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Lazier still waiting to practice

5/20/2004

INDIANAPOLIS -- Buddy Lazier came into the month of May with
two goals: find a ride for the Indianapolis 500 and get his racing
future in order.

One down, one to go.

If all goes as planned, the 1996 Indy 500 champion will get into
the Dryer & Reinbold Racing backup car Friday and begin preparing
to qualify for the race May 30 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I was hoping to be out today,'' said a downcast Lazier,
sitting in the back of the team's garage Thursday watching his new
crew preparing the car. "I'm a very patient man but my patience
has kind of run out, for sure. I think it's just because I love
this racetrack and hate missing all the practice.

"I'm blessed, though, to be working with a team that's been
running the last three months, has (team manager) Owen Snyder, has
(teammate) Felipe Giaffone and a lot of good race notes.''

The deal finally came together when Ron Hemelgarn, owner of the
team for which Lazier has raced the past eight seasons, put
together a deal with Dryer & Reinbold to pool sponsorship and team
personnel.

The 36-year-old Lazier said he had several other opportunities,
though not with experienced teams. The one thing he didn't
consider, though, was joining 2003 Indy winner Gil de Ferran in
retirement.

"I believe I have 10 years of very, very strong running in
front of me and that's what I'm going to do because I love it,''
Lazier said. "I talked to Gil the other day and he's very happy
with his decision to explore other facets of his career. For me,
racing's the only thing I love doing.

"I'm old enough to do what I want to do, but also old enough
that I don't want to waste my time. So I'm going to choose a car
that is going to give me the best opportunity.''

Lazier said he is also working hard on a ride beyond Indy,
although probably not with Dryer & Reinbold.

"We're working on all kinds of things for the long term, but we
came into this month with two things in sight: the Indy 500 -- you
can't miss the Indy 500 -- and things that we're working on for the
future.''

While he has been waiting for something to open up this month,
Lazier, who also finished second here in both 1998 and 2000, has
been keeping busy driving one of the IRL's two-seater Indy cars
used for charitable rides.

"That's a really neat program,'' he said. "That helps me feel
where the bumps are, what condition the track is in, the groove
that everybody's running.

"Obviously, I've spoken to a lot of friends and know that the
grip level is way down. That falls right into my hands. I've always
excelled where grip was hard to get.''

Lazier will have two days of practice to get up to speed before
the third and final day of time trials on Sunday.

Only 26 of the traditional 33 starting spots for the 500 had
been filled by Thursday.

Of the 25 cars that made it onto the track on Thursday, only the
one driven by rookie Marty Roth was not already qualified and
working on a race day setup. Roth ran 43 laps with a top speed of
212.352 -- still about 1 mph slower than the current slowest
qualifier.

P.J. Jones, selected drive for Beck Motorsports, also is
expected to make his first track appearance Friday.

Also, PDM Racing announced that four-time Indy starter and 1999
Rookie of the Year Robby McGehee will be its driver.

The only other non-qualified driver assigned to a car so far is
former IRL champion Greg Ray, who has yet to make it onto the
2½-mile oval.

There remain plenty of eligible cars and drivers on hand at Indy
to fill the field, but the deals to put them together have yet to
be made.