Lazier wins inaugural IRL race at Richmond

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2001

RICHMOND, Va. -- Buddy Lazier took the lead when his two chief challengers took each other out with 37 laps to go Saturday night and went on to win the SunTrust Indy Challenge, an IRL race that looked a whole lot like NASCAR.

Lazier, who took the lead on the first lap and led a record 224 of the 250 circuits around Richmond International Raceway, beat Sam Hornish Jr. by 4.88 seconds for his sixth career victory and second in a row.

It was the IRL's debut on the three-quarter-mile oval, the shortest track the series has ever raced on, and featured more spinning, banging and crashing than regular fans of that style racing are used to seeing.

A crowd of about 40,000 loved every minute of it.

In all, there were nine cautions, including one that took out leader Eliseo Salazar and Eddie Cheever Jr., making it Lazier's race to lose.

He didn't, pulling away from points leader Hornish on a restart with 22 laps to go and quickly leaving the field to fight for second.

If not for a mistake by Lazier, it would have been much easier.

With 66 laps to go, the leaders all headed for the pits, but Lazier missed his stop, had to head back around under the caution and dropped to third, trailing Salazar, who didn't pit, and Cheever.

On Friday, it was Cheever who predicted that only about 10 of the 20 cars would still be running at the end, and on lap 214, he made it so.

With Lazier on his back bumper and Salazar in front, Cheever attempted to duck inside Salazar heading into the third turn. When he did, his right front tire made contact with Salazar's left rear, crashing them both.

The accident capped a disappointing night for many IRL stars, not the least of whom were front-row starters Jaques Lazier and Sarah Fisher.

Lazier was passed by Fisher and older brother Buddy on the opening lap, then became the first driver out of the race when he got caught in traffic, was bumped from behind and slammed into the wall exiting Turn 4.

Fisher fell two laps down within the first 100 and became the second driver out when her car got sideways in Turns 3 and 4 and banged the wall.

''The car was just so loose. I came over the radio and said 'I can't hang onto it. I can't hang onto it anymore,''' the 20-year-old said after being checked out in the infield care center. Fisher finished 17th.

Airton Dare, last year's rookie of the year, was also among the big losers in the physical race when a slight mistake ended his night.

Gugelmin stays dry, wins Cleveland pole

CLEVELAND -- Mauricio Gugelmin, whose 2001 season has included the death of a son and a frightening crash, got a lucky break Saturday and won his first pole in four years at the rainy Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland.

Gugelmin qualified in the first group before a severe thunderstorm blew in off Lake Erie and delayed qualifying for the top drivers on the already slippery 2.106-mile Burke Lakefront Airport road course.

Gugelmin's lap time of 57.356 seconds and speed of 132.185 mph stood up through the rain delays and gave the 38-year-old Brazilian his first pole since 1997.

''I knew the time was pretty decent,'' Gugelmin said. ''I thought even with the rain I would stay up front. I think we had a great race car, but sometimes a little bit of luck doesn't hurt.''

Musgrave wins Milwaukee truck race

WEST ALLIS, Wis. -- Homestate favorite Ted Musgrave overpowered previously dominant Jack Sprague with 30 laps remaining Saturday and won the NASCAR truck series race.

Musgrave, who pulled away to beat Sprague by 2.304 seconds -- about 20 truck lengths -- won for the fourth time in 11 races and moved to fourth place in the Craftsman Series standings. He also became the seventh different winner in seven races at The Milwaukee Mile.

''If you're going to win one and it's not Daytona or Indy, this is a good one,'' said Musgrave, from nearby Franklin. ''I've always wanted to win here. Man, this is just awesome.''

Musgrave collected $42,310, averaging 92.951 mph in a Dodge.

Finishing behind Sprague, who led 167 laps of 200 leading after starting from the pole, was rookie Travis Kvapil. Both were in Chevrolets.

Terry Cook finished fourth in a Ford, followed by that of defending champion Kurt Busch. The Winston Cup rookie was driving because his circuit had the week off.

Joe Ruttman, who started alongside Sprague on the front row, was sixth. That finish, coupled with a 24th-place run by Scott Riggs, vaulted Ruttman into the points lead.

Riggs spent 26 laps behind pit wall while his crew repaired a broken wheel assembly. He came in with a 53-point lead, but left six points behind.

Billy Bigley, Winston Cup driver Ken Schrader, Matt Crafton and Ricky Hendrick completed the top 10.

Three drivers -- Sprague, Musgrave and Chris Horn -- swapped the lead three times. There were seven caution periods covering 28 laps.

Musgrave, who chased Sprague most of the way, nearly got by him on lap 170, then executed the pass off turn 2 one circuit later.

''I had to do it there,'' said Musgrave. ''He was so strong, so any little slip he made, I had to capitalize on it.''

A dejected Sprague blamed a handling problem.

''It's pretty cut and dried, the truck was awesome,'' said the two-time series champion. ''On that last set of tires, I was bad loose and don't know why.''

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