Track: Kentucky Speedway
Date: Sunday, August 12, 2001
Start time: 1:42 PM EDT
Weather: Bright and sunny, very hot
IRL historical: #10 of 13 in 2001 season, IRL race #53 overall
Track historical: IRL race #2, Indy car race #2 at this track
Track configuration: 1.5-mile trioval, flat track
Wing package: Speedway
Buddy Lazier continued his domination of the IRNLS victory circle, but he had to fight to the last to do it. However, the race almost didn't happen at all. Testing just before the race revealed a very rough and frost-damaged track, the result of very harsh weather the previous winter. Emergency repairs including grinding and sealing the turns were undertaken, and with a 12-degree mandated rear wing angle, the teams and officials pronounced the track safe if not ideal.
The Kelley team dominated practice and qualifying, sweeping the front row with Scott Sharp taking the pole and teammate Mark Dismore alongside. Speeds were far down from the previous year as Sharp took the pole with a 214 MPH run, and few other teams were anywhere close. One disappointment was the car of Sarah Fisher; the Walker team was undergoing personnel changes and was unable to put a competitive car on the track all weekend. Heritage Racing announced their second rock-group sponsorship of the year, as John Mellencamp picked up the team in conjunction with an IRNLS promo campaign featuring the singer.
Race day greeted the competitors and fans with hot weather, a cloudless sky, and a blazing sun. At the start of the race no one could touch the Kelley cars, as Sharp and Dismore pulled away from the field. Early laps were run at a fast pace and no incidents despite the remaining bumps in the surface. Early in the race, a running order settled out up front with Sharp leading the faster Dismore, followed by the Infiniti-engined cars of Robbie Buhl and Eddie Cheever (whom many observers had picked as the cars to beat), then Billy Boat, Sam Hornish, and Jeff Ward. But only 15 laps into the race, Ward began slowing with a severe loose condition; he would not be a factor.
Disappointment also arrived early for Dismore. On lap 29, he cut down a right rear tire, spun, and crashed in turn 2. He managed to drive the car back to the pits for a tire change and ran some more laps under the yellow, but as it turned out the flat had been caused by a rear suspension problem that was not repairable, and his race was over. The entire field pitted under the resulting caution, and the Kelley team got Sharp back out in front, followed by Hornish, Buddy Lazier, and Buhl. Jaques Lazier's car got detained in the pits by a stuck fuel nozzle and he re-emerged at the tail of the field after an additional stop to complete the fueling. At the green, Sharp again pulled away from the field while Greg Ray dropped back with an ill handling car and a non-functioning radio. Buhl went to work at the green and shortly took third place from B. Lazier, then on lap 50 he engaged in a wheel to wheel duel with Hornish for second. This went on for several laps before Buhl finally took the position, and then Lazier took advantage of the opening to take third, dropping Hornish back to fourth. However, Buhl couldn't do anything with Sharp, and in trying he gave second back to Lazier on lap 36, while Boat pursued Hornish.
That was the way most of the first half of the race went: Sharp leading serenely while watching serious dogfights in his mirrors. On lap 68 Buhl retook second from Lazier, but on the next lap they got hung up behind the lapped car of Billy Roe, and Hornish made a daring three-wide move to pass all of them and move back into second. A few laps later, Sharp got bound up behind the lapped but fairly fast car of Buzz Calkins, and Lazier tried to slingshop both Sharp and Hornish for the lead. As he made the move, a yellow was thrown for debris on the front stretch, and there was a near-collision as Lazier's car shot up around the slowing Sharp through a hole left for him by the alert Hornish. Again nearly all of the field pitted. Jaques Lazier had another slow pit stop and lost many postions, emerging in 14th place. Rick Treadway, the son of car owner Fred Treadway, got a very fast stop and emerged from the pits in fifth place. (Treadway, in his first series start, had earlier become the 100th driver to take the green flag in an IRNLS race.) But on the restart he dropped back quickly.
