Buddy Lazier | VailDaily.com

Buddy Lazier

Caramie Schnell

Buddy Lazier’s current home, in the top floor of a building his father built, is filled with an odd assortment of toys and race memorabilia a testament to two of his most beloved things, his family and his career as a racecar driver.A giant picture of Buddy’s triumphant 1996 Indianapolis 500 win frames the first wall you see when you enter his home. In the photo the shining Borg-Warner Trophy stands behind him; his wife Kara sits to his left holding her husbands helmet; his victorious team surrounds him.”The first time I raced the Indy I was taken out on the first lap and was dead last. I’ve gone from dead last to first and have been runner-up twice. It’s amazing how with second place, no one remembers. The victory is what everyone remembers,” Buddy says.Racing is in the blood when it comes to the Laziers. Buddy’s father Bob raced cars in his younger years and raced at Indy in 1981, capturing the title of “Rookie of the Year” for the series. Buddy’s brother Jacque started racing cars the same year Buddy won at Indy 500. They’ve raced together at the Brickyard a few different times now, both with Vail advertised as their hometown just after their names.Buddy won the Indy 500 eight years ago, in 1996. Just two months prior to that win, he broke his back during a practice run in Phoenix. The rear-wing of his racecar broke off as he went into turn one throwing the car into 180-degree spin. The doctors likened all the fractures in his back to the cracks in a hard-boiled eggshell.”Five weeks after breaking my back, I traveled to Indy on crutches to practice and by race time I was strong enough to race,” says Buddy.That month of May was truly magnificent, Buddy says. He not only won the Indy 500, the most coveted race in motor sports, but he also became engaged to Kara, his wife of eight years and the mother of his two children, Flinn, now 5 and Jacqueline, 2.”I went from being laid up in a hospital bed, not knowing if I’d ever race again, to accomplishing one of my biggest goals.”If Buddy races in the Indy 500 this year (as of press time he had yet to secure a car), it will be his 12th time running in the race. Last year he came in 21st place. He’s run the gamut with race-day results; since his glory day in ’96 he’s come in second place twice, one time a mere two seconds behind the winner. And so it goes.It’s clear that Buddy delights in being able to live in the same town he grew up in, to raise his kids in the same valley that saw his first steps.”I’m proud to be a Vail native, born and raised here. I’m proud to be able to raise my kids here; that’s what we work for, to allow them the same privilege we had. It’s difficult to spend your whole life in Vail and make it. I’m fortunate to be able to do what I love to do–drive race cars, and live where I think it’s heaven on earth,” says Buddy.In fact, Buddy wasn’t born here, not exactly, anyway. The valley didn’t have a proper obstetrics ward back in 1968, the year Buddy was born. He met the world at the top of Loveland Pass; shortly after his father Bob blew the engine in their Corvette racing up the pass.”After they blew the engine they had no choice but to hitchhike. On a stroke of luck they got picked up by an OB nurse and her husband,” Buddy says with a smile.”My dad still kids me to this day about owing him money for that engine,” he says, a grin framing his face.Bob and Diane Lazier, Buddy’s parents, came to Vail on the last day of 1962 two weeks after they opened the lifts at Vail for the first time, according to Bob.”They wound up working at the only place in town, the Vail Village Inn. My father was a bartender; my mother was a waitress. Their car had broken down coming over Vail Pass and they stayedthose passes, they’re fate.”Buddy spent his childhood here in Vail, spending more powder days on Vail Mountain than he can count, living on the top floor of both the Sonnenalp Lodge and the Tivoli, buildings his father, a major building contractor, built. He also skied for Ski Club Vail, which Buddy says prepared him for a life of traveling. For the past 15 years Buddy says that he’s spent between 150 and 200 days on the road. Next year his son will start skiing for the Club as well, now referred to as Ski and Snowboard Club Vail.Buddy started going to Vail Mountain School back when the school was in its fledgling years at the Meadow Mountain campus. His father helped build VMS at its East-Vail location, which opened in 1980.Next year, Buddy’s son Flinn will be starting his educational career under Headmaster Peter Abuisi, the same man that tutored his father at a young age, this time at an entirely revamped VMS.”Things have really come full circle; it’s incredible to see (my own childhood) all over again,” says Buddy.The Tivoli is now in the process of being torn down and rebuilt from the ground up and Buddy admits that it’s difficult to see his childhood home, the background for so many memories, be torn down.”It’s hard to see buildings that I love, that when I was a kid I never imagined would be antiquated in my lifetime, be torn down. I don’t feel that old,” says Buddy.However painful, Buddy is quick to assert that in order to stay on top, Vail has to keep developing and modernizing, bringing business to the town and holding to its world-class standards.The Tivoli will be just that, according to Bob Lazier, Buddy’s father.”We’re starting with a brand-new sheet of paper, it’ll be a brand new hotel. We’re putting in underground parking, the rooms will be one-and-a-half times the size they were previously, complete with nine-foot ceilings, and the bathrooms will be much larger,” says Bob.The Tivoli is one of the first of the major buildings to begin its revitalization for the new Dawn of Vail project, as it’s known. Just as Buddy and Kara are finishing up their new home, Bob and Diane have started their new project.”My wife and I have been building our dream home behind the Cascade Club for the past two-and-a-half years, and now, just when we’re getting close to being done (completion is slated for this summer), my parents have begun rebuilding the Tivoli. We’re in a constant state of construction.”Many locals are holding their breath for the Lazier brothers, hoping to see them race at the Indy 500 May 30. Although neither has a car secured to race at the moment, their father still has hope.”I’m very optimistic for both Jacque and Buddy,” says Bob, “they’ll most likely be second-week qualifiers.”Buddy is ready to feel a win again, ready to bring another trophy back to Vail.”We love this valley so much, it’s home, we love the people. We’ve had so much support for racing. At the end of the day it’s a very small town and we all tend to get along more than not. People really look out for one another, it’s neat. It’s always been special to have Vail as my hometown.”

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