Former champ Lazier inks deal with Hemelgarn for Indy 500

Updated: April 30, 2008, 7:10 PM ET
Associated Press

INDIANAPOLIS -- Former Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier will drive for the Hemelgarn Johnson race team in a bid for his 16th start at the speedway.

Lazier, who won the 1996 Indy 500 with car owner Ron Hemelgarn, hasn't driven in the IRL since he finished 19th at Indianapolis last year for Sam Schmidt Motorsports, his only race of the season.

"It's nice to be back together," he said of the one-race deal with Hemelgarn. "It's a last-minute program, but we're going to make the best of it. I think we'll have a strong race car and we'll be a factor on race day."

Practice for the May 25 race begins with the Rookie Orientation Program on Sunday and Monday. Veterans will begin practicing on Tuesday, four days before the first of four days of qualifying.

Lazier also finished second at Indianapolis in 1998 and again in 2000, when he was the IRL's IndyCar Series champion.

"I love the Indianapolis 500 and everything about the IndyCar Series," he said Wednesday. "I lie awake at night because I want to be part of it. Ron has given me an opportunity to be part of it."

He'll drive Hemelgarn's No. 91 Dallara, the same car number he had when he won the race in 1996.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press