March 19 in Motorsports History: Buddy Lazier goes last to first at Phoenix

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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.

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Scott Dixon fastest on the second day of Indianapolis 500 practice

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Scott Dixon was fastest on the second day of Indy 500 practice Thursday, turning a lap at 226.102 mph in his No. 9 Dallara-Honda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Takuma Sato was second, followed by Marco Andretti, Conor Daly and rookie Alex Palou.

The rest of the top 10 were: Colton Herta, Charlie Kimball, James Hinchcliffe, Fernando Alonso and James Davison.

THURSDAY PRACTICE: Click here for Day 2 speeds at Indianapolis

COMBINED SPEEDS: Click here for the overall speeds from the first two days

The session had one incident as Alonso crashed with just less than an hour left in the session. The Arrow McLaren SP driver was optimistic that the car could be repaired without a backup.

Among the other notables on the speed chart Thursday: Ryan Hunter-Reay (11th); Tony Kanaan (14th); Helio Castroneves (16th); Josef Newgarden (18th); Graham Rahal (19th); Will Power (23rd); Alexander Rossi (26th) and defending race winner Simon Pagenaud (27th).

Felix Rosenqvist (24th) and rookie Dalton Kellett turned the most laps (141) around the 2.5-mile oval.

Teams mostly focused on race setup Thursday as they will receive 80 extra horsepower in the “Fast Friday” practice that will feature speeds above 230 mph for qualifying Saturday and Sunday.

The Indy 500 will take place Aug. 23; coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET on NBC with the green flag at 2:30 p.m.

HOW TO WATCH THE INDY 500 ON NBCDetails for the Aug. 23 race

DAILY INDY 500 SCHEDULEClick here for all on-track activity in August at Indy