Photo: INDYCAR

1996 Indy 500 champ Buddy Lazier motivated as ever despite generational shift

3 Comments

“Come back as a 40-something and get experience.”

Those were words uttered from IndyCar’s “power teams” to a then 20-something Buddy Lazier from 1989 through 1991, as the Vail, Col. driver made his first few cracks at running the Indianapolis 500.

Now 46, and running with his Lazier Partners Racing family-organized effort, Lazier’s still the underdog… but he’s an older, wiser and, crucially, significantly more experienced one.

He’s also got 25-plus years of witnessing how the sport has evolved, between crews, teams, driver choices and schedules.

“This series is so poised,” the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion told MotorSportsTalk. “In the sport, there’s been ebbs and flows, and people fighting each other. But I’ve never seen it as together as it is now, from a competitor’s perspective. We’ll all fight tooth and nail for an inch on track, but as a series, everyone’s pulling on the same rope. I enjoy being part of this event and this group.”

It’s one of the reasons why Lazier has come back, not just for his 2013 one-off, but for future Indianapolis 500 appearances.

Although this year’s effort was announced more than a month ago, and with a full year of preparation, Lazier admitted he isn’t where he wants to be yet with the program.

“To be honest, we did not make good use of that year,” said Lazier, who said he and the rest of his family focused on the highly rated Tivoli Lodge hotel and ski business in their hometown throughout the winter.

“We really got into our business and when winter was over, we had the plan to pick it up. We had sponsors we were growing, but we didn’t fully complete them until late in the game. There was a crew shortage, which we didn’t know. We’ve had a year, but we’re still really rushed. We’ve learned our lesson for ’15.”

source:
Lazier’s spot in Gasoline Alley. Photo: Tony DiZinno

Asked whether the condensed schedule was a reason for the shortage, Lazier responded with one word: “absolutely.” Still, for the fans, Lazier appreciates what the series is doing because it increases the exposure over a shorter time period.

But it’s more the lifestyle for crews – especially ones who live outside the sport’s home base of Indianapolis – that have been affected.

“Fans can get interested and captivated, but there is a price to pay,” he said. “This is hard on crews, and hard on families. Some of these guys, they hit the road and they’re gone for six months. It helps having the marquee event in Indy, but for those outside, it’s a challenge.”

And that’s meant that Lazier’s crew, led by new engineer David Cripps, formerly of Panther Racing, is a mix of veterans and 2013 holdovers only assembled after the dominos have fallen in the crew shortage situation.

“The crew shortage is something I’ve never experienced in 25 years,” Lazier said.

“It’s not uncommon for good mechanics to get laid off in the winter and rehired. After a while, guys get tired and choose a different industry. This offseason, I was not the only one. I called other owners, and they said, ‘Buddy, it’s not just you. Others are having the same problem.’”

It’s made staffing the cars, largely for a younger generation of drivers as at least 15 will be 30 years of age or less as of ‘500 race day, a challenge.

For Lazier, it’s a fascinating equation having moved from being the young guy – 21 at the time of his first ‘500 attempt in 1989 – to now at 46, the elder statesman on the grid.

“I’d had an impressive resume coming up, and team owners were saying, ‘It looks like you’ve done a great job, but these are half-million dollar race cars, and you’re a teenager,’” Lazier said. “So they wanted mature drivers with a lot of experience.

“Of course now I’m 40-something, with a lot of experience … and they want the young guys. Guess I’m always the opposite, but I still love this sport.”

Lazier spoke highly of the next generation, and called them all fairly gifted.

He’s also got a chance to make amends with a guy who he finished second to in the 2000 Indianapolis 500, Juan Pablo Montoya. The Colombian is back in the race for the first time since that dominant performance, but Lazier was the only one who threatened to enter his same zip code.

“I had that race. I had it won,” Lazier recalled. “I was behind him. He pitted only six or seven times; I pitted 12. We were on different strategies, but he had a flat at one point right when it went yellow. If he would have gone a lap down, it would have been my race. You always look back on decisions and what can change, but it was still a great fight and Juan’s a great driver.”

For his 2014 effort, the No. 91 Chevrolet will carry the colors of the University of Iowa’s Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research.

