Lazier enjoys annual challenge of Indianapolis 500

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INDIANAPOLIS -- Twenty years after his win at the Indianapolis 500, Buddy Lazier is still driven by passion to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway each year.

Lazier’s win in the 80th running of the Indianapolis 500 is best remembered for his late surge on Davy Jones with eight laps to go, as well as a triumphant comeback story since Lazier broke his back in a crash at Phoenix International Raceway just a month before the race.

Now 48, Lazier had a string of impressive stats at IMS from 1996-2000, finishing fourth, second, seventh and second in the years succeeding his ’96 victory. That challenge to succeed at the Brickyard is what drives Lazier to come back to drive each year, especially in the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil this May.

The Colorado native qualified for his 19th Indy 500 today, finishing 30th on the speed list with a run of 224.341 mph in the No. 4 Lazier/Burns Racing Chevrolet.

“It’s not the (’96) win that occupies my mind, it’s all the second places and the so-closes,” Lazier said. “I do enjoy the fact that, at this track, you are in the corner for such a long period of time. It’s very challenging for driver and machine and engineer, and I like that challenge. I like coming back and sizing myself up.

“I come here to do a job that I enjoy doing.”

This year marked a new beginning for Lazier and his family-owned team. They have partnered with Indianapolis contractor Thom Burns, who fielded Indianapolis 500 entries in the 1990s for driver Dominic Dobson. Burns’ support has been instrumental in the small-budget team’s annual run at Indianapolis.

“We’ve really enjoyed what he’s brought to the team and our team has gotten bigger as a result,” Lazier said. “He’s had his team, we’ve had ours. The two together, we’re able to make the bell, we have a really nice car and we’re trying to not make mistakes.”

The extra financial support allowed the team to obtain a full Chevrolet engine lease for this year’s Indy 500, allowing the team to participate in the entire week of practice leading to qualifying. In recent years, Lazier ran on a limited mileage engine program that made the team less competitive. He was unable to qualify for the 2015 race.

“There’s nobody doing short (engine) programs,” Lazier said. “I think I’m the only one to do short programs in the last four years and have success. I wouldn’t want to attempt it today with this field. We’re very pleased that we’re out doing what we’re doing.”

Lazier also enjoys the challenge of deciphering the strengths of the aero kits introduced last year in the Verizon IndyCar Series. It rekindled memories of cars of the past for the veteran of 157 Indy car races dating to his debut in 1990.

“I didn’t get a lot of laps last year (to learn the aero kit) because we were struggling with resources, but to me it is the best since the aero change (in 2012),” Lazier said. “You had the G-Force and the Dallara (in the past), but I like the Chevrolets and the Hondas. To me, it is very similar to the Reynards from the ‘90s.”

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