Other Lazier On Richmond Pole
June 29, 2001 | 5:00 P.M. EST
Jaques Lazier pulled off the fastest qualifying run at Richmond International Raceway on Friday evening, giving him his first career IRNLS pole in his first race with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
Lazier blazed around Richmond’s .75-mile oval in 16.8311 seconds at 160.417 mph, preventing 20-year-old Sarah Fisher from winning her first pole. Fisher held the top spot for much of qualifying with a 16.8865-second, 159.891 mph lap.
The two young guns of the IRNLS will start on the front row for Saturday night’s SunTrust Indy Challenge with Eddie Cheever Jr. (159.202 mph), Buddy Lazier (159.199 mph) and Airton Dare (158.772 mph) rounding out the Top 5.
"I think this weekend was just a feeling-out process between myself and Sam Schmidt to see if it's a good fit," Lazier said. "So far, it definitely has been. I think we want to finish out this season and look to next year.
"This is just the beginning of hopefully a wonderful building block between Sam Schmidt and myself."
Fisher’s career-best qualifying effort had her enthusiastically looking forward to Saturday’s race.
"I'm so excited about tomorrow, wheel-to-wheel competition," Fisher said. "You'll have to get your elbows up."
All-time IRNLS pole winner Greg Ray sat out qualifying after crashing in practice Friday.
Current IRNLS points leader Sam Hornish Jr. qualified at 158.288 mph to nail down the sixth starting position. Eliseo Salazar, who trails Hornish by 56 points in the standings, kept pace with Hornish by turning in a 158.261 mph lap, good for seventh. Rookie points leader Felipe Giaffone was eighth at 158.091 mph, and Robbie Buhl (156.672 mph) and Scott Sharp (156.663 mph) rounded out the Top 10.
Jaques Lazier was picked up by Schmidt this week to replace Richie Hearn, who was filling in for the injured Davey Hamilton. Hearn finished a season-best ninth for Schmidt’s team at Pikes Peak on June 17, but Schmidt wanted a more experienced driver behind the wheel of the No. 99.
“It has always been my position that I want the most experience available, given the budget limitations for our team this season,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt’s move paid off handsomely on Friday at Richmond.
All 19 drivers who completed a qualifying run broke the track record of 131.374 mph set by Randy Tolsma in a USAC Silver Bullet car in 1996.
The SunTrust Indy Challenge is schedule for 8 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.