IRL: Nashville Buddy Lazier post race interview

HOST: PAT SULLIVAN GUEST: BUDDY LAZIER Pat Sullivan: Well, ladies and gentlemen, Buddy Lazier has joined us. Just a brief statistical note or two: This is his seventh victory. That's number one all time in the series. He previously won ...

HOST:  PAT SULLIVAN

GUEST: BUDDY LAZIER

Pat Sullivan: Well, ladies and gentlemen, Buddy Lazier has joined us. Just a brief statistical note or two: This is his seventh victory. That's number one all time in the series. He previously won the Indianapolis 500 in 1996. He also won at Charlotte. In his championship year of 2000, he won at Phoenix International Raceway and Kentucky. And this year he has won three of the last four events. He picked up victories at his home track at Pikes Peak International Raceway, at Richmond and, of course, he has just won here in Nashville. So he goes into the next event, where he's a defending race winner at Kentucky, 40 points now behind Sam Hornish, Jr., and it's been quite a run for Buddy. So, Buddy, this team really seems to be really hitting on all cylinders right now.

Buddy Lazier: Yeah, I mean what a spectacular job. My Hemelgarn -- it's the Tae-Bo/Coors Light car, and they did a spectacular job. This whole weekend, you know, this track is real slippery. It's hard to get a handle on. My wife and son caught the flu at the end of last week, and I caught it. So I have had the flu the whole time. So, you know, a lot of times when the driver is not feeling too good, the team has got to really step it up because you can't maybe give as much feedback. So they really stepped up their game, and they knew I wasn't feeling right. So they had to kind of help me out and give me a really good car for the race, and they did that. I mean, I had a spectacular car, and we dialed it in all throughout the race. We spent the first 90 percent of the race adjusting sway bars, weight jacks, just about every lap to get it just right for the end, as fast as it could be at the very end of the race, and we made a lot of adjustments through the pit stops. It was just awesome at the end, but I think everybody was slipping around a lot and when the conditions get tough, and we start slipping around a lot that really is our type of racetrack. You know, that's our track. And I really wanted to run hard, because my wife has never missed a race since she has been with me, and she's at home, so I wanted her to see that on TV, and I'm sure she is all smiles, even though she's pretty sick.

Sullivan: Ron, maybe your driver ought to get sick more often, huh?

<Ropn Hemelgarfn</b>: Hey, if it works, we need the points. Yeah, I guess so. But it was fantastic. After our Thursday practice, I knew we had the winning car. We went 40 something laps, run 198, 199 laps, and the Firestone tires were phenomenal. They stayed with us the whole time. And we could run long runs with them. We just knew we had a car that could win. I told Buddy, I said, "We've got the car. We can win with this thing." There was no question in my mind. And obviously, like Buddy says, it's a little slick out there, but I think that's where Buddy's talents shine. And the crew was phenomenal. We had great pit stops, and I'm just tickled to death we're gaining on that yellow car. We're going to get that championship.

Sullivan: Questions for Ron or Buddy? Yes. I'm going to repeat the question, too.

Buddy, did you feel you guys made a good first impression on the local fans?

Sullivan: The question is whether or not there is a feeling that you made a good first impression for local fans.

Lazier: Well, I mean I sure hope so. When we came in this morning, I came in this morning from Nashville, and I couldn't believe it, how backed up traffic was. And not bad, I mean it flowed pretty good, but I knew there were people coming early. I mean usually when we come in for the drivers' meeting, that's usually a clear road. So there was a lot of people here, I mean sold out. Sold out. How about that? We have had three sellouts just about or two in a row, and I think -- you know, it just seems like everywhere we're going they're sold out. So when you have got a crowd that's on their feet, and it's a capacity crowd, that's real motivating for us as competitors, and it just makes us dig deep. And I could see them always on their feet cheering, hands in the air, and that gives me that extra bit of motivation and just when you don't know if you can dig any deeper, when you see them smiling and cheering, you dig deeper. So I sure hope so. I mean it sure seemed like everybody out there was cheering, and, you know, we're really looking forward to coming back.

Sullivan: Right here, Buddy.

Sir, we were just trying to decide if we were going to make a request for you to play your guitar there. Just your thoughts, a couple or three weeks ago everybody was pretty much handing the championship to Sammy and now you guys have really made a dent into it. You know, now you're within reaching distance like you're about to grab it now. How does it feel to climb back in and get within striking distance?

Sullivan: The question is several weeks ago it appeared that many were willing to hand the championship over to Sam and now it's within grasp of Buddy and his feelings about that.

