lap, the pitted on lap 117 to top off the fuel. The race restarted on lap 118 with Goodyear leading Kite, Dismore, Cheever, and (yet another surprise) Hattori.
Attrition began to pick up. On lap 123, Jacques Lazier blew an engine and came down the front stretch with fire streaming from under the cowl. He stopped on the back stretch and the car was quickly engulfed by the blaze. Thanks to his safety suit Lazier was not burned, but his excellent run was done. On lap 133 Carlson emerged from the garage area after suspension repairs, only to retire shortly after with a gearbox failure. Dare slowed abruptly with a suspension collapse in turn 3; he narrowly avoided being hit as his car nearly stopped in the groove, before he managed to limp it back to the pits. His problem turned out to be a broken bellhousing, putting him out. Hamilton, who had been running off the pace for most of the race, pulled in for engine computer diagnostics. And Dismore began falling back with engine problems; he would finish the race, but it eliminated him as a factor. Meanwhile, the flying Kite once again took the lead, passing Goodyear on the inside of turn 3 on lap 139. On lap 150 the runnning order was Kite, Goodyear, Buddy Lazier (finally working his way back from his pit difficulties), Cheever, and Hattori, followed by Stephan Gregoire (getting faster as the race went on), Ward, Billy Boat, Ray, and Fisher. Hornish, already a lap back, had to pit on lap 151 for fuel as his team couldn't trust their telemetry.
By lap 155, with nearly a three-second lead, Kite pitted for routine service. However, as he emerged from the pits, just as his car got back to speed, his engine blew. Kite did a fine job to get the car out of the groove on the back stretch, into the warm-up lane, and to the pits, so there was no caution. Ward and Cheever pitted with Kite. Buddy Lazier and Gregoire pitted next lap; Lazier had inherited the lead when Kite broke, but then gave it up to Goodyear. Next lap, Goodyear pitted with Ray and Hattori. And that put the youngest of the young guns up front: Fisher. The Walker team's strategy on the debris caution paied off: As the other leaders made their stops and circulated with full tanks, Fisher ripped off fast laps on empty tanks, in effect gaining ground on the field. She would have had most of the field down a lap had a caution occurred at this point; that didn't happen, but when she finally made her stop on lap 169, she had gained enough time to emerge from the pits in third place.
This set up a two-car duel between the IRNLS's point leaders, Buddy Lazier and Goodyear. The two cars had to work their way through traffic, lapping some faster cars, and the gap between them increased and decreased. By lap 190, the only cars on the lead lap were Lazier, Goodyear, Fisher, Cheever, Ward, and Gregoire. These last two were dueling for fifth when the leaders came up on them. Lazier was momentarily held up and Goodyear closed the gap, and at one point Goodyear was right on Lazier's tail. But Lazier worked his way around by lap 195, and while Goodyear was still held up, Lazier pulled away.
Lazier won the race with a gap of about two seconds, his fourth IRNLS win and the first time he had won twice in a season; he was also the first repeat winner in the 2000 season. It was fortunate for him that the race wasn't any longer, as his gearbox self-destructed as he took the checkered flag. Fisher was gaining on the leaders at the end of the race, but she ran out of time. Cheever, half a lap behind and with no other lead-lap cars near him, cruised to a fourth place finish to preserve a slim chance at winning the championship. Lazier did gain some points on Goodyear; however, since Goodyear had won the pole and led the most laps, the advantage was not large and Goodyear remained in contention for the championship. Fisher's third place was a vindication for the talented young driver who had encountered various problems in her last four starts. Gregoire outdueled Ward for fifth at the end of the race, his best finish of the season. Hornish ran out of fuel on the back stretch on the checkered-flag lap, and coasted across the line to a very respectable ninth-place finish.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 7 216.546 91 D/A/F Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 200 Running 48 50 2 1 219.191 4 D/A/F Scott Goodyear Panther 200 Running 65 45 3 4 217.672 15 D/A/F Sarah Fisher Walker 200 Running 9 35 4 15 215.191 51 D/I/F Eddie Cheever Cheever 200 Running 32 5 21 214.456 7 G/A/F Stephan Gregoire Simon 199 Running 30 6 5 217.540 14 G/A/F Jeff Ward Foyt 199 Running 11 28 7 3 219.031 1 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 199 Running 27 8 17 215.071 55 G/A/F Shigeaki Hattori Treadway 199 Running 24 9 20 214.917 18 G/A/F Sam Hornish PDM 199 Running 38 22 10 8 216.450 98 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Cahill 198 Running 20 11 24 212.440 28 D/A/F Mark Dismore Kelley 198 Running 3 19 12 11 215.681 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 197 Running 18 13 16 215.088 24 G/I/F Robbie Buhl D&R 196 Running 17 14 19 214.925 5 G/A/F Robbie McGehee Treadway 196 Running 16 15 26 208.575 30 G/A/F J. J. Yeley Byrd-McCor 189 Running 15 16 9 215.931 16 G/A/F Davey Hamilton Xtreme 185 Running 14 17 12 215.681 27 G/A/F Jimmy Kite Blueprint 155 Engine 16 13 18 22 213.870 81 D/A/F Billy Boat Pelfrey 154 CV Joint 12 19 23 212.465 88 D/A/F Airton Dare Xtreme 133 Bellhous. 11 20 10 215.681 43 D/A/F Jaques Lazier MidAmerica 121 Engine 8 10 21 27 Prov. 19 D/A/F Stevie Reeves Logan 97 CV Joint 9 22 13 215.612 20 D/A/F Tyce Carlson Hubb-Immke 70 Gearbox 8 23 25 210.117 40 G/A/F Roberto Guerrero Coulson 48 Engine 7 24 18 214.951 8 D/A/F Scott Sharp Kelley 16 Engine 6 25 2 219.067 11 G/A/F Eliseo Salazar Foyt 2 Crash T2 2 7 26 6 216.554 6 D/A/F Jaret Schroeder Tristar 2 Crash T2 4 27 14 215.294 3 G/A/F Al Unser Galles 2 Crash T2 3
Car #28 requalified after the original qualifying run was disallowed due to an improper rear wing angle.
Laps under green: 172 of 200 laps (86.0%)
Caution flags: 4 for 28 laps (14.0%)
#1: lap 3, crash (Dare, Salazar, Schroeder, Sharp, A. Unser), T2, 14 laps
#2: lap 52, blown engine (Sharp), BS, 6 laps
#3: lap 102, stalled car (Reeves), FS, 5 laps
#4: lap 115, debris, BS, 3 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 15; number of race leaders: 9
St: Salazar 1-2
#1: Goodyear 3-31
#2: Hornish 32-40
#3: B. Lazier 41-55
#4: Ward 56-66
#5: Hornish 67-93
#6: J. Lazier 94-95
#7: Hornish 96-97
#8: J. Lazier 98-103
#9: Dismore 104-106
#10: Goodyear 107-138
#11: Kite 139-154
#12: B. Lazier 155-157
#13: Goodyear 158-161
#14: Fisher 162-170
#15: B. Lazier 171-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 15 / 13.3
G-Force: 12 / 14.8
Aurora: 25 / 14.4
Infiniti: 2 / 8.5
Firestone: 27 / 14.0