Qualified and back on track
Editor’s note: This is the second of four columns on Buddy Lazier of Vail, who qualified ninth fastest Sunday during the first day of qualifications for the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500. He averaged 226.353 mph for the 10-mile run, and will be starting his 13th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 29.
I had a good qualifying run (Sunday) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In my mind I had circled 227 miles per hour as a target speed and I came up a little bit short. A gust of wind caught me in Turn 2 on the second lap, scrubbing off some of my speed. That incident hurt me a little bit, but overall it was a good run.Qualifying for a race requires a whole different mindset. It is a small race within a big race. Race preparations are much different, but we won’t work on that until next week. There’s a lot of intensity before qualifying for the 500. Everyone has to work together. I have the most awesome engineer in Andy Brown. He is the very best engineer, as are the other engineers on our team. My teammates also add a lot to the team.
In practice before the qualification runs, you have to push your car very hard. If you mess around and don’t give it 10/10ths effort, the engineers can’t do their jobs. To help the engineers I need to take the car almost to the breaking point. If you do that, you are doing the job they want done. What I try to do is stretch the envelope, but not tear it. I did feel like our Panther Chevrolet had a chance to be on the front row, as the car is a rocket ship. The team’s other cars are also fast, and the three of us are able to help each other. Tomas Enge qualified his car just before I did, and Tomas Scheckter went out after me. We were sharing information with each other through every step of the process. The three Chevrolets cars are so similar, which makes it so good for all of us. Having three cars means you have three times the information to share with each other. I think that is why three-car teams are so successful. Since we didn’t get a chance to practice Friday or Saturday, we did leak checks of the cars during the morning practice runs, and my crew worked on fine-tuning the car. This morning the track conditions were good, but they changed a lot by the time I took my qualification run. Changes to the humidity seem to affect the car more than anything else.
When I went out to qualify, I realized how much the conditions had changed. Actually, I was surprised how much the track had changed. Regardless, I was able to run the car wide open all the way around the track. The new qualifying procedures have made the qualification process more interesting for everyone. Actually, I think the procedures are very cool. It is particularly exciting for a team that has qualified its best car. They are able to qualify the car, withdraw it, and take a bit of a chance on going faster later on. Depending on the temperature at the end of the day you may want to try it again, particularly if you believe your car is lightning fast. The revised qualifying rules have added excitement and new twists to the process. With qualifying now over with, I will enjoy a good night’s sleep and will spend the next day or two relaxing. Starting Wednesday we will be back on the track and the intensity will pick up as we work on race set-ups. My team and I are here to win the Indianapolis 500.Vail Colorado
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