IRL: Indy500: Joe Truscelli, Jaques Lazier committed to Indy success

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INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 26, 2000 -- How much did driver Jaques Lazier and car owner Joe Truscelli want to be in the 84th Indianapolis 500? Well, Lazier is racing again after suffering a broken back, and Truscelli has quit his position...

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, May 26, 2000 -- How much did driver Jaques Lazier and car owner Joe Truscelli want to be in the 84th Indianapolis 500? Well, Lazier is racing again after suffering a broken back, and Truscelli has quit his position as CEO of the company he founded to devote his energy entirely to his racing team. "We're definitely going to try to make it a Lazier family tradition," Lazier said with a laugh about winning at Indianapolis after suffering a back injury. In 1996, Lazier's brother, Buddy, suffered a broken back in March at Phoenix yet came back and won the Indy 500 two months later. Jaques suffered a lower-back fracture in the Delphi Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway in late January and returned two months later to qualify 22nd and finish 10th in the Vegas Indy 300. Truscelli started his Indy Racing Northern Light Series team in 1999 and used drivers Bryan Tyler, Roberto Moreno and rookies Lazier and Bobby Regester during the season. His racing shop is located in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Lazier lives in Vail so they make for an all-Colorado team. But while he ran the race team in 1999, he also served as the CEO of his EDSS firm, which designs software that integrates the healthcare industry on the Internet. But then Truscelli decided to become a full-time racer and resigned from his CEO post, keeping a seat on the board. "This is my career now," said Truscelli, who owns the Miles of Hope/Truscelli Team Racing G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car that Lazier qualified 26th Sunday at 220.675 mph. "Oh, man, this probably is the greatest challenge of my life. It's something I want to do. I came here (Indianapolis Motor Speedway) as a kid, and I'd stand at the fence and watch A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti." Lazier, 29, has spent most of his time at Indy watching his older brother, Buddy, and father, Bob, who competed in the 1981 Indy 500 when Jaques was 10. Bob Lazier has worked the past three seasons assisting his younger son to get to Indy. He did the same with Buddy 10 years ago. Jaques Lazier joined Truscelli Racing at the Longhorn 500 presented by MCI WorldCom in June 1999 after being bumped from the field in a family-owned entry in May at Indy, his first attempt at earning a spot in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." This year, the Laziers become the 17th set of brothers to have at least one "500" start. Bob Lazier and nine other fathers have had sons later qualify for the race. Entering this month, Jaques Lazier felt less pressure to qualify at Indy for the first time due to a strong finish in his comeback race at Las Vegas. "The whole key is to stay in the lead lap and then in the last 50 laps go racing," Lazier said of his strategy at Indy. "I think I'm ready. I need to fight to the finish of the race. If I can, I feel I'll be in a top spot." Making the race was an achievement for more than just the healing Lazier. It was a big victory for the crew, too. Truscelli said the team did not receive its 2000 chassis until May 17, and Lazier didn't get it on the track until the day before Pole Day. There was an immediate problem with a fuel leak that forced Lazier to miss the Pole Day morning practice. Lazier made a qualifying attempt late Saturday but had it waved off after three laps when it appeared his speed would be in the 218-mph bracket. On Sunday, he went out early and aborted the attempt on his final warm-up but returned minutes later to run two laps at 221 mph, a third at 220 and a final one at 219-plus for a creditable 220.675 average. "The crew deserves all the credit," he said. "They've worked their butts off." The excitable Truscelli called his team the "Cinderella Kids." He feels Lazier has a good chance to win the coveted Bank One Rookie of the Year Award and the accompanying $25,000 check. "I knew he'd be ready," Truscelli said. "He's a very focused individual. He's determined to do what he wants to do. It's a trait of the Lazier family." It's also a trait shared with Truscelli, born in Staten Island, N.Y. Truscelli's family moved to Rantoul, Ill., when he was young to be near his grandparents, who were teachers. A second move to Champaign, Ill., came during his freshman year of high school. He joined the Marines after graduation and served with the Navy Seals. Truscelli eventually moved to Colorado and took up driving after establishing his company. He competed in the American Indy Series and three years ago drove a turbo-charged Lola to fourth in the standings. He was named rookie of the year. "But I wanted to be a car owner," he said. "I saw the Indy Racing League as a series where it didn't take $12 million to get started. The Indy 500 still is the most famous, greatest racing spectacle in the world. There's still nothing like it." Truscelli is so intrigued by Indy that he is searching to learn whether he may be a distant relative of the noted Stutz automobile family that had a car in the 1928 Indianapolis 500 field. Stutz was Truscelli's mother's maiden name.

-IRMLS/IMS-

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Series INDYCAR