Lazier: Well, you know, we have watched the first half of the season in amazement in what they have done. We have always known that was an awesome team. I mean you look at it, they were second in the championship last year to us, they were our biggest competitor at the end of the season, and we know they're a tough, tough team, and we know Sam is a good driver, good driver. No mistakes. I mean it's just been a brilliant first half of the season. So our feelings -- or my feelings, and I think the team's feelings as well is hey, we have just got to continue to push and, sure, statistics will tell you that you're going to -- even if it's not self-inflicted problems -- you're going to have problems. It's just sheer statistics. In motor racing, you know, over the course of a season if you have the type of a full season like they have had the first half, they're almost uncatchable, but if there is a problem, even if it isn't of their own making, we want to be the one to be able to capitalize on whatever that is. And I mean we have picked up some momentum here. I really felt it at Texas. We came home fourth, but I mean we picked up so much momentum that weekend, and we have just been carrying it. It seems like as the dog days of the summer or the dog days of the championship -- a lot of people talk about, you know, the deep days of the summer is where you win the championships, and we've certainly got a lot of momentum going into those days. So there is still a whole lot of racing left in the season, and, you know, it seemed like a long shot and now it's still going to be very difficult to catch them, but every weekend it doesn't seem to be that long. You know, we keep chipping away at it.

Sullivan: Bruce?

A follow-up to Larry Woody's question. Do you think the secret is finally out on you boys, because Richmond was bigger than expected, a sellout in KC and a sellout here?

Sullivan: The question is, is the secret out on the Indy Racing League with all the momentum we're getting?

Lazier: Absolutely, I don't think there is any question. Picking up a lot of momentum, the racing, wheel to wheel. I think I touched a couple of wheels tonight, and I'm sure a lot of other guys did, too, but clean racing. I mean, it's got to be exciting, you know. I mean it's certainly exciting from a competitor's standpoint, and I think guys are catching on, how great a show it is. And, yeah, all I have got to say is I love racing in the south. It seems like every time we come to the south, we win, so I sure do like the south.

Sullivan: Ron?

Hemelgarn: I'm just tickled to death the way the Indy Racing League has progressed. It's really out of its infancy. People don't talk about what happened between IRL and CART. It's behind us. Now they're talking about the great racing and the wheel-to-wheel racing. Every place we go to, I know just on our web site the comments we get is just unbelievable, and people look forward to us coming, and it's just building and building and building. I think that each year is going to get stronger. To see this place sold out, I'm sure that probably they wish they had a few more seats, and I'm sure next year there will be more seats. I had business in Richmond, Virginia, and that town was lit up on Indy Racing, and they all talked about it, and they were excited and more and more people are going to come back and the same thing is going to happen right here in Nashville. People are talking about it. They were talking about it at the hotel, they were talking about at the restaurants, they were talking about the Indy Racing League, and I think everybody is excited. It was a great race, and it's exciting, and Buddy puts on a heck of a show.

Buddy, could you describe the pass for the lead of Boat down in Turn 3?

Sullivan: Can you describe the pass of Boat for the lead down in Turn 3?

Lazier: I had come up on some traffic earlier when I was leading ahead and lost some momentum, and he got a run on me, and he got inside me and I wasn't going to chop down or do anything to possibly cost both of us. We both were having a great night, and then after the race had progressed and he got caught up in some traffic, got a little out of the groove, and I had a run on him, so a lot of times what comes around goes around and real good clean racing I thought between us and it was just -- I got a good run on him when he got held up in traffic. I mean, the same sort of thing that gave him the lead, I think, gave me the lead back. Although, not taking anything away from him on that restart. He was hard. He was running really good. That's what's so great about the Indy Racing League is anybody who gets it right on any given night can win, even a team that doesn't have the largest budget. You know, there is a perfect example. I mean, they were running great all weekend. They have been really big and picked up a lot of momentum. They don't have the hugest budget. It's not the smallest, but -- you know, and there they are, contenders to win. And I think that's why it's so exciting for the fans, because anybody can win. It's exciting for the competitors.

Buddy, in the -- congratulations by the way. In the fact that Sam Hornish, though not a rookie, is almost a rookie and you have been around, you have been in the championship battles, was this a signal to Sam and now do you feel as though if you put enough pressure on him you'll cause him to make mistakes and then you can carry it on through?

Sullivan: OK, the question is basically given the fact that Sam, while not a rookie, is a near rookie, if you will, and given Buddy's experience, can he put the pressure on Sam and really result in Sam making some missteps along the way?

Lazier: Well, Sam is young, but, you know, I really can't -- anybody who comes to Indy Racing League, you know, just to be given an opportunity here is a talented, talented race driver. Then you put a talented driver with a good team, talented team, and that's the mixture for success, but I really don't see him anywhere near as a rookie. I mean he ran just about the entire season last year, full season, and so he's far from a rookie. He's a sophomore and, you know, he now has gathered all the information that -- you know, that he would need. So, no, there is no question I have got a whole bunch more experience than he does, though, and that is going to pay dividends through the long haul, but at the same time, he has done a spectacular job. But I definitely wouldn't call him a rookie. I mean he had a full season under his belt last year.

