Lazier Partners Racing filed an entry for the 97th Indianapolis 500, with 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Lazier listed as the driver.
The entry adds a fourth winner of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” to the potential starting field, as Lazier joins three-time winners Dario Franchitti and Helio Castroneves and 2008 winner Scott Dixon.
Lazier Partners’ entry was the 34th for this year’s race, which will breed competition for the 33 starting spots during Pole Day qualifying and Old National Armed Forces Bump Day qualifying .
“This all happened roughly 10 days ago and we’re literally putting everything together now. Sponsors are coming by the day, but we’re all heading to Indianapolis to get it done,” said Lazier, 45, who last attempted to qualify in 2009. “When I was 19 years old I was trying to pass my rookie test in a Machinists Union car that was given to us with an all-voluntary crew. So I’ve done it where it’s last minute and I’ve been there with some of the best teams of their era.
Lazier, from Vail, Colo., will drive the No. 91 Lazier Partners Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. No backup car was entered. The team owner is Lazier’s father, 1981 Indianapolis 500 veteran Bob Lazier.
2000 IZOD IndyCar Series champion Lazier last raced in the “500″ in 2008, qualifying 32nd and finishing 17th in a Hemelgarn Johnson Racing entry. He failed to qualify in 2009.
Lazier, 45, becomes the senior driver in this year’s field in age and experience. He has made 16 previous starts at Indianapolis, with five top-five finishes. Lazier produced five consecutive top-seven finishes from 1996-2000, including the victory in 1996 and runner-up finishes in 1998 and 2000.
“I have so many miles around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I feel comfortable with the racetrack,” Lazier said. I haven’t driven this new rules package (twin-turbocharged V-6 Chevrolet engine and new chassis) but I was around with turbocharged engines before the Indy Racing League was formed. I’m looking forward to it.
“I know the car will be fast. I just don’t know how much track time we’ll get before qualifying.”
Lazier Partners Racing purchased the 2012 Dallara chassis that Jean Alesi drove for Fan Force United in the Indianapolis 500. As the name states, the entrant has multiple partners, with sponsor announcements pending.
“We had a good opportunity to buy this car, which is basically brand new,” said Lazier, whose family owns and manages a ski resort. “We were sitting around with a bunch of friends who are businessmen and skiers talking about how we could buy this car, put a team together and run Indy. I come back the next day and these guys bought it. Then I had to explain that we need a run budget, we have to lease the engine, but the process continued.”
Lazier, who has logged more than 2,600 race laps on the 2.5-mile oval, served as Alesi’s driver coach for the month.
“It was thought that Buddy would have been able to get into the back-up car, but as it turns out the only guy he would have bumped would have been Jean,” said Bob Lazier, the 1981 CART Rookie of the Year who started 13th that same year in the Indy 500 (blown engine relegated him to 19th). “So that kind of fell apart, and that was a disappointment for Buddy because he was on his way back to racing.”
Lazier Partners has been in discussions with IZOD IndyCar Series teams to form a technical alliance. Dennis LaCava, longtime chief mechanic with Hemelgarn Racing, will be the crew chief and details are being worked out with a veteran race engineer, according to Bob Lazier.
“Buddy has been counting the days before he could get going again,” Bob Lazier said. “He’s worked hard, the whole family has as well, and I think we’re more thrilled than the first time we were there.”