Buhl Wants To Make Stretch Run Into Victory Lane At Kentucky
Monday, Aug. 21, 2000 -- Driver Robbie Buhl concedes that the Indy Racing Northern Light Series championship is beyond reach, so he has set another goal for himself at the inaugural The Belterra Resort Indy 300 race on Aug. 27 at Kentucky Speedway.
"It would be nice to be the (season's) first two-time winner," said Buhl, driver of the Team Purex Dreyer & Reinbold Racing G Force/Infiniti/Firestone.
This will be the eighth race of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series season, and a different driver has won each of the previous races. It started with Buhl slipping by Eddie Cheever Jr. and Buddy Lazier to win the season opener, the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway, back on Jan. 29.
The winners since have been Lazier at Phoenix, Al Unser Jr. at Las Vegas, Juan Montoya in the Indianapolis 500, Scott Sharp at Texas, Cheever at Pikes Peak and Greg Ray at Atlanta.
The previous two season champions, Kenny Brack in 1998 and Ray last year, each won three times en route to the title. This year Lazier, who holds a 208-185 lead over second-place Cheever, conceivably could take the Northern Light Cup with just one victory. Scott Goodyear, third at 175, and Eliseo Salazar, tied with Sharp for fourth at 173, could sneak onto the throne without a win.
Unser is sixth at 170. Mark Dismore, also winless, is seventh with 167, and Buhl holds eighth with 161. Buhl thinks there are too many contenders in front of him to pull off a surprise victory in the championship chase. But as far as becoming the season's first multiple winner, he said, "I've got as good a chance to win as anybody."
The race at Pikes Peak in mid-June was the mountain he thought he had scaled only to have an engine failure crush his chances. He led the first 61laps and seemed to have the race in control only to drop out when engine problems struck.
"I might have won at Colorado," he said. "Not finishing realistically took me out of the championship. With as good a car as I had, it was frustrating. It's not often you have a dominating car.
"Regardless of where you are point-wise, you want to be around in the remaining races. I hope to win one of them."
A victory in The Belterra Resort Indy 300 would be a nice early birthday present for Buhl. He turns 37 six days after the race.
Looking at the statistics, there has been a real quirk in Buhl's races this season. At the Disney race, he started 22nd and won. At Las Vegas, he started 23rd and placed fifth. Those are his two worst starts and two best finishes.
Buhl started on the outside of the front row in second at Texas and Pikes Peak and finished 18th and 23rd, respectively.
"Qualifying definitely is a big part of our sport," he said. "But if you show you have a good car and don't make any mistakes, you can win from anywhere.
"I'm thinking more about winning at Kentucky and not looking back to what happened in the past. I'm worrying about the future."
Buhl, a Michigan native who now lives in Cleveland with his wife, Becky, has spent only one day testing at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway, located 30 miles south of Cincinnati. And that was in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series Open Test several weeks ago.
Still, Buhl said the team, headed by chief mechanic John O'Gara, learned enough about the track and about its tendencies to be ready to challenge for the checkered flag.
"The weather could be different, and there will be more rubber on the track," Buhl said.
"I didn't know what to expect when I went down there. It's another big, beautiful facility. I think it will make for an interesting race."
Buhl noted that Turns 1 and 2 are flatter than the turns on the other end, and the racing surface is wide everywhere.
"It places more of an emphasis on having a well-balanced car," he said.
Testing has helped Buhl gain valuable seat time since the last Northern Light Series race, the Midas 500 Classic on July 15 in Atlanta. But that's no substitute for racing.
Buhl has stayed sharp by racing in his Legends car, mostly at the Speedrome in Indianapolis. He also recently raced on a road course in Michigan and did some running in Barber-Saab car last week.
He also is keeping busy by working with his primary sponsor, Purex. He recently flew to Phoenix to participate in a national sales meeting for Purex.
"Breaks like this are strange, but next year that will not be the case," Buhl said of the 2001 schedule, which features 12 races between March and September. "This (2001 schedule) is good for us drivers, the teams and officials. It's great for the fans."
Buhl already is formulating his plan for the 2001 season with the same team, formed just last December. He hasn't done much testing this season, but he said he will test for engine manufacturer Infiniti more often next season.
But for the moment, he just wants to see the checkered flag in auto racing's "New Kentucky Home."
THE BELTERRA RESORT INDY 300 NOTEBOOK Schedule: The Belterra Resort Indy 300 starts at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 12:15 p.m. Aug. 26.
Practice sessions start at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Aug. 25, 9:30 a.m. Aug. 26 and 10 a.m. Aug. 27.
On the air: The Belterra Resort Indy 300 will be televised live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 11 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 27 on ESPN2.
ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 5 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 26.
The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 2 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27, followed by the live race broadcast at 2:30 p.m. IRRN will broadcast qualifying live at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 26.
The area IRRN affiliate is WIKT-FM 95.3, Carrollton, Ky.
The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com.
Live streaming video of all practice sessions will be available at www.LiveOnTheNet.com.
Video News Releases:Video News Releases of highlights from The Belterra Resort Indy 300 Indy Racing Northern Light Series race at Kentucky Speedway will be available on satellite Aug. 26-27. The Aug. 26 feed will include highlights and interviews from MBNA Pole qualifying that afternoon, while the Aug. 27 feed will include highlights and interviews from the race that afternoon.
Details of the Video News Releases:
Saturday, Aug. 26 (Qualifying):
·Time: 3:30-3:45 p.m. (EDT)
·Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 9, Audio 6.2/6.8
Sunday, Aug. 27 (Race):
·Time: 7-7:15 p.m. (EDT)
·Coordinates: SBS 6, Transponder 9, Audio 6.2/6.8 *** Tickets: Tickets for The Belterra Resort Indy 300 are available by calling Kentucky Speedway at (888) 652-RACE or through Tickets.com at www.tickets.com. Ticket information and a seating chart is available at www.kentuckyspeedway.com.
Media Contacts: Ron Green, Indy Racing, (317) 484-6425,
Paul Kelly, Indy Racing, (315) 673-0184,
World Wide Web:http://www.indyracing.com
Fax on Demand: (877) 797-4639