It’s a personal cause for Buddy, as his 12-year-old daughter Jacqueline was born with a rare eye disorder called Aniridia, which is characterized by a complete or partial absence of the colored part of the eye (the iris). Aniridia can cause reduction in visual acuity (sharpness) and increased sensitivity to light. The Aniridia, combined with glaucoma, has caused Jacqueline to lose vision in her right eye.

But the institute’s research is unparalleled in this field.

“They’re taking viruses and reengineering them as delivery system for genetic cure for rare eye diseases,” Lazier said. “It’s cutting edge, with really good people. They’ve already cured the incurable; they’re just not talking about it and instead they’re going onto the next one. And we’re gonna help promote that.”

Buddy Lazier may not be the favorite for this year’s Indianapolis 500, but as a past champion providing the sage experience and insight from 25-plus years, he’s still worth watching in his second go-‘round with the family racing business. He should begin practice this afternoon.

Urrutia takes dominant victory in Mid-Ohio Indy Lights opener

JGS_2982-L
© Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Santiago Urrutia picked up his third victory of the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season with a dominant display on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Urrutia entered the Mid-Ohio weekend trailing championship leader Ed Jones by 24 points, but managed to cut the gap back down to single figures with a peerless display.

Urrutia started the race second alongside pole-sitter Felix Serralles, but a cleaner getaway from the rolling start allowed the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to pull into the lead at the first corner.

It proved to be a lead that Urrutia would never relinquish as he worked the gap open across the rest of the race, going unchallenged en route to his third win of the season. His final advantage was 6.4 seconds.

“I’m very happy. The guys did a great job on the car,” Urrutia told IndyCar Radio after the race.

“The car was awesome, put the car on pole position for both races. It’s pretty good for the championship for me, so I’m pretty happy.”

Serralles duked for position with Andre Negrao and Dean Stoneman on the first lap, slipping behind both into fourth through Thunder Valley. Zach Veach also managed to dip past the Puerto Rican for P4 on the first lap, leaving Serralles with a mountain to climb.

Veach soaked up the pressure from Serralles before ultimately dropping back into fifth place on lap nine, his rival easing clear as he chased down Stoneman ahead.

For the final 15 laps of the race, the gap between Stoneman and Serralles rarely exceeded a second. However, the British Andretti Autosport driver managed to keep cool and retain the final podium position behind Negrao, who endured a lonely race to second to complete a one-two finish for SPM.

Veach finished fifth ahead of Jones, whose championship lead was reduced to just seven points as Urrutia also recorded the fastest lap and led the most laps, chalking up two bonus points in the process.

Zachary Claman de Melo managed to emerge victorious from a thrilling battle with Shelby Blackstock for P7, both surviving contact in the closing stages. Kyle Kaiser followed in P9 ahead of Garett Grist and Dalton Kellett, with Neil Alberico propping up the running order in P13.

Dixon to start 11th at Mid-Ohio after miscommunication (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

LEXINGTON, Ohio – After dominating most of this weekend at the Honda Indy 200, Scott Dixon will only start Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, CNBC) from 11th place on the grid following an odd and abnormal strategic mistake, and a miscommunication.

The driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who led both first and third practice, was told his time from earlier in Q2 would be enough to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six.

But that’s not quite what happened. Dixon’s generally luckless season rolled on and he will start 11th; the only upside, perhaps, is he started double that – 22nd and last – and won this race two years ago courtesy of a strategic masterstroke from Ganassi managing director Mike Hull.

“We made it on track on the new set of tires, but we waved it off,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “The team felt we’d be safe. I think it’d get faster, the rain was lightening, and they didn’t hear me. Times picked up drastically.

“The Target car has been fast all weekend. Bit of a miscommunication there. Kind of like how our season has been going.

“We’ve been hoping for (luck) for three or four races. It is what it is. We’ve put ourselves in quite a big hole, there.”

Dixon enters the weekend 83 points behind points leader Simon Pagenaud, who scored the pole position on Saturday to add insult to injury for Dixon and gain another point.

Red Bull GRC: Speed dominates in Washington, D.C.

P-20160730-00300_News
Photo: Red Bull Content Pool
Leave a comment

Scott Speed has his second consecutive win in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Saturday at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., after also winning the most recent race at MCAS New River.

The defending series champion has also closed on his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammate, Tanner Foust, who finished third in Saturday’s race.

