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Lazier's title chase may dictate a careful approach

By KEVIN KELLY

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 12, 2000


Buddy Lazier will win the Indy Racing championship if he finishes 13th or better in the Excite 500 on Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

But he has a dilemma.

Does he ride out the race and try to finish in the top 13 or do nothing and keep the rhythm that has pushed him to a 38-point lead over Scott Goodyear and 41 over Eddie Cheever?

"Of those two strategies, there is validity in both of them," Lazier said. "It would be foolish to be running in the top five and take a stupid chance to overtake somebody. We have to be mature about it.

"If our car is real strong, then it's just as good and safe and strong to be running (first) as it is (11th). But the championship is the priority. Winning the championship is more important than winning the race."

In eight Indy Racing events this season, Lazier has finished out of the top 10 twice. He has two wins (Kentucky, Phoenix) and three second-place finishes (Atlanta, Indianapolis, Walt Disney World).

"It's the culmination of a lot of hard years of work," said Lazier, who drives for Hemelgarn Racing. "Not to be arrogant, but if I was the champion, I kind of feel it's where I belong."

TRUCKIN' ALONG: He has led the most laps (820) and miles (1,094.22), won the most money ($610,565), completed and run the most miles (3,962.786 and 3,992.504) and won the most races (five).

Greg Biffle has dominated the Craftsman Truck series this season.

The driver of the No. 50 Ford holds a 290-point lead over Mike Wallace in the standings with the O'Reilly 400 on Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. It is the next-to-last race this season.

"I've been driving on the defensive the past couple of races, but I really want to win the last two events," said Biffle, who finished second in the standings last season and will drive the Busch Grand National circuit next season. "These are possibly the last races I'll run in the ... truck series, so you can expect (this team) to be going for it in the O'Reilly 400."

ROLE REVERSAL: Team Green driver Dario Franchitti can relate to what teammate Paul Tracy is going through. Last year Franchitti was in the middle of the CART championship battle heading into the Indy 300 in Australia. He left leading the standings after winning the race.

Tracy is 19 points behind leader Gil de Ferran in the standings going into this year's race. He finished seventh last season at the Surfers Paradise course.

"There's no room for mistakes in these last two races of the season," said Tracy, who has two road-course wins this season.

PENALTIES: Two Winston Cup crew chiefs and six Busch Grand National crew members were penalized by NASCAR on Wednesday.

Tony Furr, crew chief for the No. 25 Chevrolet driven by Jerry Nadeau, was fined $2,000 for unapproved parts. Robbie Reiser, crew chief for the No. 17 Ford driven by Matt Kenseth, was fined $5,000 for an illegal trailing arm.

Tim Boatwright, Scotty Pease and Alan Tully, crew members for the No. 66 Busch Grand National series team, were fined $2,000 after a pit-road fight during Saturday's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Crew chief Donnie Richeson was fined $500.

Ralph D. Bryant, a crew member of the No. 35 team, was fined $1,500, and crew chief Ricky Pearson received a fine of $500.

PIT NOTES: Roush Racing hired Nathan Haseleu and Chuck Hossfeld to drive for the team's truck series teams next season. They will replace Biffle and Kurt Busch. ... Indy Racing driver Davey Hamilton will make his 43rd consecutive start in the Excite 500, landing a ride with Mid America Motorsports. ... Winston Cup rookie of the year candidate Dale Earnhardt Jr. turned 26 Tuesday.

- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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