The car on the move at the restart was Jaques Lazier, who passed six cars on the restart and was soon up to 5th. Once again Sharp drove away while the field sliced-and-diced behind him. Boat moved up to fourth while B. Lazier and Hornish took up where they left off, running lap after lap side by side. As he had the previous year, Hornish had discovered the high groove and was working it for all it was worth. Meanwhile, Cheever, who had dropped back a bit in the previous run, was back on the warpath; on lap 85 he took Hornish's place in third and went to work on B. Lazier. Robby McGehee, who had been running just outside the top-5, made an unscheduled pit stop on lap 95 with severe handling problems; his crew discovered that a nut had fallen out of the front suspension, and had to take the car to the garage for repairs, putting him out of contention.
At the halfway mark, Sharp had incredibly led the entire race up to that point despite the close competition. B. Lazier continued to hold off Cheever for second, with Hornish in fourth and Buhl apparently biding his time in fifth. J. Lazier ran sixth, followed by Eliseo Salazar, Shigeaki Hattori, and Donnie Beechler. On lap 103, a caution was thrown for debris on the back stretch and again nearly the entire field pitted. However, this time the Panther crew got Hornish out in front of Sharp. Oddly Beechler (who had started last due to a broken camshaft during qualifying) stayed out and led a lap, then pitted on the next lap, going to the back of the line. But the big shocker was Cheever, who had been running extremely well just before the yellow, He came back to the pits with a clutch problem that was preventing him from changing gears; when he stopped a crew member serendipitously noticed that a CV joint in the rear suspension was about to fail. Just like that, Cheever was out. J. Lazier again had a slow stop which dropped him back to the end of the line.
On the restart, Sharp got a run on Hornish, but got up high in turn 2 and was passed by Lazier; shortly he dropped back to fifth, and after having led over half the race, was not to lead another lap. (Sharp said after the race that the car would not handle properly after the caution, and that he suspected a shock failure.) Boat moved up to third, then on the next lap B. Lazier passed Hornish for the lead. Meanwhile, Hornish tried the high line on B. Lazier, but got hung up behind a slower car and lost second to Boat. On lap 135, as their battle continued, Airton Dare (who had run in the top-10 earlier) retired with declining oil pressure. On lap 140 Sharp led Boat, Buhl, who had just nipped Hornish for third, Sharp, the Foyt cars of Salazar and Beechler (who had drafted together to pull away from a group of cars running back around 10th place), J. Lazier, Hattori, and Felipe Giaffone. Buhl went to work reeling in Boat, and closed up the gap on lap 150 as J. Lazier ran out of fuel (due to ongoing problems with their fueling nozzle during his previous pit stop) and coasted to his pit.
By lap 154, the leaders were ready for green-flag pit stops. However, the first such to attempt it, Salazar, spun in the pit entrance and wound up facing the wrong way in the middle of the pit lane with a stalled engine. Due to the hazard in the pits, a caution had to be thrown. It was several laps before Salazar's car could be moved out of the way, so the leaders didn't get a chance to pit until lap 158. B. Lazier got out first, followed by Sharp and Boat. A near-disaster occurred in Buhl's pit: due to a mixup, Buhl pulled out with the fuel hose still connected. The pit fuel tank was dragged over the wall and into the pit lane before the hose separated from the nozzle. A significant methanol spill occurred; fortunately, alert pit crew members and firemen got water on it quickly and there was no fire. Buhl emerged from the pits at the end of the line and without a full load of fuel, but still in the race.
At the green. B. Lazier drove away a bit while Boat harassed Sharp. One lap later Hornish got into the marbles in turn 4 and appeared to lightly hit the wall coming out of the corner. Buhl went to work right away and within two laps had passed Hornish for fifth. At lap 170, the running order was B. Lazier, Sharp, Boat, Buhl, Hornish, and Al Unser who was running stronger as the race went on. Then Boat, who had been stuck with too low a gear, suffered an engine malfunction, lost power, and started dropping back. Unser moved briefly up to fourth but was then passed by Hornish. On lap 178 Buhl passed Sharp for second and the race was on. On lap 183 Buhl moved up to Lazier's outside in turn 1 and nosed ahead on the backstretch, but Lazier moved back ahead by pinching his car down coming out of 4. Turns 3-4 were pretty rough and dusty, and the high groove was not working well there. Buhl continued to try; coming to the line to complete lap 187, he got a good run off of 4 as Lazier hit some traffic and closed up through turn 2. He then made a surprise move to the inside on the back stretch and Lazier could do nothing as Buhl slipped by into the lead. Lazier continued to dog Buhl, however, and when Buhl had some difficulty with a lapped car at the flag to complete lap 191, Lazier passed him back on the back stretch.
