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.”

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.