Coming back from a major back injury last April, Jaques Lazier will return to the seat of the Johns Manville Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone car for the 2003 IRL IndyCar Series, Team Menard owner John Menard announced today.

"It required a lot of perseverance and determination for Jaques to get back to where he is today," Menard said. "As a driver and an athlete he is stronger than ever. All of us at Team Menard are pleased to have him back in the car for the 2003 season."

Lazier, of Alta Loma, Calif., first joined Team Menard in 2001 winning his first career IndyCar Series victory at Chicagoland Speedway. He was gearing up for a successful season in 2002, finishing second at California Speedway, before he was sidelined because of a back injury caused by a multi-car accident at Nazareth.

"When I originally signed as a driver for Team Menard, I told John all I wanted was a home," Lazier said. "I have found that, and I am thrilled to be back as a driver for Team Menard.

"It has been a difficult road to recovery with a good five months of rehabilitation but now I feel better than I did before the crash. We had a lot of momentum before my accident last year. I believe we can continue to improve and reach that promised land again this season."

Vitor Meira, a native of Brasilia, Brazil, drove the final four races of the 2002 season for Team Menard. As a rookie driver, he was impressive,winning the pole position and finishing third at Texas Motor Speedway.

Meira will continue as a test driver for both Team Menard and Red Bull Cheever Racing. He will work closely with the teams' new research and development partnership, Menard Cheever Technologies.

The 2003 IRL IndyCar Series kicks off March 2 with the Toyota Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

One of the founding teams of the IRL IndyCar Series, Team Menard has two championships, 10 wins and an all-time record of 24 pole positions to its credit. Owned by John Menard, the Indianapolis-based team is supported by Menards, Johns Mansville, Chevrolet, Menard Engine Group, Dallara, Firestone and Menard Cheever Technologies.