However, Buhl didn't give up. With Lazier protecting the inside, Buhl went back to work on the outside groove. He went wheel to wheel down the front stretch on lap 194 and led that lap by a nose, but could not complete the pass. The two continued to run side by side, with Lazier keeping a nose ahead. On lap 197 Buhl dropped back a bit, apparently to take another run, but it was not to be: the botched pit stop had left his car too short on fuel, and going down the back stretch on lap 198, the engine shut off. A stunned crowd watched as Lazier easily held off Sharp for the last 1-1/2 laps to take the win, while Buhl coasted around to take the white flag. Determined, Buhl continued to coast, but didn't have enough momentum; the car finally stopped in turn 4, a few hundred yards short of the checkered flag.
Buddy Lazier posted his fourth win of the season, a series record, but despite that didn't gain enough points to take the points lead from Hornish, who finished third behind Sharp. Unser ended up in fourth, an encouraging result for that struggling team, and Beechler who had started last placed fifth. Buhl ended up in ninth, one lap short of becoming the second driver to post a win with the Infiniti engine.
Fin St Qual Car C/E/T Driver Entrant Laps Status Laps Pts Spd # Led 1 11 210.248 91 D/A/F Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn 200 Running 84 50 2 1 214.598 8 D/A/F Scott Sharp Kelley 200 Running 105 42 3 8 210.500 4 D/A/F Sam Hornish Panther 200 Running 5 35 4 9 210.435 3 G/A/F Al Unser Galles 200 Running 32 5 22 No Spd. 11 D/A/F Donnie Beechler Foyt 200 Running 1 30 6 6 211.097 98 D/A/F Billy Boat Beck 200 Running 28 7 18 208.330 55 D/A/F Shigeaki Hattori Cunningham 200 Running 26 8 12 210.240 21 G/A/F Felipe Giaffone Treadway 200 Running 24 9 4 212.002 24 G/I/F Robbie Buhl D&R 199 Out of Fuel 5 22 10 7 210.575 35 G/A/F Jeff Ward Heritage 198 Running 20 11 17 208.353 32 G/A/F Didier Andre Galles 198 Running 19 12 13 209.502 99 D/A/F Jaques Lazier Schmidt 198 Running 18 13 5 211.441 2 D/A/F Greg Ray Menard 197 Running 17 14 21 203.127 81 G/A/F Billy Roe Zali 196 Running 16 15 14 209.471 14 D/A/F Eliseo Salazar Foyt 196 Running 15 16 19 207.941 12 D/A/F Buzz Calkins Bradley 195 Running 14 17 15 209.396 5 G/A/F Rick Treadway Treadway 190 Running 13 18 10 210.266 10 D/A/F Robby McGehee Cahill 157 Running 12 19 20 207.850 15 D/A/F Sarah Fisher Walker 154 Gearbox 11 20 16 208.483 88 G/A/F Airton Dare Xtreme 133 Oil Pres. 10 21 3 213.200 51 D/I/F Eddie Cheever Cheever 105 CV Joint 9 22 2 213.646 28 D/A/F Mark Dismore Kelley 31 Suspension 8
Laps under green: 175 of 200 laps (87.5%)
Caution flags: 4 for 25 laps (12.5%)
#1: lap 3, crash (Dismore), T2, 5 laps
#2: lap 74, debris, FS, 5 laps
#3: lap 103, debris, BS, 6 laps
#4: lap 156, spin (Salazar), pit lane, 9 laps
Red flags: 0 for 0 minutes
Lead changes: 7; number of race leaders: 5
St: Sharp 1-105
#1: Beechler 106
#2: Hornish 107-111
#3: B. Lazier 112-188
#4: Buhl 189-192
#5: B. Lazier 193
#6: Buhl 194
#7: B. Lazier 195-200
C/E/T finish averages (# started / avg finish):
Dallara: 14 / 11.4
G-Force: 8 / 11.6
Aurora: 20 / 11.2
Infiniti: 2 / 15.0
Firestone: 22 / 11.5