2001 Indy Racing League champion, Sam Hornish, Jr., 2000 IRL champion, Buddy Lazier, and the 1996 inaugural IRL co-champion, Scott Sharp have all accepted invitations to participate in the 2002 True Value IROC series. Hornish, Lazier, and Sharp finished first, second and third respectively, in the 2001 Indy Racing League point's standings. In only his second year of competition, Hornish, the 22-year old wonder kid, is the youngest Indy-style champion in history. Of the IRL's 13-races in 2001, he won three, placing out of the top-five only twice, and capped off his championship in Texas with an exciting win over Scott Sharp by .0188 of a second, setting a margin of victory record for the series. "I'm really excited about doing the series next year. I remember watching IROC as a kid with Al Unser, Jr., and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., battling it out on different tracks and I thought it was cool. Getting a chance to run against all the best drivers is a great challenge, because you know if you win one of those (IROC) races, you've beaten the best," said Hornish. Buddy Lazier will return for his second consecutive run at the True Value IROC crown in 2002. In 2001 he placed 3rd at Talladega, 6th at Michigan and was sidelined by accidents at Daytona and Indianapolis, finishing ninth overall. "I am very grateful for the opportunity to come back in 2002. I had a great time in the series last year and I really look forward to not being a rookie in 2002. I'm just glad we were able to finish high enough in the IRL standings to warrant another invitation. I want to thank everyone with the True Value IROC series for having me back, it's a great honor and a lot of fun," said Lazier. Lazier's battle to retain the IRL championship in 2001 was fraught with extreme highs and lows throughout the season. He collected four victories for a total of seven top-five and eight top-ten finishes, placing him second in the final point's standings. Scott Sharp placed third in the 2001 Indy Racing League point's standings. Sharp posted two wins, eight top-five and ten top-ten finishes in his bid for the 2001 Indy Racing League championship. In 2001, Sharp served as an expert commentator for the ESPN broadcasts of True Value IROC races. In 2002, Sharp will trade in his microphone for a steering wheel as a returning participant. Sharp participated in the 1994 True Value IROC series representing his second SCCA Trans-Am championship. He and was involved in an accident during the season opener at Daytona, placed 6th at Darlington, 10th at Talladega, and 11th at Michigan, finishing up 12th overall. "I'm really looking forward to racing in IROC again," said Sharp. He continued, "Last time I was also entering CART for my first year in Indy cars and that was really where my focus was. Because of that, I really didn't give IROC the attention it needed, especially since I wasn't used to driving the heavier stock cars. Being able to drive against the best of the best is a daunting challenge to begin with, let alone when you don't take advantage of all the practice or testing times. This time around I'm really excited that I'll be able to take that extra time and be able to really get acclimated with the cars, learn as much as I can, and go have fun." Sam Hornish, Jr., and Scott Sharp are expected to participate in preseason testing at Daytona International Speedway, November 12, 13 and 14. Additional driver participation from NASCAR Winston Cup, NASCAR Busch and CART will be made over the next several weeks.
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