1981 CART Rookie of the Year and Indy 500 starter Bob Lazier dies

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Bob Lazier, a man who competed in the Indianapolis 500 and was the father to 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier, has died.

The 81-year-old Lazier competed in just one Indianapolis 500 in 1981. Fellow first-time starter Josele Garza of Mexico City was the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 1981. Lazier started 13th and finished 19th in the No. 25 Montgomery Ward Auto Club Penske/Cosworth. Bob Fletcher was the car owner. Lazier dropped out of the race with engine failure after completing 154 laps.

Lazier’s eldest son, Buddy, drove to victory in the 1996 Indianapolis 500. That was the first year the Indy 500 was part of the Indy Racing League. Another son, Jacque, also competed in CART and the IRL.

Bobby Unser won the 1981 Indy 500 winner in his final start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That race was controversial because of a United States Auto Club (USAC) ruling. Race officials ruled Unser had passed nine cars under yellow when he left the pit lane to return to the race course. The following morning, Mario Andretti was awarded what would have been his second Indy 500 win.

Unser and team owner Roger Penske appealed, and Unser was later reinstated as the winner that October.

That same season, Lazier was ninth in the CART standings in 1981. His best finishes were fourth on the road courses at Watkins Glen and Mexico City. That strong performance earned him CART Rookie of the Year honors.

He returned to Indianapolis in 1982 but did not attempt to qualify, as he agreed with his family’s concern after Gordon Smiley’s fatal crash during the opening day of qualifying.

Lazier then focused on his work as a successful building contractor in Vail, Colorado. He started to focus on his sons’ racing careers. Buddy climbed through the SCCA ranks and raced in IMSA sports cars before competing in CART and IndyCar, with his win in 1996 at Indianapolis for Hemelgarn Racing the most noteworthy of his eight career victories.

Jaques Lazier drove to an IndyCar win in 2001 at Chicagoland Speedway while driving for Team Menard.

Bob Lazier moved from Minnesota to Vail after he and his wife, Diane, spent their honeymoon there in 1963. According to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he saw a brochure about the mountain ski resort town at a Minneapolis ski shop where Bob worked.

Lazier’s company built numerous properties in Vail, with Tivoli Lodge as his crown jewel.

Lazier started racing in the early 1970s, and he won a class title in the 1972 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road Atlanta in a Formula Vee. He also raced in Formula 5000 and the USAC Mini-Indy Series in the 1970s before climbing to Indy cars in 1981.

In recent years, Lazier stayed involved in racing as a team owner and by driving vintage race cars. He and son Buddy formed Lazier Partners Racing in 2013, with Buddy making four Indianapolis 500 starts between 2013-17 under that banner and the Lazier/Burns Racing name, both small, low-budget, one-car teams.

Bob Lazier also was a frequent and enthusiastic competitor in the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at IMS.

Lazier’s cause of death was not released.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500