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Lazier Dominant in True Value IROC Victory

IRL drivers shine with 1-2-3 finish

JOLIET, Ill. (July 13, 2002) - Buddy Lazier dominated Saturday's True Value International Race of Champions event, leading from start to finish in the 67-lap, 100.5-mile race at Chicagoland Speedway.

It was the first career True Value IROC victory for the Indy Racing League (IRL) driver and it was also the first IROC victory by an open-wheel racer since Eddie Cheever's win at Michigan International Speedway in June of 2000.

Lazier's victory was also the first time a driver led every lap of a True Value IROC race since Mark Martin accomplished the feat at Charlotte in 1996.

"I'm still kind of in a state of shock," said Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000 IRL champion. "I still can't believe it. Every five laps I was saying a little prayer."

"Starting up front I had the feeling that it was going to be a big advantage to have clean air. I had it in the back of my mind to really hammer down hard at the beginning when I had clean air with the hope of keeping the lead. It all worked, it was beautiful. I was just so thankful to be running as well as we were running and whether I was able to maintain the pace or not I was just so happy to be running that good. I just feel real thankful."

With Lazier winning and fellow IRL drivers Al Unser Jr. and Helio Castroneves finishing second and third respectively, it gave the IRL a 1-2-3 sweep. The last time that Indy-style drivers finished in the top three at a True Value IROC race was at Talladega Speedway in 1996 when Unser, Robby Gordon and Scott Pruett claimed the first three positions.

"I guess we rock," said Castroneves, the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner.

"I think it's a testament to us," said Lazier. "A lot of the drivers like myself were down here practicing. We put in a lot of hours. All I can say is that the line I run in my IRL car was what enabled me to maintain my pace in the second half of the race."

The best finish for a stock driver was by Kevin Harvick, who is representing the NASCAR Busch Series as the 2001 champion. Harvick finished fourth and took over first place in the True Value IROC standings with 44 points. He leads Unser by five points.

"It's tough this series," said Harvick, who won the previous True Value IROC race in California. "They make the cars so even that you have to wait for the guy in front of you to make a mistake to get by them."

Tony Stewart, who came into the race as the points leader, had engine problems and retired after completing 19 laps. He is now in third place, one point behind Unser and six behind Harvick.

With one race remaining in the True Value IROC schedule - Aug. 3 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - the points have tightened to where the majority of the 12 drivers still have a mathematical chance of claiming the prestigious title.

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