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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.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.