IRL: Richmond: Buddy Lazier press conference, part I

Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript June 24, 2003 Buddy Lazier Part 1 of 3 K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week, Tuesday, June 24. Today, we visit with Indy Racing League IndyCar ...

Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
June 24, 2003

Buddy Lazier

Part 1 of 3

K. Johnson: We welcome everyone to the Indy Racing teleconference for this week, Tuesday, June 24. Today, we visit with Indy Racing League IndyCar Series driver Buddy Lazier.

K. Johnson: Now, we'd like to welcome Indy Car Series driver Buddy Lazier. Lazier, a native of Vail, Colorado, won the inaugural 2001 SunTrust Indy Challenge at the ¾-mile Richmond International Raceway oval and, in doing so, led a record 224 of 250 laps in his Hemelgarn Racing entry. The 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner and the 2000 IndyCar Series champion is currently tied with Scott Sharp and Sam Hornish, Jr. as the winningest drivers in IndyCar Series history with eight victories apiece. Buddy, welcome, and thanks for joining us this morning.

B. Lazier: Thanks for having me on. And, you know, before this last season, it was sort of tradition to come on this show after you won. And since we haven't won in quite a while, it's been a long time since I've been on this show. So, I was looking forward to it.

K. Johnson: Well, we're glad to have you with us. To start with, taking a look back on your season thus far, you obviously got off to a slow start, simply because the Hemelgarn team missed the season opening event at Homestead-Miami. But your past two outings have been strong. And most recently, you've had top-10 finish at Pikes Peak.

B. Lazier: Yes, absolutely. I mean, we're heading in the right direction, as a team, in terms of the driver and in an overall package. We feel that we have a pretty good handle on the race car. You know, it takes so much more than that, though. And, I know, the guys are continuing to do all their pit-stop practice. Everybody's just kind of being very patient at Hemelgarn Racing, very patient waiting for that chance to win and doing the best that we can between now and that time.

K. Johnson: You won the inaugural SunTrust Indy Challenge two years ago Richmond International Raceway and that definitely shows that you know your way around that track.

B. Lazier: It's a beautiful facility. And, it's really a neat form of racing. You can imagine when you get 20 to 24 cars on this little racetrack that really is suited for Indy-style cars. Both corners are very different, but they complement each other. Turns 1 and 2 are a little bit flat. And at the end of the corner there's a big bump. In the middle of the corner and at the end of the corner, there's a gigantic fall off of the pavement. So it makes it real tricky, you know, the way you get through the middle of the corner, because you have to be pointed in the right direction when you get off that corner so that it doesn't throw you to the wall when the racetrack falls away. Turns 3 and 4, there's a little bit of banking entering. A lot of guys can enter high. Some guys enter low. But there are two distinct entry lines and philosophies. And then there's a lot of run up out of Turn 4. The racetrack is really a fun place to run for how short it is. It's unbelievably fast. It's probably the physically most difficult event that we run this year, because of the g-forces that we're running and how fast we're getting around that racetrack in an open-wheel racecar with the downforce that we have. We're creating enormous amounts of pressure on our body, and from a physical and mental point of view. But physically, this is probably the most difficult place that we run.

K. Johnson: Now, you take that scenario you just described, the 3/4 miles and the speed at which the IndyCar Series cars operate and you throw it under the lights at night. You've really got a spectacle.

B. Lazier: Yes, and then a bunch of fans that wouldn't want to be anywhere else anywhere in the world. I mean, there's a lot of people that look forward to this one event each year. So, the fans are going crazy. I mean, the two years -- it seems to me everybody's always -- I haven't seen them sitting down once. I mean, it's a standing-in-your-seats, excitement-packed event. And, you know, when you're a competitor going to that type of event, it gets me excited. And there's a lot of us, I mean, we all had to start somewhere in racing. And it was the amateur levels. It was the kid level in go-karts and quarter-midgets. Then the amateur levels and then the beginning professional levels. And beginning professional levels of motorsports in America tend to be, you know, a Friday or Saturday night race. And this is really reminiscent of where we all came from at some point. There's nothing like a Saturday night race under the lights with a short track, where you're able to, you know, on a 1-mile oval you can get a little body English or car English and it'll pay for you to do so, to throw your race car into the corner, to toss it. But, it doesn't pay out well for you in the IndyCar Series cars. These cars, because of their aerodynamic and mechanical efficiencies, really don't like to be sideways. But, at this one racetrack that we go to, you can really toss the race car around and with trailing throttle or trailing brake or whatever the technique may be, and pitch the race car into the corner and be hard on the throttle off in a big drift. And, you can make it work for you. So it's also a unique racetrack in the IRL championship run. This is a very unique place to go.

K. Johnson: Now, changing gears just a little bit. You're a lifelong native of Colorado. You and your family, in the past year, completed building what I understand is a very impressive house up in Vail. Tell us a little bit about your new surroundings and your involvement in the design of this structure.

