INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Buddy Lazier and his crew spent Monday cleaning out the team’s garage and headed home.
On Sunday, nothing went Lazier’s way and he failed to qualify for a spot in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“We missed the whole day of practice, we were rained out the other day, we missed practice on Thursday,” the 1996 Indy 500 winner said. “You get a late start and you are a small effort, you are really going to be up against it.”
Lazier said an upright and an axle broke on the car and by the time he got in line for qualifying, it was nearly too late.
It’s not unfamiliar territory for Lazier, though, who has seen the highs and the lows of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The 47-year old failed to qualify in his first attempt to race in the Indy 500 back in 1989 and was bumped from the field the following year. He failed to qualify in 1993 and 1994.
Then, he won the race in 1996.
By the end of qualifying, Bryan Clauson, who drives for Jonathan Byrd’s Racing, was sitting on the edge and Lazier came in trying to bump Clauson out of the field. It’s been awhile since that happened. Ryan z’ Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner, was the last person to get bumped from the field — that was in 2011.
While Hunter-Reay said he has tried to erase that feeling from his memory, he still remembers it’s never fun to know you have to go home.
“There’s so much weight and so much pressure that you put on it,” Hunter-Reay said. “It’s the biggest race in the world. But you come to grips with it.”
Hunter-Reay ended up being lucky, though. Within 24 hours of being bumped, a deal put him in a car for A.J. Foyt.
But Lazier doesn’t have that opportunity.
And right now he and his partners are trying to build the racing team to a point where he can eventually step out of the car and have a younger driver race for the team. But Lazier is still in the process of getting the team to that point.
“My guys did a heck of a job given the very few tools we gave them to work with,” Lazier said. “It was a late start, it wasn’t funded as well as it should be. If we come back funded well, then we can threaten for the front few rows.”
That’s the goal, anyway, to make another return to Indy for another shot at winning the Indianapolis 500.
“Just not like this,” he said. “I hope so. Owner and sponsor willing.”