Goodyear Puts Heat On Lazier

Let the games begin. The mind games, that is.

Although there’s still 12 days until the Indy Racing Northern Light Series’ season finale at Texas Motor Speedway, Scott Goodyear is already getting into the action mentally.

Goodyear, along with points leader Buddy Lazier and Eddie Cheever, is in contention for the IRNLS championship, and Tuesday he started jockeying for mental position.

"I think that Buddy’s gotta be in the pressure cooker right now and he’s gotta be in the defense mode in some ways," said Goodyear, who is second, 38 points behind Lazier and three points ahead of Cheever. "You’re gonna go up there and race but you know that it all comes down to not just having to win, but having to finish in the top five or even that top 10.

"So maybe he’s starting to think about things of that nature."

Are you listening, Buddy? Because Goodyear’s not done turning up the heat.

"I think he’s in the pressure cooker for sure right now," Goodyear added. "I know what my job is and I think Eddie knows what his job is, but it’ll be a little more difficult for Buddy, I’m sure.

"I think it can be difficult when you’re leading."

That may be true, but Goodyear also realizes the pressure he’s under. With Lazier only needing to finish 13th to clinch the championship and the $1 million bonus, a lot has to go right for Goodyear -- and a lot wrong for Lazier -- for the Canadian to have a shot at the Northern Light Cup.

"It’s pretty simple what we have to do," said Goodyear, who has two wins in his IRNLS career and has never finished out of the top 10 in the final point standings. "I need to be on the pole; I need to win the event."

If that’s the case, then there’s no better place than Texas Motor Speedway. Goodyear runs well on the 1.5-mile tri-oval, with a win, four top-five finishes and six top-10 starts in his six visits there. He’s also led 125 laps at TMS. And he’s coming off a fifth-place finish in the June race at Texas in what has been called one of the greatest open-wheel races ever.

Needless to say, Goodyear’s looking forward to revisiting the Lone Star State.

"I feel confident going in there. We changed some things on the car these past couple months as far as the setup for these mile-and-a-half tracks, and it’s responded," Goodyear said. "I’m enthused about getting there and seeing what we have because I think we have a good shot at the pole again.

"There’s some things we’re doing to the car that are different for qualifying than for the race. Previously we’ve taken our race car, put it in there and qualified it and sometimes not even changed the motor and went racing. So, I think now we’re getting down into the championship hunt and we’re really focusing on the points available to us in qualifying."

Goodyear may have a leg up on Cheever and Lazier based on his past performances at Texas, but Cheever and Lazier have an advantage of their own. They’ve been able to test at Texas, Goodyear has not.

In June Goodyear announced he would not be returning to the Panther Racing team, and testing time since then has been used primarily to audition drivers for the soon-to-be-vacated seat of the No. 4 Dallara/Oldsmobile.

"I thought I would have tested, simply because of the fact that I’m second in the points championship," Goodyear said. "I’m somewhat disappointed that I didn’t get an opportunity to test there."

No matter, though, because Goodyear can fall back on the success he’s already achieved at Texas and rest easy knowing that he’s returning to one of his favorite tracks.

The same couldn’t be said before the Kentucky race in August, the IRNLS’s inaugural appearance at that track, when Goodyear only had one day of testing before the race. That’s not an ideal situation before hitting a track for the first time.

"Overall, I think that we’ll probably -- hopefully -- have an easier situation here at Texas. I certainly know the Texas track," he said. "I’m not going there with anything but a positive thought that we can go do the same thing what we did in Kentucky."

What he did at Kentucky was close to domination. He won the pole, his first ever in IRNLS competition, led the most laps (65) but came home second to Lazier.

He can’t let that happen in Texas. If so, he’ll be denied the championship that has eluded him throughout his driving career, a championship that he wants to win so that he’ll be "remembered."

"People remember championships," Goodyear said. "This would be a great feeling because it’s come over the whole period of a year and you’ve been dealing with all year long on the track.

"Hopefully we can get this thing done."

If he doesn’t get it done now, he may not have another shot. Goodyear has said he may run only at Indy next year and bow out of the full season.

"I haven’t really decided at this point in time," said Goodyear, adding that he’s talked to several teams about rides for next year. "There are good options out there right now, and I think in 3 or 4 weeks I’ve got to pony up and make a decision."

Before that, however, there’s the championship to worry about. Or, as Goodyear puts it, there’s the championship for Buddy to worry about.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013
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