Iracingone Replay:/I IRNLS 2000Br One Race Two Winners
January 22, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Instead, Buddy Lazier mixed it up all day, led 38 laps and tried to win the Excite 500 and the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship on the same day.
Conservative, he isn’t. A champion, he is.
"This team has been aggressive all year and that's how we wanted to approach it," said Lazier, who finished the season with 290 points to Scott Goodyear’s 272. "I was afraid we'd loose our rhythm if we did it any other way, afraid the car wouldn't be used to running easy and something would go wrong."
Nothing went wrong. Not for Lazier or Goodyear, who won his first race of the season in his last drive at Panther Racing.
"This was a great show," Goodyear said. "It was really close to the end and we battled them all the way.
"I'm really happy for all of the guys at Panther Racing. They worked hard and it paid off."
Goodyear earned the win with a last-lap pass over Eddie Cheever Jr., who crossed the finish line .140 seconds behind the winner. Cheever and Goodyear actually had a shot at winning the title, but Lazier wasn’t going to let that happen.
He qualified sixth, led late in the race and stayed with the lead pack throughout most of the day.
"What a hair-raising way to win a racing championship, in a pack of cars going wheel to wheel," Lazier said afterward.
Another title was settled at Texas.
Airton Dare won the rookie of the year title by finishing 12th, one spot behind rookie Sarah Fisher, who made her first IRNLS start in this same race in 1999.
Al Unser Jr. concluded his first year in the IRNLS by leading 99 laps at Texas and finishing ninth in the point standings.
"What can I say?" Unser said. "We had a great run going and our clutch went out. The car was just unbelievable out there today before that. I was in the middle of a championship battle and it was a lot of fun out there. The fans should have a good time watching.
"I definitely had a winning car, but it was a bittersweet day."
Greg Ray captured his record-tying sixth pole of the season but wound up 26th after experiencing electrical problems.
When it was all said and done, 2000 produced exciting racing and a deserving champion. On March 18 at Phoenix International Raceway, the battle begins anew.
Final Point Standings:
1) Buddy Lazier, 290
2) Scott Goodyear, 272
3) Eddie Cheever Jr., 257
4) Eliseo Salazar, 210
5) Mark Dismore, 202
6) Donnie Beechler, 202
7) Scott Sharp, 196
8) Robbie Buhl, 190
9) Al Unser Jr., 188
10) Billy Boat, 181