Vail Daily column: It was 20 years ago today
Actually, it was 20 years ago this Sunday, and it wasn’t Sgt. Pepper, but the proverbial son of Vail, Buddy Lazier, who “taught the band to play” and won the Indianapolis 500.
Many of you are already aware of this particular bit of local trivia, but for the uninitiated or forgetful, understand that Buddy’s 1996 victory raised the bar for gutsy grit and sheer willpower throughout the entire sporting world.
With a month-old broken back from a training crash in Phoenix (over a dozen fractures and two dozen chips out of his sacrum, the big bone holding the pelvis together) the then 28-year-old surprised many with his tear-jerking and fiercely determined win, but those that knew him and the Lazier family were not shocked in the least.
After all, his dad Bob and brother Jaques had also raced in the legendary “Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” so it’s sort of what Laziers do.
Fast forward two decades and there he is again at the largest spectator sporting facility in the world, with a brand new team and number (Lazier/Burns Racing No. 4) and a Dallara-Chevrolet race car qualifying with an average speed of more than 225 mph.
For perspective’s sake, Buddy could make it from The Tivoli Lodge (owned and run by the Laziers since 1968) to the Eagle airport in just under eight minutes.
And not only is this the 20th anniversary of his historic win, this Sunday happens to be the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500, giving Buddy just a little more incentive to compete for the 19th time in a race he’s finished in the top 5 five times, including two second place finishes.
Not that he needed it.
Whether this is the last trip around the track for Buddy is anyone’s guess, just don’t dare ask him directly, as the look he will give you, however diplomatic the words, will provide the answer.
Here’s how he phrased it to motorsport.com last week: “But I also can’t tell you I’ll be doing this a whole lot longer. I have a 17-year-old son (Flinn) who’s racing sports cars, and although I wouldn’t have chosen a racing career for him, it’s too late — he’s committed! But I do enjoy sharing that with him, as my father shared it with me.”
Yes, finishing up his junior year at Vail Mountain School this week, young master Flinn has been racing for half a dozen years already, becoming a top tier competitor on a national level, first at the kart stage and now the real thing.
And speaking of VMS, today is Orange Day at the school to support the Girls State 2A Soccer Championship game this afternoon in Denver. And guess what color Buddy’s car just happens to be? Yep, flaming bright orange and white.
Ironic? You bet, but the odds of yet another Lazier finding his way to the Indy 500 are much higher than most, as “it’s the act we’ve known for all these years.”
Like I said, it’s pretty much what Laziers do.
Richard Carnes, of Edwards, writes weekly. He can be reached at email@example.com.