Racing Dynasties: Andretti, Unser, Foyt … Lazier?

The Indianapolis 500 is full of racing families. 1996 checkered flag winner Buddy Lazier hopes to turn his family into one of the greats.

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Buddy LazierIt’s a warm, sunny day during practice for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. Big-name teams and drivers are making runs ahead of qualifications set to take place over the weekend.

Throughout Gasoline Alley, teams and drivers are making sure everything is perfect so they have the best possible chance to be named Indianapolis 500 champions.

However, there’s one team with a driver who can already say he’s a champion. That team is working out of one of the smallest garages. They’re one of the few single-car teams attempting to qualify for the 500.

Crew members are assembling the car as quickly as possible. Some are wearing official team polos, while others threw on whatever clothes they could find that morning. During downtime, engineers can be seen viewing data on an old laptop while eating McDonald’s hamburgers.

That group is the team of 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion and 2000 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Buddy Lazier.

Lazier, now 49, is once again the oldest driver in the field. His team, Lazier Racing, has been entering a car in the Indianapolis 500 since 2013, and has seen minimal success. Last year, the team was helped by Thom Burns and managed to see an increase in track time compared to previous years.

“We’ve really just seen ourselves chasing resources the past few years,” says Lazier of his team’s progress. “I think now, we’ve really kind of found ourselves in a good position for the future, so we’re going to take advantage of that and build.”

That future is important for not only the Lazier Racing team, but also the Lazier name.

Buddy’s son, Flinn, is not at the track this weekend. He’s back in Colorado, finishing up high school. He will, however, be at the track on race day to cheer on his father as he makes his 20th career Indianapolis 500 start.

Flinn is no stranger to racing. He has been running in a number of junior races this year, and has competed against the likes of Indy Lights driver Colton Herta in go-karts. Earlier this year, he made his first start in the Mazda Road to Indy program with the USF2000 series at Barber Motorsports Park.

“When we ran at Alabama, he had not been in that car ever before. Everyone he was racing against had a minimum of 10 days racing in those cars, so he literally went into the first practice without ever sitting in that car. I thought he did a remarkable job finishing 12th,” says Lazier of his son’s performance at Barber.

Lazier further complimented his son, adding that Flinn’s ability to learn a track he’d never been on, in a car he’d never driven, was downright impressive.

“He definitely has a lot of passion and a lot of abilities,” says Lazier.

However, as a father and as a racer, Lazier is weary of the dangers that come with auto racing.

“I’m blessed to have three generations who love auto racing: my father, myself, and my son. Ideally, I would not have chosen my son to be a race-car driver,” says Lazier, who suffered a broken back in an accident at Phoenix in 1996. “He’s just so gifted, and he’s been doing it for so long, that his progress is to be expected. I’m absolutely a proud dad.”

Buddy Lazier in 2015.

Photo by Kate Shoup

The future of the team is incredibly important to Buddy and his father, Bob. Lazier was excited to talk about the future, and the team currently has a number of partners lined up to help its effort for next year’s 500. It’s also looking forward to going full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future. Buddy expressed interest as well as hope at fielding a second car for next year’s 500.

In regard to Flinn and his progress, Buddy hopes to see his son race for the family team, but also will not rule out allowing him to drive for a bigger team.

“I think ideally, he’d want to run with the best team he can find,” Lazier says. “If our effort is a better effort, which it’s looking to be, it’ll be good to have him. It all depends on the circumstances.”

The goal for Lazier Racing is to get better. A grassroots team run out of a shop in Indianapolis by a family from Colorado emphasizes the greatness of the Indianapolis 500: Anyone with a passion and a drive to compete can come out and prove themselves to the world.

As for Buddy, he hopes the family name can become as historic as the names Unser, Foyt, and Andretti.

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