It was a day of firsts Sept. 2 at Chicagoland Speedway, as Jaques Lazier earned his first career Indy Racing Northern Light Series victory in the Delphi Indy 300, and Sam Hornish Jr. clinched the Northern Light Cup as series champion with a runner-up finish. Lazier, who started from the MBNA Pole, edged Hornish to the finish line by 1.4609 seconds on the 1.5-mile oval. His average speed in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone was 172.146 mph, the third fastest in Indy Racing League history. This was just the second start with Team Menard for Lazier, who joined the team in mid-August. He earned $137,700 for the victory. "We have jelled quicker than I ever thought possible," Lazier said. "The win is dedicated to my team and to my wife, who's back home taking care of our own little baby. What an awesome day. All the thanks goes to John (Menard). John Menard, I can't thank you enough for going out on a limb and believing in me. Everything is going so well in my life -- knock on wood. I've got a baby on the way. Life is just good right now." Hornish, 22, became the youngest champion of a major-league open-wheel series in North American racing history with his ninth top-three finish in 12 starts this season in the No. 4 Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Hornish and Pennzoil Panther Racing will share a $1-million bonus at the Indy Racing Awards Ceremony on Sept. 17 at Texas Motor Speedway. Newly crowned champion Hornish leads second place Buddy Lazier, 451-385, entering the season-ending Chevy 500 on Sept. 16 at Texas Motor Speedway. 2000 Northern Light Cup champion Lazier needed to stay within 52 points or less of Hornish at this race but finished 11th in the No. 91 Tae-Bo/Coors Light/Delta Faucet Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. "The Pennzoil Panther guys, this team, man, they've been great all year in the pits," Hornish said. "It's been a great run this year. The Pennzoil Panther guys put me in an awesome car all year long. They gave me flawless cars every time when we went out there. "We may not have always been the fastest, but we always finished up toward the front. We weren't the fastest today, but we finished up front, and that's what we've been consistent at doing so far this year." Eddie Cheever Jr. finished third in the race in the #51 Cheever Indy Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, 2.6879 seconds behind winner Lazier. Jaques Lazier prevailed in a race-long battle with 2001 Indy Racing Rookie of the Year Felipe Giaffone. Lazier passed Giaffone for the lead in Turn 4 on Lap 175 and held the lead for the rest of the 200-lap race. Lazier ended up leading 116 laps. But Giaffone continued to pressure Lazier, staying within three-tenths of a second until his car faltered on Lap 194, allowing Hornish to take second. Giaffone was forced to pit with mechanical problems on Lap 198 and ended up 10th in the No. 21 Hollywood G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Robbie Buhl also had a strong race in the No. 24 Purex Dreyer & Reinbold G Force/Infiniti/Firestone, leading 32 laps before being sidelined with mechanical problems on Lap 113. Scott Sharp and Eliseo Salazar were uninjured in separate accidents in which both drivers hit the outside retaining wall.
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