Buddy Lazier, No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Silverado, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Q: Buddy, I read somewhere that you participated in an IROC race and that was what got you interested in this kind of racing. What...
Buddy Lazier, No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Silverado, met with members of the media at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Q: Buddy, I read somewhere that you participated in an IROC race and that was what got you interested in this kind of racing. What specifically was it that grabbed your interest to come to NASCAR?
A: "Well, I have always been a fan but I made my career as an open-wheel racer. And my father was an open-wheel racer before me so it was natural for me to go that way. But I was invited to do IROC in 2000 or 2001 and it was that first year, I got to race with Earnhardt and he was real nice to me and my wife.
"In that one race I really learned a lot and (The car) was a struggle and the car was twice the amount of weight with a lot less tire. I was amazed and I believe the first time out in Daytona I got hit in the left, right, front, and back and everyone told me be aware because that is what is going to happen. But it was really a lot of fun and it's nice to be able to race like that without having to worry about hooking wheels. So I have really enjoyed it and have always been a fan and that gave me an eye-opener and it gave me just enough miles in a car with a roof.
"I actually had someone come up to me after that race and ask me if I had driven anything with a roof and I said, no. But it was really fun and by the second year of IROC I was starting to get the hang of it and actually won a race at Chicago and almost won the championship and came up second in the championship, so that gave me a little confidence.
"I tested with Billy Ballew about two years ago, maybe a little longer than two years ago. So to say I am green would be an understatement and I found that out this morning. But we're working hard to get me calibrated and the truck and me working together. It's a lot to do in one day and it's a tall order, but I came into it with my eyes wide open. I got my work cut out for me but I really enjoy it and everybody here in the Craftsman Truck Series has been real nice and helpful. Hopefully I can do a respectable job here and that can lead to some more opportunities because I really enjoy it."
Q: I would like to know your opinion on why do you think we are having such a high-caliber of open-wheel drivers coming to NASCAR. Why now?
A: "I don't know. I think everyone has a little different reasoning and I know my reasons are a little different than others, but its NASCAR. There is a lot of opportunity with the different divisions, there are a lot of seats. Its also just good hard racing and its something I have always wanted to do and I have been looking for a good opportunity for the last couple of years and now working with Billy (Ballew) for the last couple of years and I just can't thank him enough for this opportunity."
Q: Buddy, do you have plans for any other truck races this year or do you have any other NASCAR plans this year or going into next year?
A: "We're working on it. I don't have any solid plans but we have a lot of things in the works and I'd like to run as much as I can because I really enjoy it. I can't say we have any rock solid plans but we have a lot of irons in the fire trying to make things happen. So I'd like to do it."
Q: With you and Jacques Villeneuve here tonight and the long list of drivers from (Juan Pablo) Montoya to Scott Speed to J.J. Almendinger does it say how sorry state of open-wheel racing is right now between Champ Car and IRL?
A: "You know, that is a question that I have been asked a couple times and I may have gotten this opportunity because there were other open-wheel drivers coming, I am not sure but I don't know if that tipped the scales toward me, I don't know. But that is something that I would really not like to comment on because I really don't know.
"Bottom line is I want to race and I love NASCAR and I am an outsider looking in and the same thing with IROC, it's a real even playing field. There are haves and have nots in racing, there just are. But it seems to me that in the three main (NASCAR) divisions that a have not team that is rebuilding and struggling..if they get it just right they can have a great day. They are not out-classed before they get to the race track. NASCAR keeps such an even playing field and I love that and from a race car driver perspective that really gets me going knowing that if we do our job perfect, come race day, we got a shot. So if anything I believe that is real appealing to me and I would assume other drivers as well.
"Coming from anywhere entering any of the NASCAR divisions it's an even playing field and that is something as a competitor that you really appreciate."
Q: As an Indy 500 champion and someone who grew up in a family of open-wheel racers does it hurt just a little bit to see guys come back to the states from F1 and they don't even have to consider? Or you don't have to comment on that.
