Lazzaro Passes Rookie Test

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Just two days after losing driver Jaques Lazier to Team Menard, Sam Schmidt Motorsports tested his possible replacement at Gateway International Raceway on Friday.

Anthony Lazzaro, the 1999 Toyota Atlantic champion and a veteran of the American Le Mans Series, the NASCAR Busch Series and the USAC Formula Ford 2000 series, passed his Indy Racing Northern Light Series rookie test at the 1.25-mile track in Madison, Ill., after completing 103 laps with a top speed of 164.7 mph.

Lazzaro, 37, from Acworth, Ga., drove a G-Force-Aurora owner Sam Schmidt recently purchased from Dick Simon Racing. Treadway-Hubbard Racing team manager Skip Faul, who has extensive experience with the G-Force, prepared the car.

Lazzaro adapted to the IRNLS car well.

"It's been two years since I've driven an open-wheel car, but it really came back to me quickly," Lazzaro said. "The track is one where I've run and won before, so that helped today. The cars give you a lot of feedback.

"Sam put me in good hands. The Treadway guys prepared the car for today. Skip (Faul) did a good job, making for a nice, comfortable day for me. It was a good day overall. It was more of a speedway car that still had the narrow suspension on it, so we maxed out the car early in the test."

Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, oversaw the test.

"Anthony did a good job," said Rutherford, the IRNLS special projects coordinator. "With his experience, he has a good feel for a race car. He will be an asset to the series and to a starting field. He was on top of his feedback."

Because the IRNLS has not raced at Gateway, IRNLS vice president of operations Brian Barnhart waved the standard four-phase rookie test.

"As a series, we still don't have enough laps around Gateway to develop appropriate speed phases for a rookie," Barnhart said. "Anthony ran more than 100 laps, and Johnny was there working with him, so he'll be in good shape."

IRNLS regulars Robbie Buhl and Buzz Calkins also tested Friday at Gateway. Buhl ran laps in the 168 mph range in his No. 24 G Force-Infiniti, and 1996 series co-champion Calkins ran laps in the 166 mph range in his No. 12 Dallara-Aurora.

The inaugural Gateway Indy 250 is scheduled for Aug. 26.

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