Speed, in the No. 41 entry, got the strong launch off the line and proceeded to lead away from Bryan Herta Rallysport driver Patrik Sandell, who debuted a new Cuttwood livery on his No. 18 Ford Fiesta ST this weekend.

Meanwhile Chip Ganassi Rallycross driver Brian Deegan was third in his No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST, ahead of Speed’s teammate Foust in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle.

Foust would later get around Deegan for third but neither of them had anything for the top two drivers.

While Speed dominated, Sandell’s Washington D.C. hot streak continued and he had his third podium of the season (second at Phoenix Round 1, won Dallas Round 3).

Meanwhile a flat right rear demoted Honda Red Bull Olbsergs MSE driver Sebastian Eriksson down to P10.

The finishing order? Speed, Sandell, Foust, Deegan and the second OMSE driver, Joni Wiman.

Steve Arpin (Ganassi) was sixth – a tied season worst result – ahead of SH Rallycross/DRR returning driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

Pagenaud secures sixth pole of 2016 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

Leave a comment

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Scott Dixon had dominated the Honda Indy 200 weekend up to this point, but courtesy of another strategic backfire he does not have the pole position for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race (2 p.m. ET, CNBC) at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Instead, Simon Pagenaud has secured his sixth Verizon P1 Award of the season in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet for Team Penske, and set a new track record at the 2.258-mile road course in the process.

Dixon missed the Firestone Fast Six after the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team determined that his lap in Q2 would be good enough to make it with rain on the horizon.

It wasn’t, and Dixon fell to 11th – which opened the floodgates for the rest of the field.

Pagenaud has the pole with a new lap of 1:03.8700, albeit not the fastest lap of the weekend (Dixon had that in third practice, 1:03.7244), one of two drivers to break into the 1:03s in qualifying.

“Tricky, tricky session,” said Pagenaud, who adds another bonus point to his tally this season. Pagenaud led Power by 47 points going into the weekend.

“It was more on me really because I have been struggling a little bit with my really bad lower back. They did a lot work on me. We didn’t need to do too much on the car, more on me this weekend. We put those Firestone red tires on and again, the car was beautiful. That was an interesting qualifying. The expectation of rain, no rain. There was some drops in Q2 that made it more difficult. And there at the end I think the strategy was perfect to start Q3.”

Will Power was second at 1:03.9381 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The rest of the top six? That’s all Americans – Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal.

They’ve all made Firestone Fast Six appearances this year but it’s been relative dry spells. Pagenaud has made all eight and this was Power’s sixth.

This is the first one for Kimball (qualified second), Rahal (third) and Newgarden (fifth) since the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, although both Rahal and Newgarden were sent to the rear of the field for infractions found in post-qualifying technical inspection.

Hunter-Reay makes the Fast Six for the first time since St. Petersburg, when he qualified sixth.

In Q1, there were no major surprises but disappointment for a handful of notables. After ending third practice sixth overall, Max Chilton was only seventh in his group, and frustrated with how much the track change. Meanwhile Spencer Pigot was only 10th and Marco Andretti 11th in the session – Andretti continuing to take the blame for his season long run of poor qualifying.

Pagenaud broke Dixon’s old track record of 1:04.5814 with a lap of 1:04.2483.

That new track record lasted all of one group, with Power going 1:04.1430 and Dixon 1:04.1942 in Q1, Group 2. Rahal was third ahead of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates, James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin, and Alexander Rossi – who like the three who made the Fast Six also advanced out of Q1 for the first time since the Angie’s List Grand Prix.

Tony Kanaan was seriously frustrated after the session and refused to talk, and Sebastien Bourdais and RC Enerson were just behind in the session. Enerson, who’s had an impressive debut weekend for Dale Coyne Racing, was in the top six on his first run on Firestone reds before he made a mistake and got stuck in traffic on his second set. But 18th, four spots and 0.5 of a second clear of teammate Conor Daly, is still a solid first qualifying effort.

Q2 saw the track change as the threat of rain continued, but did not fully interrupt proceedings.

The surprise drops beyond Dixon were Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who start seventh and eighth, then the Schmidt twins in ninth and 1oth and Rossi in 12th.

Once into the Fast Six, Pagenaud edged ahead of Power to secure the top spot, ahead of the quartet of Americans.

Times are below:

MidOQuals