A:"Yeah, I mean I don't know what to say about that, I know some guys say they have been there and done that and want to move on to something different. You know, everybody wants to round their career around something different. So you know, obviously there is a lot of money with NASCAR and they have really got everything together so I can see the appeal from across the board as anybody that has got the opportunity to do it. And from my perspective its really good, hard racing and I am just thrilled that I got here and I have been trying since 2005 and really have been trying since 2000 in my IROC experience.
"I thing each person's reasoning would be a little bit different but at the end of the day its because the opportunity is there. Even if you are coming in, you know, halfway into a season or late in a season you still have a chance to drive equal equipment which is great."
Q: Buddy, your brother Jacques, is he interested in NASCAR? I know you guys have competed against each other in Indy Car as well as other forms of motorsport. Is he starting to look toward NASCAR as well?
A "Well, he seems to follow me everywhere I go, so maybe. I mean, he is a racer so he wants to be here racing like everyone else with equal equipment and have a shot. So anytime he gets close to a deal he doesn't talk and he keeps it from big brother. I think he would love to go racing in anything he can. I think he also has a lot of irons in the fire, and I think everyone knows hard to raise the kind of dollars that it takes to go racing at this level whether its open-wheel or stock car racing. But, again, I am just thrilled to be here and I can't thank Billy Ballew enough really."
Q: We talk about the open-wheel guys being successful in NASCAR but most of those guys came from big right rear tires and high horsepower sprint cars. Most of the guys that have been successful have done it that way as opposed to the formula style. What do you know from your IROC deal that tells you there is enough transfer between Formula cars and these things?
A: "I wouldn't say there is enough that I learned in IROC to tell me that there is enough that I learned (in open-wheel) to transfer, but what I learned in IROC will transfer.
"You've got a good point because a lot of the guys that have had success have come from the USAC division. And some of them just happened to make a stop in Indy Car like a Tony Stewart and some of the others. But they are so different for what it takes to go fast and at Indianapolis you take a car that might roll one-hundred thousandths of an inch and that is a lot of roll. Then you come out in these cars and you roll five or six inches.
"It feels like you are going to roll over the first time in an IROC car. The truck does feel an awful lot like an IROC cars. But you know, I have a big learning curve but having success is like anything. You get comfortable in the car and then it's about the team around you and the communication and trying to get the maximum set up on the car. But that is a good point that some of the guys who have been successful came from the USAC division and that seemed to be a big help."
Q: Buddy you had a lot of your success with Ron Hemmelgarn and some of those guys. Have you talked to Ron about this and have you talked about what it would be like to come to this? And is Ron Hemmelgarn possibly interested in converting and maybe doing some NASCAR racing?
A: "Well, I can't speak for Ron but it's kind of funny because its like a family with him and a lot of guys that I have raced with and with families you can argue and you can yell at each other. But you know, the Hemmelgarns, I raced for them for a long time and they are like family. You know luckily a lot of the team owners I drove for whether we didn't fight or if we had a fight we would walk away friends. I honestly have not talked to Ron about this and I don't know where he stands but he is a racer and if he had a program together he would go racing anything he could."
Q: You raced here in the IRL back in 2000 but that was on the old configuration. Is there anything you can compare, and I know you only had the one practice this morning but is there anything you can compare from the old configuration to the new one?
A: "You know I don't think so. It's like apples and oranges and you can tell there is more banking. It seems like the changes are really good especially for this heavy of a car and the stock car divisions.
"Without going out in the Indy Car, it would be different. And in just five years, I mean as many changes that have taken place in the Indy Cars, that is as big as anything. It's a wonderful facility and it's a great place to be. The only thing I wish is that I had more miles to get comfortable.
"You know, losing that rookie session, like Jacques Villeneuve he's a rookie like me but I know he went and tested. Losing that rookie thirty minutes hurt me, but you know we'll do the best we can and I am looking forward to it. I really am."
-credit: gm racing