Twenty years ago today, an impressive IndyCar comeback took place at Phoenix Raceway.
Starting from the 26th and final starting position, Buddy Lazier did not appear to be a major contender in the 2000 race at the Arizona oval.
But over the course of the 200-lap event, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion climbed his way through the field and took the lead for the first time on Lap 151.
Lazier then made his final pit stop on Lap 155 and surrendered the lead to Robbie Buhl, however, he regained the lead when Buhl had to pit on Lap 161.
The caution flag would wave one lap later because of debris on the track. On the ensuing restart on Lap 167, Lazier held off Scott Goodyear and went on to win by a margin of 4.191 seconds. The victory was Lazier’s first since Charlotte in July of 1997.
At the time, Lazier’s victory was the farthest back a winning driver had started in an IndyCar race.
Lazier was forced to start from the rear of the field after his Hemelgarn Racing team made the decision to switch to their backup car after a poor qualifying result of 24th.
“My guys did an awesome job. We (had) never driven this car before today,” Lazier told ABC Sports’ Jack Arute following his victory. “We rolled it out of the truck, and the guys put it together. Just an awesome performance by my team.”
Lazier’s victory was also the sole victory for a Riley & Scott in IndyCar. The Hemelgarn team switched to a Dallara chassis at Indy, and the company withdrew from IndyCar competition following the conclusion of the season.
Lazier went on to win one more race in the 2000 IRL season, coming in August at Kentucky. He won the 2000 championship by 12 points over Goodyear.