Vail’s Lazier qualifies for Indy 500
Special to the Daily
INDIANAPOLIS ” Vail’s Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 winner, had a dramatic and successful Bump Day Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Bumped from the starting lineup earlier in the day, Lazier turned in a four-lap average speed of 219.015 miles per hour that was fast enough to bump Mario Dominguez of Mexico City from the lineup for the 92nd Indianapolis 500.
“I don’t ever want to do that again,” Lazier said after qualifying for his 16th Indy 500. “I was just a hair away from missing this race.”
Prior to his final qualifying run, crew members changed four tires and took more downforce out of the rear wing of the No. 91 Hemelgarn/Johnson entry in the pits.
Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dan Wheldon, who starts No. 2 in the Race Day lineup, spoke to Lazier before that run.
“We just talked about what the car was doing and he helped reaffirm what I needed to do,” Lazier said. “We were already on our way to ripping the downforce off the car.
“I’d love to say I can dig deep and find 3 1⁄2-miles an hour at Indy; I can maybe find a half mile or so,” Lazier said. “But that was just Ron Dawes’ engineering.”
Lazier had to qualify faster than Dominquez’ speed of 218.620 mph. Each of Lazier’s laps was faster than Dominguez’ four-lap average speed, including the second and fastest lap of 219.371 mph.
“The track was not the type of track that you wanted to qualify on ” it was real slippery,” Lazier said. “It was a pretty hairy ride.”
Lazier then had to wait out the unsuccessful qualifying attempts by Roger Yasakawa and Dominguez, who crashed in Turn 1 and was not injured. Only then did Lazier know for sure that he would be among the 33 starters in next Sunday’s race.
“It took everything that everyone had to pull this off at the last minute,” Lazier said. “I’d love to take credit, but the driver can only do so much.”
On his first qualifying attempt Sunday, Lazier could not get above 217 mph in three laps and his attempt was waved off.
On Saturday, Lazier qualified at 217.939 mph, quick enough for the 32nd on the provisional grid.
Then on Bump Day, he was bumped from the lineup by Marty Roth, who qualified at 218.965 mph early in the afternoon, and the drama began.
It will be the first time Lazier has started the 500 from the last row. He started 28th in 2004.
Lazier was among four bumps and three drivers surviving to make the 33-car field for the 92nd Indianapolis 500. A.J. Foyt IV, Lazier and Roth complete the 11th and final row for Race Day. Dominguez and Yasakawa were left on the sidelines in a wild final half-hour of qualifying.
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