IT'S ALL IN THE FAMILY FOR JAQUES LAZIER AT PHOENIX DEBUT By Dick Mittman indyracingleague.com PHOENIX, March 23, 1999 -- Rookie Jaques Lazier and his brother, Buddy, wear about the same size shoes. But that isn't the way Jaques...
IT'S ALL IN THE FAMILY FOR JAQUES LAZIER AT PHOENIX DEBUT
By Dick Mittman indyracingleague.com
PHOENIX, March 23, 1999 -- Rookie Jaques Lazier and his brother, Buddy, wear about the same size shoes. But that isn't the way Jaques looks at his Pep Boys Indy Racing League debut March 28 in the MCI WorldCom 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. "I've got some pretty big shoes to fill," Jaques said about being compared to his brother, winner of the 1996 Indianapolis 500. Actually, Jaques won't be filling Buddy's shoes at all, just attempting to put his driving sneakers into the race along with those worn by his older brother. But, in a way, he will be filling the shoes of his father Bob, who drove to 19th place in the 1981 Indy 500. Bob Lazier, the Vail, Colo., racing patriarch, first spent several years helping Buddy reach the pinnacle of open-wheel racing and then turned his attentions to his younger son. The father will field the Tivoli Lodge G Force/Infiniti/Goodyear car Jaques will drive. Jaques Lazier, 28, tested with ISM Racing in late February at Phoenix, preparing for his debut with his father's team. Jeff Ward and Steve Knapp, who drove for ISM, were named Bank One Rookie of the Year in the last two Indy 500s. Adding his name to that list is Jaques' primary goal. Despite the pressure that surrounds him, Lazier feels having Buddy in the same garage area and on the same racetrack with him is more of an asset than a detriment. "I don't think it's tough at all," said Lazier, a graduate of Chapman University. "I have some people who kind of expect a lot out of me because of my brother. To each his own. We'll see what happens. "It has opened doors. It's nice, because I can go to my big brother and tell him my car is doing this or that. He's always there with an open ear." And the advice Big Brother has offered? "Besides staying out of his way?" Jaques responded with a laugh. "His big advice is to get comfortable first, then look for speed." Jaques will have a special tire changer, his dad. "Anything it takes," said Bob Lazier, 60. "We're still grass-roots racers. I'd love to change a tire." Bob Lazier said it is easier working with his younger son than with Buddy, because he knows many more people than when he tried to find a team for Buddy in the early 1990s. Buddy got his first ride at Indy in 1991 in an aging car and managed to make one lap before it carried him into the Turn 1 wall. "I'm a whole bunch smarter," Bob Lazier said. "Making the race would mean he was on the road to a career he really wants. He loves racing. With Jaques, driving a race car is what he wants to do. He has the option to do other things. I'm supportive financially and emotionally." Bob and Jaques struggled for more than a year to find a team willing to provide him with a car in which he could do his rookie test. Eventually, Bob decided it would be cheaper to get a car, do the rookie test and get in a lot of testing before attempting to enter the first race. So a three-way deal was worked out with Mitch Davis, former crew chief at ISM, Bob and Jaques. He passed his Indy Racing League rookie test in January, a week before the season-opening TransWorld Diversified Services Indy 200 at Walt Disney World Speedway. Instead of rushing into that first race, the Laziers agreed with Indy Racing League Executive Director Leo Mehl and Director of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart that Jaques delay his debut until he got more practice. So Lazier turned lap after lap, putting in more than 2,000 miles of testing. Jaques now has a '98 car with an update kit. The car is entered through Colorado native Davis Robinson and was prepared in the shop at Indy that Bob built for Buddy several years ago. Ron Clark is the crew chief, and there is one other full-time employee. A group of dedicated weekend warriors will help out at the track. The Laziers have a game plan, a five-goal program. "First was to get my rookie test," Jaques said. "Second was to get in as much testing as possible and third to run Phoenix. Fourth is to get to test and pass my rookie test at Indy and then, the most important step, qualify for Indy and run for rookie of the year." Two phases are behind him. And the pressure of the other three may be less than when he first played sports as an 8-year-old. "I was a (hockey) goalie," he said. "Actually, I quit being a goalie when a puck bent my face mask and cracked my nose." At the same time he was stopping pucks with his face, he also was riding motocross. He graduated to go-karts when he was 13 and won the Colorado championship two straight years. He moved to Formula Vee at 17 and won the national championship in 1996. He drove in the American Indy Car Series in 1996 and 1997. In '96 he won or led five of seven races. Jaques joined the Indy Lights circuit also in '97. He had a sixth at Milwaukee, set the fastest official test speed there and ran the fastest race lap at St. Louis. "1998 all was trying to prepare the money and sponsorship to get into the IRL," he said. Now he's there and ready to fill those "big shoes."