Communication is the key to success at Indy 500
May 27, 2005
Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of four columns by Jaques Lazier, who will be starting 27th for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 Sunday. This is his fourth Indianapolis 500, and he will be driving the Playa del Racing Panoz/Toyota. I am looking forward to my fourth Indianapolis 500, and my Playa del Racing Toyota team has gone all out to give me the best possible car for race day. Gary Sallee and Sue Schafer are the primary team owners and founders along with Jeff Brougher and Menards Infiniti Pro Series driver Jon Herb. It is a new team, but I have known them for a long time.
When my dad, Bob Lazier, and I were just getting started in open-wheel racing, we were known as the midnight racers. At the time we were sharing a small corner of Gary Sallee’s race shop, and after Gary and his partners left for the night, my dad and I would sneak into their part of the shop to find parts for our car. Over the years Gary and I have continued to be friends, and when he decided to return to racing I was pleased to be asked to drive for them.As a small team we are at a slight disadvantage, but we have a lot of knowledge to draw upon. Mike Colliver, my engineer, is very experienced, and between the two of us, we should be able to overcome any disadvantages that we may have. Our ability to communicate is one of the keys to our success.We got off to a slow start in May, but we learned something new every time we took to the track. As a start-up team, we have been very conservative throughout the month of May. We have made a lot of progress in a short period of time, and we are starting to peak at the right time. Our synergy is coming together, too.For the 500, we know we can’t win it on the first lap. Actually our philosophy is that we don’t want to take the green flag as much as we want to take the checkered flag.A year ago, I started the race as a spotter for Robby Gordon. When it started to rain, his team told me to get ready to relieve Robby, as he needed to leave for the Nextel Cup race in Charlotte.
When I got into the car, it was the first time I had driven it. Robby is larger than I am, so they had to put padding in the cockpit to keep me from sliding around. It didn’t take me too long to get the car up to speed. At first the car didn’t want to turn for me, but after a few changes were made the car would go where I wanted it to go. It was a very different experience for me.As the race nears I won’t do anything special to prepare myself, other than to continue to work out and to keep myself mentally strong. I will do two or three 5- and 10-mile runs beforehand to keep my body limber.While working out in the weeks leading up to the race, I have been watching videotapes of previous races. The more video I watch, the better prepared I will be. Having been in the race previously, I know more about what to expect.When I walk out to the starting grid, I will not look up at the stands. If you do you will see all the people and all the colors they are wearing, which can be overwhelming. When the officials give the command to fire up the engines, you feel the butterflies in your stomach. As soon as the engine fires, relief sets in and you settle down in your office, ready for the task at hand.Prior to the race, I have taken notice of the drivers that will be around me. In particular I want to know where the rookie drivers are. There’s at least one near me, but I don’t believe he will be an issue. In those first few laps you are just trying to feel everything out. It will take a lap or two to see where we want to be. In all likelihood we should be able to run around 223 miles per hour, give or take.
You can plan any kind of strategy that you want, but your strategy goes right out the window once the green flag drops. In the opening laps I will try to be cautiously aggressive and let the race come to me. It is a long race, and you have to be patient. As long as you can keep that in mind, you should be OK. Even though our team is young we have brought in some hot shoes to change tires for us. We also have two highly qualified spotters in drivers Johnny Parsons Jr. and Mishael Abbott. Johnny will be in Turn 1 and Mishael will be in Turn 3. Actually, I don’t like to hear much from them, other than for them to tell me if a car is coming on the inside or the outside of me. My job is to race the car, and the less I hear from them the better off I will be.As for the other drivers in the race, I know most of them and have raced against them previously. I will run with anyone who I feel is at the same level as I am. Even though my brother Buddy is on the track, I really am not looking to race with him, as I have my own program to follow.My confidence for race day is very high. I am looking forward to having a great race.Vail, Colorado