Buddy Lazier

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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