IRL: Indy500: Buddy Lazier press conference, part II

Host: Pat Sullivan Guest: Buddy Lazier Buddy, what does going back to the expanded format here, the expanded month of May do, A, to your nerves and, B, to your race car? Lazier: Well, for the race car there's no question, it's more time on...

Host:   Pat Sullivan
Guest:  Buddy Lazier

Buddy, what does going back to the expanded format here, the expanded month of May do, A, to your nerves and, B, to your race car?

Lazier: Well, for the race car there's no question, it's more time on the racetrack. It ultimately, you can focus more on your qualifying package and then you can focus more on your race package. It's kind of common sense really. I mean, if you've got a week that you have to set up your car for qualifying and the race, what are you going to focus on? You tend to focus on the race or on qualifying because you've got to worry about getting in the race and having a good starting position. Now there's two separate mindsets. You focus for a week on qualifying, for a week on the race. I think most of the race field will have better race cars as a result; and all that's going to do is make the race that much more competitive. I think it will make the race that much closer. I think there's going to be -- almost everybody is going to have a great race car because they just had that much more time to work on full tanks, full racing package. So I'm guessing it will make the race that much closer and competitive.

It seems strange to picture a two-time winner as kind of a sleeper but it really seems that not a lot of people paid attention to Arie this month. Is he really a guy that may be the one guy that you're going to have to really battle with at the end?

Lazier: Oh, sure, maybe. There's no question. I mean, there's a couple guys you just never want to count out ever. It doesn't matter if they're starting 33rd and barely made the race. They're going to be tough on race day, period; and he is certainly one of them. I don't think you can ever count out A.J. Foyt's team. I think they're going to be tough, period. I mean, I'd never, ever would want to count A.J. out. He's won in so many different decades and so many different eras in the sport. His drivers I know are going to be tough on race day. They were tough last year. But, yeah, I mean Arie is certainly, you know -- I'm not sure that neither Arie or I have really drawn a whole lot of attention during the month, but sometimes that's a good thing. We've been just kind of -- I can speak for myself anyway -- we've been working really hard, just kind of business as usual getting our work done. I suspect he and his team has been doing the same. Sullivan: We have about five more minutes because Buddy is actually a participant now in the pit stop contest. We've had a withdrawal and Buddy is going to go.

Buddy, the month is filled with expectation, anticipation, all the hoopla. You get to race day and your race is over in one or two laps, I know that happened to you in '91. Could you talk about how hard that is to be so excited and have it over in a matter of minutes?

Lazier: It's disappointing to say the least. I hadn't really thought about that in quite a while because we have had so many good runs in a row. It's devastating. I mean, when that happened for me, I was a rookie. And so that wasn't quite as bad to take, you know, but I remember being very let down. I couldn't wait, I was begging the team that I was with and trying to come up with a way to come back and test during the summer because I wanted to get back on the track that bad. So it is very disappointing and really lets you down. Especially when you feel -- sometimes you feel like you're doing everything right. You go into Turn 1 and the racetrack is blocked or, you know, there's no air. There's a lot of things that make, you know, make you feel pretty bad for yourself and bad in general if you're out in the first few laps. You know, sometimes you could go -- one thing that will get you through Turn 1 in that first lap one year, it will take something totally different the following year. So you try not to make too many plans for the race because it's a constantly changing circumstance and you just have to adapt, I think, as a driver and quickly adapt on those first two laps because everybody has got cold tires, the air is really thin and disturbed, turbulent air. It's wild. You go in, you want to give as much room as you can to slide because you're going to slide all over the place on those first few laps; and so is everybody else. Kind of defensive driving. But, still, yeah, going back to the first time I started here in my rookie year, I was out on the first lap and that was disappointing.

Buddy, do you wear the HANS device?

Lazier: I do not.

Could you discuss your reasons why you don't? And, also, after you discuss that, anything on safety -- there's been so much attention on safety this year, perhaps what you would like to see that hasn't been implemented or maybe they're moving toward that you think is a good idea for improving safety in the future?

