Buddy Lazier is an American racing driver who has been active in different racing disciplines since 1986. He mostly competed in the open-wheel series, winning the American Indycar Series (AIS) in 1988 and Indy Racing League (IRL) in 2000. In 1996, Lazier was the winner of the Indianapolis 500 race. He retired from the full-time racing after the season of 2006 and since then he is returning only to participate in the Indy 500.
Buddy's father was also a race car driver
Buddy Lazier was born on October 31, 1967, in Vail, Colorado. Buddy's father Bob Lazier was also a race car driver and he was still active when Buddy started his racing career in 1986. He was driving Watson 82 (Chevrolet) for the Texas American Racing Team in one round of the SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Cup at St. Louis International Raceway.
In 1987, Buddy was driving March 85C (Chevrolet) in the Canadian-American Thundercars series. He won the season-opening race at Willow Springs International Raceway. Later in the season, he scored one more podium at Pueblo and finished fourth in the final championship standings.
Lazier was 1988 American Indycar Series champion
In 1988, Lazier won his first championship title in a career, dominating in the American Indycar Series (AIS). It was an open wheel racing series which was founded in 1988. It utilized used chassis and engines from the CART series and the Indy Racing League.
Buddy has won six out of seven races he entered and took the title ahead of Robby Unser. A year later, Robby Unser was a champion and Buddy finished seventh in the points.
Retirement at Daytona 24h debut
In 1989, he also debuted in the sports car racing, joining the Motorsports Marketing team at Daytona 24h. He was driving the #43 Fabcar CL FEP/002-Porsche alongside John Higgens, Lorenzo Lamas and Justus Reid in the Lights class. They retired after 395 laps due to engine failure.
Lazier returned to Daytona to participate in the 24-hour race four years later, again with Fabcar-Porsche. This time his co-drivers were Anthony Lazzaro, Chris Ivey, Mike Sheehan and Sam Shalala. They finished 7th in the Lights class.
Buddy didn't qualify in his first Indy 500 attempt
In 1989, Buddy wanted to compete at the Indianapolis 500, which was a part of the CART Indy Car World Series. He drove the #35 Lazier Racing March 87C-Cosworth DFX. After crashing during the practice, he failed to qualify for the race. He tried to qualify for one more CART Indy Car race, driving for Gary Trout Motorsports at the season-ending round at Laguna Seca Raceway, but he failed again.
In 1990, the season started with two bad qualifying attempts at Indianapolis 500 and Detriot. He was driving Hemelgarn Racing's Lola-Buick. His maiden CART Indy Car start was at the Grand Prix of Portland, where he finished 13th. Later in the season, he was slightly better, finishing 12th in Vancouver. In his maiden CART season, Lazier participated in six races, earned one point and finished 29th in the standings.
First-lap crash after maiden Indy 500 start
In 1991, Lazier participated in ten CART Indy Car races with five different teams. He finally qualified for the Indianapolis 500, driving the Lola-Buick for Hemelgarn Racing, starting 23rd and crashing out on the first lap when he tried to avoid the swerving car of Gary Bettenhausen. Lazier's best result in 1991 was the 9th place at Denver Grand Prix, driving the Lola-Cosworth for Hemelgarn Coyne Racing.
For the 1992 season, Lazier joined A.J. Watson's Leader Card Racing. He finished 14th at Indianapolis 500 and seventh at Michigan. At the end of the season, he was 19th in the points.
Three pointless seasons from 1993 to 1995
He had two bad seasons with the Leader Car Racing in 1993 in 1994. He didn't score any points. Buddy failed to qualify for Indy 500 in both years. When it comes to other races, his best result in 1993 was the 14th place at Road America while in 1994, he finished 13th at Phoenix. It's interesting to say that Lazier was driving three different cars at 1994 Indianapolis 500.
He didn't score any points in the 1995 Indy Car World Series season, in which he participated in seven races with three different teams. At Indianapolis 500, he finished 27th, driving for Team Menard.
Sensational win for Buddy at 1996 Indianapolis 500
After three bad seasons, Lazier entered the 1996 Indy Racing League with Hemelgarn Racing's Reynard-Cosworth. It was the first season of the new series. The season was finished in May and Buddy scored a surprising victory.
