Bob Lazier, the racer with the perpetual smile who always seemed optimistic no matter the odds, has died at the age of 81.
The 1981 Championship Auto Racing Teams Rookie of the Year and father of 1996 Indy victor Buddy Lazier was thought to have succumbed after being hospitalized and placed on a ventilator combating the coronavirus.
“What sad news,” said team owner and long-time friend Chip Ganassi. “I (went) skiing with Bob a few months ago at his place and we were up every morning at breakfast talking about everything and having a good time. He was such a great guy. Always upbeat.”
A native of Minneapolis, Lazier moved to Colorado as a young man and became a major building contractor in Vail, numbering among his many properties his pride and joy, the Tivoli Lodge.
But he was hooked on racing and competed in SCCA club racing before moving up to Super Vee and the Mini Indy series from 1977-’79 before trying Indy cars.
He drove for Bob Fletcher at the Indy 500 in 1981, where he qualified 13th but lost an engine and wound up 19th in the race. Later that season, he would score fourth places at Watkins Glen and Mexico City, finishing ninth in the ’81 CART standings and taking Rookie of the Year honors.
The following May he returned to Indianapolis driving for the Wysards. But, on the opening day of qualifying, Gordon Smiley was killed in a devastating accident and 13-year-old Buddy Lazier begged his father to quit after watching the replays and becoming distraught.
Bob abided by his son’s wishes and walked away. But, ironically, he would become Buddy’s biggest fan as, just a few years later, his son took up open-wheel racing. Buddy would eventually conquer Indy in ’96, still healing from a broken back suffered in a wreck at Phoenix. Buddy was also the IRL champion in 2000.
Bob’s youngest son, Jaques, also embarked on a racing career and competed in the Indy Racing League. A seven-time starter at Indy, he scored one win at Chicagoland in 2001.
In 2013, Bob and Buddy formed Lazier Partners Racing, competing at Indianapolis through 2017 as a small budget, one-car team and making the show four times.
RACER send its most sincere condolences to all in the Lazier family.