Buddy Lazier took a narrow victory over Championship rival Scott Goodyear at the inaugural Belterra Resort 300 to set up the title finale in Texas next month.
Once again the Indy Racing Northern Light Series provided a great spectacle for the 50,000 plus fans that turned out to watch the inaugural Belterra Resort Indy 300 at the brand new Kentucky Motor Speedway.
Current points leader Buddy Lazier put in a storming drive to clinch victory and put the IRNLS title within his reach after a race filled with drama and excitement. The 200-lap event was capped off when Lazier's winning Dallara-Aurora had a gearbox expire as the jubilant driver crossed the finish line, a testament to the gutsy work put in by its driver.
Lazier becomes the first driver to score two wins this year, this adding to his outstanding last to first Phoenix success, extending his points advantage to 38 over second placed man Goodyear. The final man left in the title race, Eddie Cheever, put in another determined drive to finish fourth in a car that simply wasn't capable of victory.
However the ex-Formula One veteran had to give best to rookie sensation Sarah Fisher who scored the highest ever finish position for a woman in an Indy Racing event. Fisher led a lap for the first time in her short career and was the only other driver to keep pace with the leading duo in the final 30 laps of the race. At the chequered flag the 19 year old driver was a mere seven seconds behind Lazier and had the race gone just one lap longer she would've finished as the runner up. Not bad in just her eighth career start.
There were plenty of other stories during a race that saw 18 recorded lead changes (although there were countless more around the rest of the track, unseen by the scoring monitors) between ten drivers. Barring a major accident on lap three which eliminated title contenders Eliseo Salazar and Al Unser Jr and also eliminating the impressive Jeret Schroeder, the racing was very clean with only four caution periods to disrupt the action.
The early laps saw a close tussle between pole man Goodyear and the unfortunate Salazar and Schroeder which was resolved when the latter pair collided whilst going into Turn One, Unser Jr getting embroiled when Schroeder's spinning car pushed him into the outside wall as he braked in avoidance.
Goodyear led much of the first 30 tours but was challenged strongly by the young Sam Hornish in the under funded PDM Motorsports G Force who took the lead on lap 31. Hornish, who was only driving after intended pilot David Pook withdrew at the last minute, simply sailed through the field from 20th on the grid and as the race approached the half way mark he looked to have the strongest car in the race.
The battle for the lead was breathtaking at times with Hornish, Jaques Lazier, Jeff Ward, Jimmy Kite and the elder of the Lazier brothers all getting involved in some great wheel to wheel dicing. Sadly though, the immense speed at which the race was being run was too much for several of the victory contenders and as the field thinned out, the more experienced Goodyear and Lazier (B) came to the fore.