Going into this race, the IRL had mandated a minimum of 12 degrees of wing angle. Do you feel you could have won with less wing angle than 12 degrees or is 12 just about the minimum you would have needed?

Sullivan: The question is about the wing angle, the fact that there is a mandated 12-degree wing angle, could he have ran with a different wing configuration.

Lazier: I'm sorry, could who?

Could you have run?

Lazier: Oh, could we have?

Yeah.

Lazier: I'm sure we could have, but I think the Series -- I mean, you know, we never question what the technical people at the Indy Racing League do. I mean it's just -- it's the same thing as any competitive racing you'll ever see. They mandate a certain aerodynamic package, and they do so given the racetrack length that we have, one, for safety and, two, for the show, because if one guy is real hooked up with a low downforce package, you want everybody to be dragging the same amount of air, and I think that's how they make the cars as close and as competitive as they are, because given the speeds that we're traveling, they mandate a certain amount of downforce, which makes it very competitive and makes all the cars so equal. I mean, if you looked in qualifying, I believe there were several positions, like a quarter of the field, separated by a couple of thousandths of a second, a couple of tenths, so I mean it's competitive. And then you put that on a racetrack for 200 laps and that's going to be a good race. I think it was.

Buddy, you're the Hank Aaron of the IRL in victories. You have got that career mark now up to seven victories. How does it feel to break a logjam?

Sullivan: How does it feel to break the logjam right now and he's referred to as the Hank Aaron in terms of victories with seven.

Lazier: It's awesome. I don't know what to tell you. I mean, you know, Dennis, my crew chief, said, "Buddy, this year we're going to get you the most victories," you know, career victories, and I just don't believe it, but I'll be danged if he hasn't gone out and got it done, they have. And, you know, it's a huge amount of pride I have for that because I just really love driving Indy cars, and I think this is just the series of the future. It's something I'm really proud to be a part of. And now, to have the best record, it's awesome.

Well, considering you've still got a lot of years ahead of you, do you see by the time you retire you might be up to 45 victories or something like that?

Lazier: I would like to think a lot more than that really. I mean, I'm 33 years old and, you know, and I got a lot of fire left, so yeah, I figure -- I sure hope I'm just entering my prime. I sure hope I have got a lot of this left. I really enjoy motor racing and especially when you've got a soldout crowd and everybody is on their feet, and it's so much fun when you have got an awesome race car and you have a fast, fast race car. You know, in racing a lot of times if you can win 10 or 15 percent of the time, you're wildly successful because there is so many competitors out there, so you wind up not winning most of the time, and so it just feels so good to win and now to have the most victories. I don't know what to tell you. It's going to take awhile to sink in. I mean it's very special, very special to me.

Sullivan: Other questions for Buddy? Have you talked to Kara?

Lazier: No, not yet?

How do you feel about sharing the podium with your brother?

Sullivan: How does he feel about sharing the podium with his brother.

Lazier: I think he did a great job. I mean I don't know what happened there on that last lap, but he did a great job. He really did. You know, I'm proud of the way he has progressed and I think every lap -- I mean every race that he runs, he distinguishes himself as his own driver and he's doing a great job. And that team is doing a great job with him and he's doing a great job with that team and, you know, obviously I raced against Sam, Sam Schmidt, and he's a great competitor and I think that the two of them work really well together.

Were you behind him when he spun in 1?

Sullivan: The question was was he behind him when he spun. I know that Jaques said that you were.

Lazier: Yes. Well, yes, I was and, you know, as I was running -- we were right behind him and then we basically -- I had made a run on him and then he came -- I don't know why, maybe he didn't see me, but he came down wildly, and I was hard on my brakes there, probably five or six laps from the end, so realizing the distance we had on second place, we didn't want to push it and so I just basically rode along behind him. If second place were going to catch us, then I would have to push it and try to get around him. I was a little surprised because a lot of times, you know, if you're right behind the leader, then you don't have to make that extra lap, and so if you're fighting on the same lap with a lot of people, that could be an advantage, but I guess he did real good. I mean I don't know what to tell you. I was racing with him a little bit in the middle part of the run and he just did a real good job. I was behind him, but I certainly was not close enough to see what happened. Somebody told me he got -- something mechanical happened, but --

Was it a close call for you is what I'm referring to.

Lazier: Oh, you mean on my victory lap? I had already taken the checkered. He had another lap to go around and complete, and so I had already backed way out.

Sullivan: I tell you, we're going to take one more, because I felt so sorry for this guy in Richmond. He won the race and he wants to celebrate, and it seemed like he was busy until half the night's over, so we will take one here.

What a trophy value. So you're going to play at the end of the year We Are the Champions with that Gibson or what?

Sullivan: Well, he said he can play this guitar, so, Buddy, we're ready for you to kick out the jams here.

Lazier: I can and I'll do that at the end of the season. You bet.

Sullivan: Well, it's a great victory. Congratulations to Buddy Lazier.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Sam Schmidt , Sam Hornis