Buddy Lazier is to make his first attempt to start the Indianapolis 500 since 2009, with the announcement that he'll be driving the #91 Lazier Partners car for Lazier Partners Racing, owned by Lazier himself and his father Bob.
Lazier made 16 starts in the Indy 500 between 1991 and 2008, and won the 500-mile race in 1996. He was also the IndyCar series champion in 2000 driving for Hemelgarn Racing.
“This all happened roughly 10 days ago and we're literally putting everything together now," said Lazier. "Sponsors are coming by the day, but we're all heading to Indianapolis to get it done.
It will be Lazier's first outing in the new-era DW12 Dallara and the latest specification engines that were introduced to the IZOD IndyCar Series at the start of the 2012 season.
"I have so many miles around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I feel comfortable with the racetrack," he said. "I haven't driven this new rules package but I was around with turbo-charged engines before the Indy Racing League was formed. I'm looking forward to it.
“I know the car will be fast. I just don't know how much track time we'll get before qualifying," he added.
The single Dallara chassis acquired by the fledgling team is actually the same one that Jean Alesi qualified and started last year's Indy 500 in, with Lazier acting as the former F1 driver's coach in the run-up to race day. Alesi's bid didn't go very far, though: powered by a Lotus engine, it was ordered to the garage by race control just minutes into the race for not maintaining sufficient pace.
“We had a good opportunity to buy this car, which is basically brand new,” explained Lazier. “We were sitting around with a bunch of friends who are businessmen and skiers talking about how we could buy this car, put a team together and run Indy. I come back the next day and these guys bought it!"
At least Lazier won't be struggling with a Lotus engine in the back of it: he's struck a deal with Chevrolet for a unit, so there will be no power disadvantage.
"I had to explain that we need a run budget, we have to lease the engine, but the process continued," added Lazier of how the deal to field a car in this year's race gathered momentum.
"Buddy has been counting the days before he could get going again," said team co-owner Bob Lazier. "He's worked hard, the whole family has as well, and I think we're more thrilled than the first time we were there."
Bob Lazier revealed that Buddy had almost entered last year's event, with the possibility that he would take Alesi's back-up car on the final day of qualifying when it hadn't been needed.
“It was thought that Buddy would have been able to get into the back-up car, but as it turns out the only guy he would have bumped would have been Jean,” said Bob, himself a former racer who was the 1981 CART Rookie of the Year and who competed in that year's Indy 500. "So that kind of fell apart, and that was a disappointment for Buddy because he was on his way back to racing.”
The Laziers will reveal the network of sponsors financing their Indy 500 in due course. They have also been in discussions with existing IZOD IndyCar Series teams to form a technical alliance to help them get up to speed in this year's event. and are in negotiations with an experienced race engineer.
Buddy Lazier has already tapped a former long-time Hemelgarn Racing colleague to work for him with the announcement that Dennis Lacava will be the crew chief
Lazier's entry brings the total number of drivers entered for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 to 33. A second car initially listed as being entered by Ed Carpenter Racing with a driver to be announced has now been withdrawn by the team.
Another former winner of the event, Buddy Rice, is also thought to be lining up a 2013 entry and Buddy's brother Jaques Lazier is similarly said to be looking for a race seat. English racer Jay Howard is said to be working on securing a late race deal as is two-time USAC National Drivers Champion Bryan Clauson who started last year's race with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, while Katherine Legge said last week that she hadn't given up hope of making the race either despite her split with Dragon Racing.
At 45, Lazier displaces Dario Franchitti as the oldest driver bidding to make the 33-car grid for this year's 'greatest spectacle in motorsport' which will take place on Sunday, May 26.Click here for the updated 2013 Indy 500 entry list