Vail Mountain School senior Flinn Lazier follows the family tire tracks
May 15, 2017
VAIL — Robert Flinn Lazier graduates Vail Mountain School on Friday evening, May 26. He will not frolic following commencement. OK, maybe a little.
But moments after the mortarboards fly, so will he. Flinn will jump on a plane and fly to Indianapolis to help his dad, Buddy, and grandfather, Bob, compete in this year's Indianapolis 500.
"We'll make it in time for the parade," Flinn said. The parade is Saturday. The race is Sunday, May 28.
Some year — probably not this year but likely some future year — he'd like to race in the 500 against Buddy.
It's possible, Flinn said, because Buddy is manic about diet and fitness. Flinn is, too, or as much as an 18-year-old needs to be.
Money fuels racing success
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"Money has to be involved. It's half the sport," Flinn said.
Cars cost around $150,000 to buy. Racing costs around $35,000 per weekend, Flinn said.
Where and how to get it is the subject of Flinn's VMS senior project.
VMS seniors get to forego a couple of core classes if they do a senior project. It can be something they want to do for a living, or simply something wonderful to learn. Either way, it needs to be something they're passionate about, because they have to live with it for months.
"We didn't want him playing school. He had to make it mean something," said Jeremy Thelen, Flinn's VMS faculty advisor for the project.
Flinn did an in-depth study of the racing business, designing and implementing a marketing plan to raise Lazier Racing's profile.
He redesigned the team logo to represent Lazier Racing's three pillars: Bob, Buddy and Flinn. They're adding an apparel line and expanding their social media profile. He's learning video editing, website design, marketing, brand building, maximizing social media … he'll use them all.
"For me, this will carry on much longer than high school, possibly for the rest of my life," Flinn said.
Flinn is headed to the University of Denver this fall to study this very thing and follow in his father and grandfather's tire tracks. Buddy graduated from Curry College in Boston, where he designed his own college major around his racing career. That makes Buddy one of the only people with a job in his college field. In fact, Buddy missed his college graduation because he was racing. ABC Sports filmed it for him.
Mother knows best
Flinn's mom, Kara, put her beloved son behind the wheel of his first race car. Kara loaded Flinn in the family sedan and drove him to the Front Range to learn to drive go-karts. Flinn's grandmother rode along, and eventually Buddy couldn't stay away.
Watch some Lazier family video, and you'll see Flinn driving at speeds that challenge the laws of physics, and Buddy hollering instruction and encouragement, as all dads do. The lessons stuck. Flinn has a room full of trophies for winning karting's Super Nationals, his Formula V and Formula Ford success and is on his way to his own successful racing career.
One lesson stuck more than some: Get back out there.
Buddy, the 1996 Indy 500 champion, survived a spectacular crash before his historic Brickyard run. That crash left his back essentially broken for the 1996 Indy, but he drove anyway.
Last August, Flinn flipped his race car four times. He was faster than anyone else in the field when his brakes failed, bad at any speed but especially bad at 180 mph. His left front tire climbed another car's right rear tire and over he went, four times.
The top of his helmet is badly scratched where it skidded on the pavement.
Thirty minutes later, he was racing again.
How fast does it go?
Such as many Vail Valley kids, Flinn started as a ski racer with the Vail Mountain School program. They trained from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then hit the books from 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
"That kind of experience and flexibility is still important, especially now as a race driver," Flinn said.
When he's racing — and he's always racing — his week starts on Tuesday with travel. Wednesday is spent practicing and fitting the car to him, communicating with the team and owner to make sure everything is as it should be. Then they practice and race on Saturday and Sunday.
Newman Wachs Racing called and Flinn spent this year's spring break in Birmingham for the Grand Prix of Alabama. It led to classroom questions such as:
"So, Flinn. What did you do during spring break?"
"About 180 mph," he would reply.
Flinn won three races this season before Birmingham. In Birmingham, he started 27th and finished 11th the first time he sat in the car.
It was a gamble, but he now has his International Automobile Federation Super License. He can drive anything, anywhere, including Indy and Formula One cars.
That means when someone asks him The Great American Question, "How fast does it go?" Flinn can answer, "Just a little faster."