Iracingone Replay:/I Delphi Indy 300
December 16, 2001 | 12:00 A.M. EST
Three young drivers – Sam Hornish Jr., Jaques Lazier and Felipe Giaffone – dominated the day’s action, just as they probably will for years to come.
Hornish clinched his first IRL title after finishing second and became the youngest title-holder ever at 22. Lazier, 30, won his first career race in his second start with Team Menard. Giaffone, 2001 IRL Rookie of the Year, battled with Lazier for much of the day and showed that he is capable of contending for a win. Next season, 26-year-old Giaffone joins Mo Nunn’s team and will surely get his first IRL win.
For Hornish, clinching the title with one race to spare was a relief. Buddy Lazier, the defending champion, had won four of five races midseason and was closing in on Hornish in the points fight.
“I wanted to have two weeks off so we could go out and have some fun,” said Hornish, who became the first IRL 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.
“I’m happy to win the points championship, but I’d like to win. Every time we go out on the track, we want to be first.”
He couldn’t be first at Chicagoland because Jaques Lazier was too strong. He started on the pole, led 116 of the race’s 200 laps and finished 1.4609 seconds ahead of Hornish. Lazier had to contend with Giaffone for much of the second half of the race, however.
The two swapped the lead six times during the final 100 laps, and it wasn’t until Giaffone’s engine expired with two laps to go that Lazier’s victory was certain.
“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 the race third, followed by Jeff Ward and Donnie Beechler. Rookie Laurent Redon was impressive in his first IRL start with new team Conquest Racing. He finished seventh and could be another young driver to watch in the future.
"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."
Giaffone faded to 10th.
The race was a sellout, the fourth of the season, but only about 50,000 people attended the race. Chicagoland Speedway seats 75,000.