Coronavirus claims former Indy car Rookie of the Year Bob Lazier

Bob Lazier, 1981 CART Indycar Series Rookie of the Year, has died from complications arising from the coronavirus. He was 81.

Coronavirus claims former Indy car Rookie of the Year Bob Lazier

According to today’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway release, Minneapolis-born Lazier “moved from Minnesota to Vail after he and his wife, Diane, spent their honeymoon there in 1963, enticed by seeing a brochure about the nascent mountain ski resort town at the Minneapolis ski shop where Bob worked. Lazier's company built numerous properties in Vail, with Tivoli Lodge as his crown jewel.”

Lazier won the 1971 Formula B class at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs, competed in the USAC Mini Indy Series and in Formula 5000 before graduating to the CART Indy car Series in 1981 with Robert Fletcher’s team.

At 42 years of age, he was very old for a rookie, but his past experience in road course racing was to prove useful that season as he took on oval specialists still grappling with the art of turning right as well as left during Championship Auto Racing Teams’ early days of track diversification.

Although Lazier’s engine let go at the Indianapolis 500 – not part of the CART championship that year – Lazier impressed elsewhere. Alternating between a new March 81C and one-year-old Penske PC7, Lazier would finish ninth in the championship and earn Rookie of the Year honors.

Key to that title were three top-five finishes, all scored in the Penske and all accrued at the championship’s three road courses that season – Riverside, Watkins Glen and Mexico City.

The following year, Bob returned to the Indianapolis 500 with Wysard Racing but withdrew on the first day of qualifying and retired, following Gordon Smiley’s fatal crash.

His sons Buddy and Jaques went on to become open-wheel racers, Buddy proving particularly successful, winning the first Indy Racing League-run Indy 500 in 1996, the 2000 IRL title and then racking up a further four wins in 2001 – the same year Jaques claimed his sole win.

Bob owned and ran Lazier Racing Partners team which entered Buddy at Indy from 2013 through ’17, and he also took part in the SVRA Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

IMS President Doug Boles and two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk were among those who hit Twitter to pay tribute:

 
 
Gordon Johncock's Patrick Racing Wildcat alongside Bob Lazier's Fletcher Racing Penske at Indy in 1981.

Gordon Johncock's Patrick Racing Wildcat alongside Bob Lazier's Fletcher Racing Penske at Indy in 1981.

Photo by: Motorsport Images

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