Thursday, Aug. 10, 2000 - Talk about irony: The great unknown on the 2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series schedule could produce a clear idea of which driver will win the Northern Light Cup as series champion. Eight drivers are within 55 points of series leader Buddy Lazier entering the inaugural The Belterra Resort Indy 300 on Aug. 27 at the new Kentucky Speedway. The race, the eighth of nine events on the 2000 schedule, will be televised live on ESPN.

Since a driver can earn a maximum of 55 points at a race, Lazier's lead is far from safe at this event. But Lazier could build a solid lead entering the season finale Oct. 15 at Texas Motor Speedway with a strong run at Kentucky in his Delta Faucet/Coors Light/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone.

Don't bet against it. Lazier, like the rest of the field, has never raced on the smooth, 1.5-mile oval at Kentucky. But he is coming off a runner-up finish in the Midas 500 Classic on July 15 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Lazier leads the race for the Northern Light Cup with 208 points. Eddie Cheever Jr. is second with 185, with Scott Goodyear third at 175. Scott Sharp and Eliseo Salazar are tied for fourth at 173, with Al Unser Jr. sixth at 170.

One of the major factors that has produced such a tight points race this season is the lack of a dominant team or driver. There have been seven different winners in the first seven races of the season. Just when it looks like a driver starts to roll, fate or a mechanical problem steps in, giving another driver the spotlight.

That lack of dominance by one team or driver could continue at Kentucky, as no one has a log of past race data at the facility to use for car setups. Many teams have tested on the 1.5-mile oval with its 14-degree turns, but test laps and laps in racing trim with plenty of traffic are very different.

The possibility of a first-time winner in the series also is high, based on the results of the Indy Racing Open Test on July 1-2 at Kentucky. Three young, aggressive drivers in search of their first career Indy Racing victory led the speed chart.

Rookie Sarah Fisher, 19, was No. 1 at 218.517 mph in the Walker Racing Cummins Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Rookie Sam Hornish Jr. was second at 216.881 while testing the Pennzoil Panther Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone that Goodyear will vacate at the end of the season.

Tyce Carlson was third at 216.167 mph in the Hubbard Racing Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone. Eddie Cheever Jr., who led the point standings entering the Midas 500 Classic, was fifth fastest at 216.113 in the #51 Excite@Home Indy Race Car Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone.

Ray seeks second straight victory of season at Kentucky But there's one guy who could end the string of parity at Kentucky: defending series champion Greg Ray.

Ray dominated the Midas 500 Classic last month at Atlanta, leading 182 of the 208 laps in his Conseco/Quaker State/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone for his first victory of the season.

Ray is the last driver in the series to win two consecutive races, in August 1999, and he is always fast on 1.5-mile ovals.

But Ray faces a new challenge at this event, as it will be his first at Team Menard without longtime friend and technical guru Thomas Knapp. Team Menard and team manager Knapp parted company last week, and former Team Purex/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing manager Mitch Davis was hired to replace Knapp.

Davis is no stranger to sudden success with a new team, as he helped Team Purex driver Robbie Buhl win the team's first race, the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in January.

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.

*** 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