Getting up to speed at the Indy 500
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of four columns during the month of May by Vail local Buddy Lazier, who is bidding for his 13th start in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29.This is an amazing time for me, and I am very pleased with the way it is going. I have such an awesome team with the Panther/Jonathan Byrd’s/ESPN 950 AM/ Chevrolet Dallara entry.Our first day on the track, we were very conservative and kept stepping up the pace as the day wore on. Every lap we were able to go faster and faster. We were able to do a 223-miles-per-hour lap, and I knew we could have grabbed a 226 lap if we had to.I have one of the best engineers in the business in Andy Brown. He is truly awesome. He and the team’s other two engineers work very well together. Also, I am working well with teammates Tomas Scheckter and Tomas Enge. In addition, John Barnes and Gary Pedigo are great car owners to work for.
Among all of us there is excellent communication and there’s an open exchange regarding car performance.Every morning and evening we all sit down together and talk about everything that has happened up until then and important things we have learned. So far, a lot of data has been accumulated. Every minute of time counts in our preparations.In preparing for Saturday’s qualification runs, we are trying to make the car go as fast as it can. In doing so, the car must have very little wing or downforce on it. This condition is the opposite of that which makes an airplane fly. When you take the wing out the car wants to lift off the ground. There are huge engineering intricacies and conundrums to resolve. Again, this means you spend a lot of time with your engineer trying to make the car ready for the four fastest laps it can do.
With the changes in the qualifying procedures – only the fastest 11 drivers can qualify on the first day of time trials – we want to be in that group. Actually, I would be pleased if we were on the front row. The front row is our goal. Qualifying is the most intense period of time for a driver and his team. You are very much on the edge when you are qualifying your car. After qualifying is over with, we will be working on race set-ups. At that time we can start to have a little fun.The track’s surface has been improved through a diamond-grinding procedure, and I think the improvements are great. The track has become faster, and it will be great to race on it.Even though I have not been in an Indy Racing League car since last year’s 500, I have been racing other vehicles, and it didn’t take me long to get up to speed.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.