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1981 CART Rookie of the Year Bob Lazier died of COVID-19

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Bob Lazier, the 1981 CART Rookie of the Year who competed in the Indianapolis 500, died following a battle with COVID-19. Diane Lazier, Bob’s wife of 58 years, told The Vail Daily that her late husband spent 22 days at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, Colorado. He passed away from the virus at 1 p.m. this past Saturday.

“He fought a very, very valiant fight. It’s so like him,” Diane Lazier told The Vail Daily. “He’s the toughest 81-year-old you’ve ever seen.

“He had a big personality and an incredible amount of energy, full of life.”

According to the report, a county official confirmed Lazier was the seventh Eagle County, Colorado resident to die from the COVID-19 virus.

“One of the saddest parts is that the coronavirus cheats people of being with their loved ones,” Mrs. Lazier said.

His wife said one of Lazier’s nurses cried when the family was called at 1 p.m. That nurse held his hand and had moved his bed, so the sun was on his face at the time of his passing, according to the report.

The community of Vail, Colorado opened on December 15, 1962 and the Lazier’s came to the community two weeks later.

Lazier became one of Vail’s first major contractors, building 16 commercial properties in 17 years.

His real passion was auto racing. The 81-year-old Lazier competed in just one Indianapolis 500. His son, Buddy, drove to victory in the first Indianapolis 500 as part of the Indy Racing League in 1996. Another son, Jaques, also competed in CART and the IRL.

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The Minneapolis native started 13th and was credited with 19th place in the No. 35 Montgomery Ward Auto Club Penske/Cosworth, owned by Bob Fletcher, in his only Indy 500 start, in 1981. He dropped out of the race with engine failure after completing 154 laps.

That same season, Lazier was ninth in the CART standings in 1981, with best finishes of 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.

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

Bob Lazier also was a frequent and enthusiastic competitor this decade in the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”