Lazier: Well, put it this way: I feel without a doubt, I feel a hundred percent confident in the safety of the Indy Racing League. I don't think anybody or any group has ever done more that way. I mean, put it this way: You never are comfortable. It's like a perfect race car when you're out there running the fastest lap, you're never happy because you always want to go faster and you're always trying to improve. I think just from my viewpoint as a competitor, the series is always -- their number one priority is safety and they're always working to improve what is already, I think, proven to be an extremely safe race car. The reason that I don't wear the HANS device for a handful of reasons. One is they're very difficult to come by to do the testing. Right now they're so hot that it's difficult to come by enough pieces to try enough of them that I would feel comfortable with it. I also still personally don't feel -- I want to wait a little longer with it. I just wonder personally about backwards into the wall. I broke my back in 30-some-odd places going backwards into the wall. Sideways impacts -- I mean, there's no question that it does exactly what it's supposed to do when you hit head-on. But I'm not an expert in that area. The main reason I don't wear it is because I'm comfortable with where I'm at safety-wise. I know these cars are extremely safe. You know, sometimes you can overreact and maybe even make a situation worse by overreacting. So as a driver, I don't want to react too heavily to anything. I'm very comfortable. I have an awesome racing seat that was designed for me after my accident in '96, to really cradle my back. I feel very comfortable with that. So it's an individual choice. I have some friends that are using it and they're very happy with it. So it's something that I will try as the season goes on and see if it's to my liking. But as far as safety goes, I couldn't be more comfortable with what the series does. We have an awesome, awesome safety crew and staff, second to none. Second to none. Absolutely the best in the world.

Buddy, what about an interesting situation, you and your brother? Very seldom do brothers ever get to race or fathers and sons. Your thoughts on racing with Jaques this week.

Lazier: Honestly, there are a lot of brothers in racing. I think that's probably -- and I think a lot of brothers, you see a lot of it in NASCAR, you've seen a lot of it in IndyCar in the past. So there are a lot of brothers and a lot of fathers and sons. I think a big part of that is being able to share information. This is a craft, you know, and knowledge only comes the hard way, which is experience. So I think just in general I'm very proud of my brother. There's no question that the more experience that you have as a whole and you can share with one another, the better both of you will be. You know, my brother started in racing a lot later than I did; and this will be his second start, whereas this is my ninth start. He's three years younger than I am, but I can tell you I'm just proud of him. I'm proud of the job that he's done. Once he decided to go racing, he's done a good job. I've been proud of him for quite a while, you know. I think he still progresses and we haven't seen the best of him yet, but he definitely continues to make me proud. So I'm happy. I once raced with my father twice. We raced a couple of times in Can Am and in Formula Vees; and we banged wheels and we didn't talk to each other for a month. We both threw our helmets down and went our separate ways. So for that reason I'm not overly happy about racing with loved ones because there is a competitiveness there. But in terms of -- obviously, I love my brother and my whole family and I'm very proud of him. He's doing a great job.

Buddy, looking back before the IRL started, many times you were seen walking up and down the pits at CART races hoping to get a ride and you were effectively shut out, you never did get a shot. Can you talk a bit about how sweet it must be at the prospect of beating some of these guys that have come over from CART? Secondly, can you balance that with some comments on the fact that their presence means some of the good guys from the IRL aren't racing in this race?

Lazier: Yeah. That's a question we get asked a lot. Yes, I did struggle for the longest time. I think maybe that's one of the reasons that I appreciate the Indy Racing League so much; because I did, and I was a young American race driver who could not get an opportunity, who could not get a chance. We were buying our own cars, my dad and I, and we didn't have the money for it. I remember the first IndyCar I had was a three-year-old car when we got it. The only reason we got it is because it was somebody's show car and they didn't want it anymore. The same way with the motors, the motors were all junk. So basically I kept trying to break into IndyCar racing and could not do so. I mean you can't compete when you have a three-year-old race car and the way technology progresses. You have these update modifications to try to make it like the new ones, but it's just nowhere close. You're two or 300 horsepower off. That's what I love about the Indy Racing League, really; and that's why I appreciate it so much. Because you come in and maybe you are a team that doesn't have quite the dollars that the big teams have but you're competing basically with the same platform. All these cars are basically equal. So you do the right job setup-wise, you do the right job on race day, you're going to be impressive. You're going to look good. That's what's so neat about the Indy Racing League. Not only is the cost somewhat controlled, okay, but also it's an even playing field. The competition, the motors, the equipment is all basically equal or somewhat very close to equal. Not unsurmountable. It's not that you have to overcome this huge disadvantage that you're going in with. So I have a huge appreciation for it. What was the other part of your question?

Sullivan: About the teams, the other IRL teams that were not able to make the race, they were bumped out.

Lazier: There were some really good race drivers that could have been in this race; and it's not just IRL teams. Of course, I feel bad for them because we race with them every weekend. But, again, they could come back and win this race next year or the year after. So I think you feel bad no matter where anybody comes from, whether it be coming from NASCAR or anywhere. You feel bad for them because everybody is out here giving it their all and you've got to respect that. Maybe they just didn't quite have the power or didn't quite have something together. But they can come back and win the race in the future. So I feel bad for those guys.

Is there extra pleasure being able to kick the asses of some of these guys?

Lazier: You know what? There's huge pleasure when you win any race. Of course, if I win this race, I'd take -- I don't know about extra pleasure, but I'll be smiling for a long time.

Sullivan: He'll have a chance to do that. Thanks a lot, Buddy.

Lazier: Thank you.


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , A.J. Foyt