The Callahan Report: Buddy Lazier Eases Pain with IRL Win at Charlotte

28 July 1997

CONCORD, N.C.: Indy Racing League star Buddy Lazier is still burdened with pain from injuries he received over a year ago in a Phoenix, AZ practice crash. Lazier broke his back in the accident. It is amazing his body can stand the extreme Gforces a driver experiences in this open wheel racing series. He can barely remain standing for a quick interview (as he grimaces in pain). He drives race cars into a corner at over 200 mph.

[ Buddy Lazier ] Buddy Lazier

The satisfaction of winning helps erase some of the pain. Buddy Lazier was prescribed a pain killer Saturday night as he won the inaugural VisionAire 500 in Charlotte, N.C. His margin of victory was a little over 3 seconds. It was the second victory of Lazier's IRL career. If victories were pain killers, his first victory was equivalent to an overdose....The Indianapolis 500 in 1996 (just two months after his back breaking crash).

This was the first time the Indy Cars had ventured into the heart of NASCAR country. Ticket sales in the weeks preceding the race were slow. On race night, walk up ticket sales jumped. The final head count was 73,000...much better than expected. The fact that NASCAR had the weekend off may have helped. In any event, the fans were not disappointed. They saw an open wheel battle typical of Saturday night racing. Only 27 of the 208 laps were run under the yellow flag.

The best battle was were it should have been. Billy Boat (driving for A.J. Foyt/Conseco) and Lazier put on a high speed passing show for the last 38 laps. Boat led for the last time on the 196th lap. Lazier led the final 11 laps of the "please remain standing" race to the finish. Boat came across the line in second place.

Billy Boat does well in the night races. He was awarded the victory at the latest IRL night time venue in Texas. The victory was taken away from Boat the next morning after a review of the scoring showed Arie Luyendyk had won the race.

Tony Stewart, the polesitter and most recent IRL winner (Colorado), had to take a quick course in sign language for Saturday's racing show. Stewart lost radio communication with his pits and was forced to run a conservative race. Stewart commented, "We had to do it with hand signals. It was kind of a helpless feeling. At that point, you're just holding on to do the best you can.

There was no spotter to tell you who was inside or outside of you. I was just hanging on for dear life."

Stewart was able to hold the series points lead with 233 over Davey Hamilton (226). Eddie Cheever is in third with 189, followed by Marco Greco, Buzz Calkins, Lazier, and Luyendyk.

VisionAire 500 Official Results:

 1.  (5) Buddy Lazier, Vail, Colo., Dallara-Olds, 208, $152,700.
 2.  (3) Billy Boat, Phoenix, G Force-Olds, 208, $103,650.
 3.  (8) Scott Goodyear, Canada, G Force-Olds, 207, $81,600.
 4. (16) Affonso Giaffone, Brazil, Dallara-Olds, 206, $64,650.
 5. (18) Kenny Brack, Sweden, G Force-Olds, 206, $37,650.
 6. (15) Eddie Cheever, Tampa, Fla., G Force-Olds, 206, $61,750.
 7.  (1) Tony Stewart, Indianapolis, G Force-Olds, 205, $83,150.
 8.  (9) Stephan Gregoire, France, G Force-Olds, 202, $23,550.
 9. (11) Marco Greco, Brazil, G Force-Olds, 202, $28,450.
10. (14) Eliseo Salazar, Chile, Dallara-Olds, 200, $47,350.
11. (21) John Paul Jr., Pompano Beach, Fla., Dallara-Olds, 198, $46,000.
12.  (6) Jim Guthrie, Albuquerque, N.M., Dallara-Olds, 197, $44,900.
13. (20) Robbie Groff, Atlanta, G Force-Olds, 189, half shaft,$43,800
14. (22) Mike Groff, Los Angeles, G Force-Olds, 176, $42,700.
15. (13) Jimmy Kite, Stockbridge, Ga., Dallara-Olds, 163, crash,$42,600.
16.  (4) Davey Hamilton, Boise, Idaho, G Force-Olds, 141, crash,$40,500.
17.  (7) Roberto Guerrero, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.Dallara-Olds, 141, crash, $40,150.
18. (23) Sam Schmidt, Las Vegas, Dallara-Olds, 114, engine,$16,300.
19. (10) Mark Dismore, Greenfield, Ind., Dallara-Olds, 97,engine, $37,200.
20. (12) Vincenzo Sospiri, Monaco, Dallara-Olds, 70, engine,$36,350.
21.  (2) Arie Luyendyk, Netherlands, G Force-Olds, 67, handling,$35,000.
22. (17) Greg Ray, Plano, Texas, Dallara-Olds, 30, electrical,$13,000.
23. (19) Jack Miller, Carmel, Ind., Dallara-Infiniti, 13,engine, $40,000.

Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel

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