IROC Selects IRL Trio

Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Lazier and Scott Sharp are the Indy Racing League’s all-stars from this past season, according to the International Race of Champions.

IROC officials invited the three to participate in the four-race all-star series next season, and all three have accepted.

Next week, Hornish and Sharp will take part in preseason IROC testing at Daytona International Speedway. They’ll practice the Pontiac Trans Am stock cars on the high-banked, 2.5-mile superspeedway on Nov. 12-14.

Hornish sealed his first invite to IROC by winning the IRL championship in September.

“I'm really excited about doing the series next year,” said Hornish, who won twice and finished in the Top 5 11 out of 13 races this past season. “I remember watching IROC as a kid with Al Unser Jr. and Dale Earnhardt Sr. battling it out on different tracks, and I thought it was cool.

“Getting a chance to run against all the best drivers is a great challenge because you know if you win one of those (IROC) races, you've beaten the best.”

Hornish and the other IRL drivers will begin to test themselves against the best on Feb. 15 at Daytona in the opening race of the IROC series. Then it’s off to California Speedway for a race on April 27 and Chicagoland Speedway on July 13 before wrapping up the series Aug. 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Brickyard 400 weekend.

IROC has not announced who will pilot the other nine cars in the series, although expect at least six to be from NASCAR’s ranks.

IRL runner-up Lazier will be making his second appearance in IROC. He participated this past season after being crowned IRL champion last October. He finished ninth overall with a season best finish of third at Talladega Superspeedway.

“I am very grateful for the opportunity to come back in 2002,” Lazier said. “I had a great time in the series last year, and I really look forward to not being a rookie in 2002. I'm just glad we were able to finish high enough in the IRL standings to warrant another invitation.

“I want to thank everyone with the True Value IROC series for having me back; it's a great honor and a lot of fun.”

Sharp, third in IRL points, also will be racing in IROC for the second time. His first appearance came in 1994, when he represented the SCCA Trans-Am Series. He finished 12 that year.

“I'm really looking forward to racing in IROC again,” Sharp said. “Last time, I was also entering CART for my first year in Indy cars, and that was really where my focus was. Because of that, I really didn't give IROC the attention it needed, especially since I wasn't used to driving the heavier stock cars.

“Being able to drive against the best of the best is a daunting challenge to begin with, let alone when you don't take advantage of all the practice or testing times. This time around, I'm really excited that I'll be able to take that extra time and be able to really get acclimated with the cars, learn as much as I can, and go have fun.”

Sharp was an ESPN analyst during IROC broadcasts this past season.

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