May 08, 2013 | By INDYCAR.com - Dave Lewandowski
Buddy Lazier To Return To Indianapolis
Another former Indianapolis 500 champion has been added to the entrant list for the 97th running May 26.
Buddy Lazier will attempt to qualify May 18-19 in the Chevrolet-powered No. 91 Lazier Partners car for Lazier Partners Racing, which is owned by former Indy 500 competitor and Buddy’s father, Bob Lazier, of Colorado.
Buddy Lazier is the 33rd driver announced and the team is the 34th entrant. He won the 1996 500 Mile Race in the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing-Delta Faucet-Montana car, leading 43 laps, after starting fifth. Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves, both with three victories, and 2008 winner Scott Dixon are the others entered who have drank the milk in Victory Circle.
In 16 starts at the Speedway, Lazier has five top-five finishes. He last qualified for the 33-car field on Bump Day in 2008 in a Hemelgarn Racing-prepared car, starting 32nd and finishing 17th.
Lazier also was the 2000 IZOD IndyCar Series champion (two victories, three second-place finishes in nine races) and 2001 runner-up to Sam Hornish Jr.
“This all happened roughly 10 days ago and we’re literally putting everything together now. Sponsors are coming by the day, but we’re all heading to Indianapolis to get it done,” said Lazier, 45, who last attempted to qualify in 2009. “When I was 19 years old I was trying to pass my rookie test in a machinist’s union car that was given to us with an all-voluntary crew. So I’ve done it where it’s last minute and I’ve been there with some of the best teams of their era.
“I have so many miles around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I feel comfortable with the racetrack. I haven’t driven this new rules package (twin-turbocharged V-6 Chevrolet engine and new chassis) but I was around with turbo-charged engines before the Indy Racing League was formed. I’m looking forward to it.
“I know the car will be fast. I just don’t know how much track time we’ll get before qualifying.”
Lazier Partners purchased from Lotus the 2012 Dallara chassis that Jean Alesi drove for Fan Force United in the Indianapolis 500. As the name states, the entrant has multiple partners, with sponsor announcements pending.
“We had a good opportunity to buy this car, which is basically brand new,” said Lazier, whose family owns and manages a ski resort. “We were sitting around with a bunch of friends who are businessmen and skiers talking about how we could buy this car, put a team together and run Indy. I come back the next day and these guys bought it. Then I had to explain that we need a run budget, we have to lease the engine, but the process continued.”
Lazier, who has logged more than 2,600 race laps on the 2.5-mile oval, served as Alesi’s driver coach for the month.
“It was thought that Buddy would have been able to get into the back-up car, but as it turns out the only guy he would have bumped would have been Jean,” said Bob Lazier, the 1981 CART Rookie of the Year who started 13th that same year in the Indy 500 (blown engine relegated him to 19th). “So that kind of fell apart, and that was a disappointment for Buddy because he was on his way back to racing.”
Lazier Partners has been in discussions with IZOD IndyCar Series teams to form a technical alliance. Dennis Lacava, longtime chief mechanic with Hemelgarn Racing, will be the crew chief and details are being worked out with a veteran race engineer, according to Bob Lazier.
“Buddy has been counting the days before he could get going again,” Bob Lazier said. “He’s worked hard, the whole family has as well, and I think we’re more thrilled than the first time we were there.”