B. Lazier: Well, it is true. Unfortunately, it's not complete, which is a big frustration for us. And, it's really difficult when you're a racing driver to focus on anything but racing during the race season. And, I think that's been a real drawback and a lesson learned for myself. I thought I could do both. But, you know, my wife and I, we are the contractors. I mean, we're building the building ourselves. And we took a look at, for our children, this is the town that I grew up in. It's a small town. And, now that we have children, we'd like for them to grow up in the same town that I grew up in. It's really a privilege to be able to do that, to be a third-generation family in a small town. Anyway, we picked out a great lot, and we saved our money. And we bought a lot about five, six, seven years ago. And then, two years ago we started to build this piece of property. And we thought we'd be finished in a year to a year-and-a-half. But, actually, we're still probably another five or six months away from finishing it. But it really is a beautiful project. We started to build it in a certain way. And each step of the way, we just keep improving. We have these visions of grandeur. I'm much better at driving race cars than building homes, but it is a beautiful home. And because we've built it ourselves over a long period of time, I think, it's quite a bit more than what we spent doing it.

Q: As you look around an IRL paddock these days, is this about what you envisioned eight years ago or has it surpassed that?

B. Lazier: I'd say it's just about on track. I mean, there have been a lot of changes in the last year. But, certainly in terms of the quality of race teams, the competition on the racetrack and certainly the Indy Racing League, it's structure, it's organization and continuingly growing in respect in the racing community and the racing worldwide, it's just about exactly what I think what we visualized.

Q: You and I worked together on Hemelgarn Racing. I hate to say how many years ago. And we were both at the beginning of our respective careers, mine in media, yours in the Indy cars. And, I'm wondering if you realize--.

B. Lazier: I have to say, speak for yourself. I started that, but go ahead.

Q: You started way before that with other series, I understand. But, I wonder if you realize that in a sense, we can call you the elder statesman of the IRL now because you have started, if my math is right, more races than any other driver in this series. I think it's 75. And you're only 35 years old.

B. Lazier: I know it. Well, you know--.

Q: You can be the elder statesman of this series.

B. Lazier: Well, thank you for bringing that up. Put it this way, I am very honored to have been able to be able to be involved in the series and have raced in a lot of different series. And that's what makes me appreciate the Indy Racing League so much because I have had the experience of racing in a lot of other forms of racing. And it's kind of like when you've been around, you know when it's right. And the league is absolutely right. The leadership is obviously very young. I mean, you look at the management and the leadership, the ownership. Of all the other major forms of racing, you know, there are a lot of them that are really at the end of their careers because of their age, and yet the Indy Racing League has a dynamic leadership. I'm very excited about the future of the Indy Racing League. You're right, I'm 35. There's pretty much about half the field that is my age or older than myself. I mean, Kenny Brack is older than I. There's a whole lot of people. But, I think because I've been around specifically Indy-style racing for so long, folks feel as though I'm older than I am. But I really am not that. I still have quite a career left. I'm planning to make the most of that.

Q: I'd say at least two or three more Indy 500 wins, I suspect.

B. Lazier: I hope you're right.

Q: Now, any advice for other drivers? You've been extremely stable in the IRL, meaning you've been with the same team the entire time. Kenny Brack's been kind of in and out. I mean, he was in the series. He left to go to CART for a while and came back. Some other drivers have moved around to other teams. Any advice to drivers of how to stay with the same group and grow?

B. Lazier: Well, I'm not sure. I mean, I think that there's chemistry. But, there are also mentalities. I mean, the opportunity first has to be there for a driver to be with a team for that length of period. And, I think, number two is that you've got to be able to be very flexible and be able to adapt. Obviously, at the moment we're in a survival mode. We're not really in the mode where we're thriving. The economy is a difficult one right now. It's getting better every day. I mean, as we speak with sponsors and other corporate partners, the excitement level and their ability has gone up dramatically in the last like three or four months. So, I think times are getting better for motorsports. But really, it's also related to the fact that I'm with a great group of guys. Ron Hemelgarn has been able to provide that platform on an ongoing basis. And, it certainly didn't hurt that when the league started we had great success winning the Indianapolis 500 and then, you know, some years later we had great success winning the championship and winning races each year really helps the relationships to continue. Because when a driver and a team and an owner have been together for such along period of time, there's only a couple of different ways that it can go. The best way for it to go is you get to know each other better and you work on each other's strengths and weaknesses. And we all just get better together and support each other and have a unique understanding of what each other needs to perform at their highest level. Or, it can go the other direction, where things tend to go straight on. Often times, what is best for everybody is a change. And, fortunately, I'm with a bunch of guys that are friends of mine. And we continue to support each other.

Q: All right, continued success. I hope it goes well this weekend. And next time my wife and I are in Vail, you got to show us the new house.

B. Lazier: Oh, you're on.


Part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Buddy Lazier , Scott Sharp , Kenny Brack , Sam Hornis