He initially finished in 7th place but was promoted to the 5th place after Arie Luyendyk's time was disallowed and pole sitter Scott Brayton was fatally injured during the practice. After leading 43 out of 200 laps, Lazier has won his first Indy Car race. The Indy 500 victory remained his only win in the greatest American race. In the championship standings, Lazier finished 14th.
Collecting wins and podiums in the Indy Racing League
In the 1996-1997 season of the Indy Racing League, Buddy added one more victory to his account, winning at Charlotte Motor Speedway. At Indianapolis 500, he finished fourth.
In the next two seasons with Hemelgarn Racing's #91 car (1998 and 1999), Lazier scored four podiums, including second place at the 1998 Indianapolis 500. He was beaten by Eddie Cheever.
Victorious 2000 IRL season for Buddy Lazier
And then in 2000, Buddy Lazier became the IRL champion. He opened the season with the second place at Walt Disney World and victory at Phoenix.
At the Indianapolis 500, the Riley & Scott Mk VII chassis was replaced by the Dallara IR00 for the remainder of the season. With the new car, Lazier set the fastest lap at Indianapolis 500, finishing second behind Juan Pablo Montoya. He scored one more podium at Atlanta before winning the race at Kentucky. In the season-ending Excite 500 at Texas, Lazier finished fourth, which was enough to take the title ahead of Scott Goodyear and Eddie Cheever.
2001 IRL runner-up with four wins
The season of 2001 was even better when it comes to his victories because Lazier won four times in the #91 Hemelgarn Racing's Dallara IR01-Oldsmobile. He was victorious at Pikes Peak, Richmond, Nashville and Kentucky, but it wasn't enough for another title, so he finished as a runner-up behind Sam Hornish.
The season of 2001 was also marked by Lazier's return to Daytona 24h. He was driving the Robinson Racing's #74 Riley & Scott MkIII-Judd, together with Jack Baldwin, Irv Hoerr and George Robinson. They failed to finish. In 2001, Lazier also participated in the International Race of Champions for the first time, finishing in the 9th place. In the 2002 Race of Champions, he finished second, behind Kevin Harvick.
Three more seasons with Hemelgarn Racing
Lazier stayed with Hemelgarn Racing for two more IRL seasons, scoring two podiums in 2002 and missing podiums in 2003. For the 2004 season, Hemelgarn Racing was unable to acquire the sponsorship for the entire season, leaving Lazier without a car. He only competed in the Indianapolis 500.
One more season without a full-time drive followed in 2005. He joined Panther Racing for the Indianapolis 500 (5th place) and five more races after that. In 2006, Lazier joined the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. He was planning to drive the #5 Dallara IR03-Honda for the full-time season, but he participated in eight out of fourteen races. His best result was the 12th place at Indianapolis and he finished 18th in the points.
From 2007, only Indy 500 is on Buddy's schedule
After the 2006 season, Lazier retired from the full-time racing and competed only at Indianapolis 500. In 2007, he came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Sam Schmidt Motorsports, finishing 19th. In 2008 and 2009, he was driving for Hemelgarn-Johnson Racing, with his old number 91 on the car. He finished 17th in 2008 and failed to qualify in 2009.
In 2010, Lazier was without a car after Hemelgarn Racing closed its operations. For the first time since 1988, he missed the Indianapolis 500. After that, he missed two more races in 2011 and 2012, returning to Indy 500 in 2013 with his own team, that he formed with his father Bob and partners Corbet Krause, Chris Nielsen and Jason Peters. They purchased a Dallara DW12 chassis and Buddy set the 32nd qualifying time.He retired from the race after completing 44 laps due to mechanical problems.
The #91 car is still running
The Lazier Partners Racing returned to Indianapolis in 2014 and 2015 with Buddy in the #91 car. In 2014, he started in 33rd place and completed 87 laps before retiring due to clutch problems. A year later, he didn't qualify for the race.
In 2016, Buddy made his 20th participation at Indianapolis 500, driving the #4 car for the Lazier Burns Racing. He was the 32nd qualifier. During the first parade lap, smoke started coming from his car, stemming from what was later reported to be a stuck throttle. Lazier didn't want to return to the race until roughly a quarter of the way through. He later lost the wheel and retired after 100 laps completed.
One race in the NASCAR Truck Series
Besides in the open-wheel and sports car racing, Buddy also has a little experience in the stock car racing. He participated in one race of the NASCAR Truck Series in 2007, driving for Billy Balew Motorsports at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He finished 24th, out of 36 racers.