By KEVIN KELLY and Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 26, 2001
INDIANAPOLIS -- Even after eight Indianapolis 500s, Buddy Lazier's stomach still gets upset.
"And don't think it's because of something I ate," he said. "I think it's just anticipation. I can't believe that after this many years of racing you still get that."
Especially with as much success as Lazier, 33, has enjoyed in the past five Indianapolis 500s.
Lazier, the defending IRL champion, won the event in 1996 and hasn't finished worse than seventh since, including second-place showings in 1998 and last year.
He will start 10th Sunday in the No. 91 Hemelgarn Racing-owned Dallara-Oldsmobile.
"When you run consistently like that, I feel like it's just a matter of time before the yellows or something falls your way," Lazier said. "If you're capable of running toward the front and you're one of the guys who could win the race, it's just a matter of circumstance."
Lazier has finished in the top 10 in the final IRL standings four straight years.
"I want to win this race so bad," he said. "Part of the string that we've had is that we want to repeat that victory so badly and we've been so close so many times.
"It's difficult sometimes to take second. It's wonderful. It's such mixed emotions."
TIRE TALK: News this week that Bridge-stone/Firestone was breaking off its 95-year relationship with Ford and that the auto manufacturer was recalling several million more problem tires has had little effect on the race.
All 33 teams in the starting field will use Firestone tires. The tire manufacturer has 43 consecutive Indianapolis 500 victories and 51 overall.
"No, there hasn't been any concern," Bridgestone/Firestone spokesman Mark Robinson said. "If anything, the teams have come to us asking what they can do to show their support. They've been extremely supportive, and these are men and women that drive 220 mph on our tires."
WAITING PATIENTLY: Should one of the drivers in the starting lineup be unable to start, two drivers are prepared to fill in.
Shigeaki Hattori and Memo Gidley are listed as alternates, meaning they will start if a driver can't drive and no other team or backup car is available.
"We drove this morning for experience for me, and it is good for the team," Hattori said after practicing Thursday. "We are looking forward to next year."
The last time an alternate was used was 1986 when Dennis Firestone crashed and broke his neck. Dick Simon took Firestone's spot and finished 14th.
ODDS AND ENDS: Though the garages at Indianapolis Motor Speedway were open Friday, there was no on-track activity. ... "Certainly, Chip's the guy eating a little crow by having me back after he let me go and paying a pretty sizable amount to have me drive the car," said Jimmy Vasser, teaming with owner Chip Ganassi after the owner released him after last season. ... Elaine Irwin-Mellencamp is the first woman to drive the pace car for the start of this race. "I've gotten up to 110, 115 mph, and that really feels pretty good," the wife of rock singer John Mellencamp said.