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Lazier’s car hits track Thursday for first install runs

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INDIANAPOLIS – Buddy Lazier’s small, Vail, Col.-based Lazier Racing Partners team is a throwback in the modern world of the Verizon IndyCar Series for all sorts of good reasons.

In an era where extra Indianapolis programs are sorted months in advance, seeing a team that is getting crew together race week, assembling the car for a few days, and arriving at the track from a city outside the Indianapolis bubble recalls the days when shoestring efforts could make some fond memories happen at Indy.

It’s not pretty, but perhaps that’s the point.

Does Lazier have a chance of winning the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil? It’d take a series of bizarre, seismic, cataclysmic events to affect each of the other 32 cars entered in order for that to happen.

Just finishing is the first goal for Lazier, who hasn’t done so at Indianapolis since 2008. He’s had three DNFs and two DNQs in his last five attempts since.

But is it still cool to see the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion, now 49 years old, still with the passion, fitness and dedication to show up once a year and commit to running here along with his dad, Bob, and the rest of the Mitch Davis-led team in a mostly all-white car, with newly added aero kit parts? Definitely. This is the small team’s fifth straight run at Indianapolis.

The No. 44 Tivoli Lodge-Stalk It-Lazier Racing Partners entry is the longest of longshots in 2017 but they did accomplish the goal set out this week upon arriving of making it on track after a full build of a car in just three days, at the track itself. Bob Lazier hailed INDYCAR and Chevrolet’s support for making it happen.

“We wouldn’t be here without them,” the elder Lazier said.

Buddy, who is seeking to make his 20th Indianapolis 500 start, first attempted to qualify for this race in 1989.

There’s a dozen drivers who were born in 1990 or later he’ll be competing against (Josef Newgarden, Max Chilton, Alexander Rossi, Spencer Pigot, Zach Veach, Conor Daly, Carlos Munoz, Ed Jones, Sage Karam, Jack Harvey, Gabby Chaves and Sebastian Saavedra).

Lazier made it out for his first two installation laps in the final hour today and despite the adversity, limited timing and limited engine program, they went decently well.

“After our late start, today went really well,” Buddy Lazier said. “We would have liked to run more, obviously. We did two installation runs; one for the motor and one for telemetry and we are ready to go all out tomorrow. The team has obviously expanded significantly as the week has went on and we are about where we need to be right now.

“I know my way around this track, it’s my 20th start this year. I’m super appreciative to Chevrolet and all the partners on our effort that have brought us to this point. For a late start, we are in really great shape.”

If weather doesn’t significantly impact Friday running, Lazier will look to run his first representative laps of the week tomorrow.

A Rolex 24 winner whose love of Daytona began as a NASCAR fan

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Like many foreign-born drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Nick Tandy’s first trip to the United States was to Florida in wintertime.

The native of Bedford, England, though, didn’t come to race a sports car at Daytona International Speedway. He journeyed to watch stock cars at the World Center of Racing – as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500.

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“I’ve been watching racing at this place since I was 3 or 4 years old,” Tandy, 35, said a few weeks ago while back at Daytona during the Roar before the Rolex. “I’m still a huge NASCAR fan. When I was a kid, Monday mornings were for watching the stock-car racing in America. I haven’t missed a Cup race for probably 15 years.”

The Porsche driver, who will be driving the 911 RSR-19 in the GTLM class this weekend in kicking off a full 2019 season n IMSA, has carved out quite a niche in sports cars as a factory driver since 2013.

Porsche driver Nick Tandy (courtesy of IMSA).

Tandy was part of the team that won the overall title in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans, has a GTLM class victory in the 2014 Rolex 24 and 13 class wins in IMSA (including the 12 Hours of Sebring the past two years and three Petit Le Mans victories).

But he remains a major NASCAR fan at heart. After the Oct. 12, 2019 IMSA season finale, Tandy took his Porsche directly to Talladega Superspeedway, where he turned a few demonstration laps and executed a burnout before the Cup race.

“It was organized through Mr. France; he invited us,” said Tandy, referring to NASCAR CEO Jim France, who also helped spearhead the rebirth of IMSA in recent years. “It didn’t feel as banked as Daytona because it’s a lane wider and is just enormous.

“I’ve driven the oval here (at Daytona) lots and lots (in a sports car). Sometimes we have a bit of fun in testing but never 100 percent flat out.”

It’s a throwback to the start of his career, which began on his home country’s many short tracks. A loose confederation of grass-roots series on asphalt and dirt offer several points championships in race cars that resemble the Modified series (BriSCA F1 is among the most well known sanctioning body).

“There’s a big quarter-mile short oval scene in the U.K.” Tandy said. “This is what I grew up racing. Me and my brother raced stock cars and knew all about the Winston Cup long before I knew what a Formula One car looked like or even what Le Mans was. That’s my background.

“Of course in Europe, there is no professional oval racing scene. If you want to be a professional racer, you go road course racing. So that’s what I did.”

But his passion for NASCAR didn’t wane. After racing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on July 25, 2014, Tandy stayed in Indy the next two days to watch the Xfinity race and Brickyard 400 as a fan.

“I got my kids some Kyle Busch clothes,” said Tandy, who also counts himself as a fan of Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt. “Got myself a Kyle Busch hat and went and sat in the stands and watched the race.”

Now he’ll be racing this weekend against the driver has been cheering for years.

“I think it’s cool that he wants to come over here and has got the opportunity to race with us, especially after he’s just won his second championship,” Tandy said. “It gives the whole race and our side of the sport a little bit more coverage and turns out some other people who might not have noticed.

“If I see him, I’d like to shake his hand and say congratulations on a good job last season.”

The Porsche 911 that Nick Tandy will drive with Matt Campbell and Fred Makowiecki this weekend in the Rolex 24 at Daytona (Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).