Former Indy 500 champ to drive for Schmidt team

Updated: April 11, 2007, 7:21 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 champion, plans to return to the cockpit in May with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

He announced the move Wednesday during a conference call with reporters.

Lazier has not driven in the Indy Racing League's first two races of the season nor does he anticipate competing in the next two races -- at Japan and Kansas City, Kan. -- before heading to Indy.

Even so, the 39-year-old Lazier believes he can be competitive in May against drivers who will have had more track time.

"There are times I've raced in the past where I haven't been real pleased with my ability with what we came with, race car, level of preparation," Lazier said. "That's why I'm real excited."

Schmidt has been running a car on the Indy Pro Series, the IRL's developmental league and his team has won two of three points championships.

Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver who injured his spinal cord during a January 2000 crash in testing and is a quadriplegic, has had drivers entered in the last six Indy 500s. His team's best finish was sixth by Richie Hearn in 2002.

The team hopes Lazier's experience at Indy -- five of his 14 career Indy starts have produced top-five finishes -- will make them stronger.

And Lazier is eager to prove that he's still competitive in the series' biggest race.

"I have a lot of confidence where I'm at as a racing driver," Lazier said. "I have an equal amount of confidence in the crew that Sam has amassed. Sam is very race-savvy and very intelligent in racing. He's put some spectacular people on his race team."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press