Lazier Wins Hornish Champion

JOLIET, Ill. – Jaques Lazier drove to his first career Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory Sunday in the Delphi Indy 300 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., but it was Sam Hornish Jr. stealing the spotlight by clinching his first series title.

Lazier was dominant, leading 116 laps in his second race for Team Menard, but it was a hard-fought victory. He battled with rookie Felipe Giaffone for a good portion of the second half of the race, often side by side, until Giaffone’s engine let go with two laps to go.

Hornish, running third at the time of Giaffone’s misfortune, inherited second place. Coupled with Buddy Lazier’s 11th-place finish, Hornish won his first IRNLS title with one race to spare.

“I wanted to have two weeks off so we could go out and have some fun,” said Hornish, who became the first IRNLS driver to clinch the title before the season-ending race. “We didn’t have a real fast car. We weren’t the quickest today, but we finished up front.”

Finishing up front has been Hornish’s calling card this season. He has finished in the Top 3 in nine of 12 races and has finished out of the Top 10 just once.

“I’m happy to win the points championship, but I’d like to win,” he said. “Every time we go out on the track, we want to be first.”

Hornish finished 1.4609 seconds behind Jaques Lazier for his fourth runner-up finish this season in his first year with the Pennzoil Panther Racing team.

Lazier led the final 25 laps of the race on his way to the win.

“This is just an incredible team,” Lazier said. “I’m so proud to be part of the Johns Manville team.

“I look forward to this being the first of many wins for Team Menard and myself.”

Eddie Cheever Jr. finished third for his third Top 5 finish of the year. Jeff Ward had his best finish of the year with his fourth-place run. Donnie Beechler had a good day, coming home fifth for A.J. Foyt’s team.

Rookie Laurent Redon turned in an impressive first-time run in the IRNLS with a seventh-place finish.

"Our goal was to finish and be in the Top 12, and we finished seventh," he said. "Our next race, we will be more relaxed and have more knowledge. I am really happy."

A caution period for Eliseo Salazar’s accident on Lap 163 set up the final 27-lap sprint to the finish and ended Mark Dismore’s chance for victory No. 1 this year.

The accident materialized when Salazar and Dismore approached the slower car of Jon Herb on the backstretch. Dismore was on the high side of Salazar when Salazar moved up into Dismore to get around Herb. The cars of Dismore of Salazar made contact, sending Salazar into the wall and Dismore into the pits with damage to his suspension.

“That was bad judgment is what that was,” said Dismore, who led five laps. “I don’t know what he was doing. We could have won this race today.”

On the restart, Giaffone jumped out to the lead, but Jaques Lazier got by two laps later and pulled away to a lead of up to 2.2 seconds.

Defending IRNLS champ Buddy Lazier lost his chance at the title on Lap 88 when he pitted for the second time under green after detecting a vibration on the No. 91 Dallara-Aurora. He went two laps down and couldn’t recover.

Robbie Buhl, who led 32 of the first 100 laps, went out at the halfway point with a mechanical problem. His No. 24 G Force-Infiniti had been the fastest car all weekend, but it let him down when it counted.

“You can imagine the frustration,” said Buhl, who has led three straight races but has yet to collect a podium finish. “It was fun out there. We were doing what we had to do. I don’t know what we’re going to have to do to finish.”

Scott Sharp brought out the first yellow when he hit the Turn 2 wall on Lap 29 after he had a rear tire go down. Hornish assumed the lead for the first time on Lap 33 during the caution period when his Pennzoil Panther Racing crew got him quickly out of the pits.

Jaques Lazier lost five spots during the pit stops, sending him back to sixth on the restart.

Sharp, who was carrying the race’s title sponsors on his car, was uninjured.

“I’m not sure what happened,” said Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Dallara-Aurora. “I may have shredded a right-rear tire. Something just snapped. I had no control. It’s really a shame because our sponsor, Delphi, is also sponsoring the race, and I wanted to do well today for all of their guests.”

Sarah Fisher also was out early with a mechanical problem on her No. 15 Dallara-Aurora. She was in and out of the pits several times before officially retiring on Lap 37.

“The battery just died on us,” she said. “Something in the wiring ate every battery we put in there. We put in two fresh batteries, and it sucked the power right out. It’s something in the alternator or the wire room.”

A crowd of approximately 50,000 people turned out for the first IRNLS race at Chicagoland Speedway, even though the track sold out its 75,000 tickets.

Fisher and the rest of the IRNLS drivers will close their season Sept. 16 at the season-ending Chevy 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.

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