Those darn rookies …
This is the fourth of four columns by Jaques Lazier, who started 27th and finished 16th Sunday in the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500. Lazier got up to 10th place before being involved in a multi-car accident. His car sustained minor suspension damage, but didn’t handle well afterward. This was his fourth Indianapolis 500, driving the Playa del Racing Panoz/Toyota. Andretti Green Racing’s Dan Wheldon won the race, becoming the first British driver to win the race since Graham Hill in 1966. Wheldon edged out Rahal Letterman’s Vitor Meira by 0.1302 seconds. Wheldon’s teammate, Bryan Herta, finished third. There were 27 lead changes, tied for second-most in the history of the race.My fourth Indianapolis 500 was a great one and is a testament to my team, my sponsors and the Toyota engine that powered our car. Had we not gotten involved in an incident with a rookie driver, I think we would have had a top-10 finish. Also, we would have had the highest finishing Toyota.In that incident, the rookie went over the top of me, bending our rear suspension. With this team only starting some eight weeks ago, a top-10 finish would have been great. When you have the big teams like Penske and Ganassi to do battle with, it is quite a testament to us for doing so well.At the start of the race, everyone ducked to the inside lane, so I moved into the second lane and picked off a lot of cars in the early going. Doing well then helped set the tone for the day and allowed us to follow our plan of being cautious when we needed to be and aggressive when needed.Traffic was heavy throughout the race, which says a lot for the parity of the engine companies while running in race trim. Also, it tells us that Toyota and Chevrolet are catching up to Honda. We were running laps in the 223 miles per hour range and with a little extra gear in the car, we could have done better.I looked for other guys to run with, but it didn’t work out too well. I kept setting them up and putting them down, as I had a good race going. My pit stops went well and with a little more practice, I would put this crew up against any of the teams. Also, my spotters kept me out of trouble.It is frustrating to know you had such a good race going only to be effected by a rookie driver. As Brian Barnhart (Indy Racing League president and chief operating officer) says, “Cautions breed cautions,” and that’s what did us in. For me, I will have to see what happens. We opened a lot of eyes today, and if the backing can be found for an expanded program, I believe we can be a contender before the year is out, and even win a race.My hat is off to Dan Wheldon for winning the race. In a pre-race survey of all 33 drivers, I am the only one I know of that picked Dan to win. He has won four of the first five races, and he has the momentum to carry himself toward the championship. Vail, Colorado
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