INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2001 - Jaques Lazier has replaced 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray as the driver for Team Menard in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, team owner John Menard confirmed Aug. 16. Lazier, 30, from Vail, Colo.,...
INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2001 - Jaques Lazier has replaced 1999 Indy Racing champion Greg Ray as the driver for Team Menard in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, team owner John Menard confirmed Aug. 16. Lazier, 30, from Vail, Colo., will make his first start in the No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone at the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 26 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. Team Menard made the official entry change at noon (EDT) Aug. 16.
Ray, 35, from Plano, Texas, joined Team Menard in 1999 with immediate success. He earned the first three victories of his career and the Indy Racing championship with the team that season. Ray also won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 with Team Menard in 2000 and started on the front row at Indy in each of his three seasons with the team.
Team Menard and Ray endured tough seasons in 2000 and this year. Ray earned one victory, at Atlanta, and finished 13th in the Indy Racing Northern Light standings in 2000. This year, Ray won again at Atlanta and is 13th in the Northern Light Cup point standings after 10 races. "I wish Greg Ray well," Menard said. "I have the highest regard for him, but the chemistry of the team just wasn't working out."
Ray made 29 starts with Team Menard, more than any other driver in the team's history. He recorded all five of his career victories with the team, all of his league-record 13 poles and nine top-10 finishes. Lazier, younger brother of 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2000 Northern Light Series champion Buddy Lazier, comes to Team Menard from Sam Schmidt Motorsports. Jaques Lazier made four consecutive starts since joining the Schmidt team in late June for the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond, Va.
He earned the MBNA Pole at Richmond in his first start with the team and finished a career-best third in the Harrah's Indy 200 on July 21 at Nashville, Tenn. Lazier started the Indianapolis 500, Casino Magic 500 at Texas and the Radisson Indy 200 at Pikes Peak for TeamXtreme Racing before joining Schmidt's team.
Lazier has 22 career Indy Racing starts since his debut in March 1999 at Phoenix. He has nine career top-10 finishes.
"I think it's an awesome reflection on the quality and talent of our race team," team owner Sam Schmidt said. "We took a driver that wasn't even on John Menard's radar map and put him in a position to replace a championship driver. I am not pleased with John Menard, and I am disappointed in Jaques.
"As for St. Louis, we will pick up the pieces again and go on."
Schmidt has scheduled an Indy Racing League rookie test Aug. 17 at Gateway International Raceway for 1999 Toyota Atlantic champion Anthony Lazzaro.