Long rumored but not officially confirmed until Thursday, the Lazier Partners Racing team will return to this year’s Indianapolis 500, with 1996 race champion Buddy Lazier driving the No. 91 University of Iowa Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research Chevrolet.
After a four-year hiatus from the track, and five from the field, Lazier returned in 2013. He’s likely going to be the oldest driver in the field at age 46 and is one of now six past ‘500 winners set to qualify for the 2014 race (Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya, Tony Kanaan, Jacques Villeneuve).
The new sponsorship is owing to wanting to raise awareness for this institute. The research center specializes in engineering cures for rare, inherited retinal diseases. In 2013, Stephen Wynn, the chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts, Limited and who suffers from a rare eye disease, committed $25 million to aid the research on the UI campus.
Jacqueline Lazier, the 12-year-old daughter of Buddy and Kara Lazier, 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.
Buddy Lazier’s father Bob said this year’s effort has had much more lead time than last year’s, which came together barely a month before the race in their hometown of Vail, Col.
“It took a monumental effort in 2013 to organize the team in such a short period of time and make the race,” the elder Lazier said. “Now, we’ve had an entire year to organize the team, and we have raised the expectations for this year’s Indianapolis 500.”