Buddy Lazier gets reacclimated to Speedway after four-year hiatus

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Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion, began his refresher program Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Lazier completed 18 laps on Friday so he didn’t finish the refresher program, which required him to pass the final two phases of the Rookie Orientation Program: 15 laps at 205-209 mph and 15 laps at 210 mph-plus. His best lap of the day was 222.464 mph.

Lazier has a decorated history at the track with 16 prior starts and was one of the most successful drivers of the Indy Racing League era at the track. His last start in the race came in 2008 (qualifying picture right), and he last attempted to qualify in 2009.

He has a family effort this year, in the No. 91 Lazier Partners Racing Chevrolet, with a number of ex-Hemelgarn Racing crew members including crew chief Dennis LaCava. The car is the former Lotus test chassis fielded by Fan Force United in last year’s Indianapolis 500, where Lazier served as a driver coach for rookie Jean Alesi.

After installation laps were completed on Thursday, Lazier had his first real bit of running on Friday.

“The guys (crew) did a great job,” he said. “The car feels incredibly good. It’s always nice in the morning when it’s cool. We would have gone a lot faster, but we were just flat out of gear. We were on the rev limiter more than two-thirds of the racetrack.”

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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