Jaques Lazier won his first career Indy Racing Northern Light Series race in a thrilling Delphi Indy 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway but it was Sam Hornish Jr and the Panther Racing team who were really celebrating as Hornish clinched the 2001 IRNLS title with a fighting second place.

Sunday's Delphi Indy 300 at the 1.5-mile Chicagoland Speedway was another truly classic motor race with red hot racing for the lead from start to finish, a new race winner and the youngest ever American open-wheel Champion crowned in front of a near sold out crowd.

In just his second start for Team Menard, pole sitter Jaques Lazier swept to victory following a series of race long duels at the head of the field that marked out this race as one of the best ever in IRNLS history.

Any one of ten cars could have won Sunday's 200 lap race but after the outstanding Felipe Giaffone blew an engine with just three laps remaining while lying a very close second to Lazier, the younger brother of 2000 series Champ Buddy Lazier was left with a clear run to the flag.

Sealing the Championship in fine style at 21 years and two months of age exactly was Panther Racing's Sam Hornish Jr who provided the crowd with numerous breathtaking passing moves throughout the race despite having the Championship in his hand for the last 100 laps.

He elder Lazier, the only driver capable of halting Hornish's title charge, was part of a thrilling seven car dice for the lead in the opening laps in his Hemelgarn Racing Dallara-Aurora. However during the second round of green flag pit-stops on lap 85 Buddy felt that there was something wrong with his car as he left pit road and was forced to make another costly stop to have a wheel nut tightened. The extra stop cost Lazier two laps and the 2001 IRNLS title.

Lazier plugged on but could finish no higher than 11th.

Rounding out the top three on the day was Eddie Cheever while Jeff Ward and Donnie Beechler were the only two other drivers to go the full distance.

Scott Sharp was typically strong until a sudden failure in the right rear of his Kelley Racing Dallara sent him into the turn two wall in a crash eerily familiar to the one that eliminated him at Kansas while Mark Dismore in the second Kelley Racing machine had moved into third position with 40 laps to go when he collided with fourth place Eliseo Salazar on the back straight and eliminated both drivers. Afterwards both laid the blame with each other.

Robbie Buhl was also a likely contender for the win and was leading the race at the half way point when his Infiniti engine developed a problem that quickly led to his retirement.

The attrition amongst the leading contenders meant sixth place fell to Richie Hearn giving him two top ten results in two starts for Sam Schmidt this year while rookie Laurent Redon gave Conquest Racing an outstanding debut race by finishing seventh. Al Unser Jr could not repeat last Sunday's win And came in eighth while Giaffone was a disconsolate tenth behind Buzz Calkins.

Ricky Treadway got himself into some hot water by failing to use his mirrors but finished the day safely in 14th while Jon Herb brought the week old Racing Professionals team their first race finish with 15th position. Chris Menninga suffered mechanical problems but still recorded his first IRNLS finish with 16th place, eight laps down.

 

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