Wynning the race against blindness
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The news that no one supporting the Lazier Partners Racing Wynn Institute racecar at the Indianapolis 500 wanted to hear was confirmed on Twitter about halfway through the race.
“The clutch issue is terminal.”
Buddy Lazier’s car wouldn’t be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway track.
Lazier ran 87 laps before a clutch issue forced his car back to the garage for the rest of the race. Throughout the week Lazier had praised his car, saying it had the ability to run near the top of the pack. Lazier was succeeding in executing his race plan before the issue, and was confident his car could have done more.
Despite the finish, the 1996 Indy 500 champion was positive about the future after the race.
“It’s good progress that our team can run with the best of them,” Lazier said after the race. “We are a new, young team that’s poised for growth.”
That positive attitude is the exact reason why Lazier is a perfect person to represent the Wynn Institute for Vision Research at the University of Iowa.
The Wynn Institute provides hope to patients and families dealing with eye diseases. Lazier knows that feeling of hope firsthand, as his 12-year old daughter Jacqueline suffers from a rare eye disease called aniridia, which is characterized by a complete or partial absence of the colored part of the eye.
Aniridia can cause reduction in visual acuity and increased sensitivity to light. This disease, combined with glaucoma, has caused Jacqueline to lose vision in her right eye.
Lazier and his team decided to place the Wynn Institute logo on the side of their car to help raise awareness about the work being done at the UI. They want to provide hope for others. Lazier sees this year's Indy 500 as one of many successful attempts at spreading the message.
“It’s a five-year program and we are one year in,” he says. “I want to run for the win here again in Indianapolis and run other selected races in the Indy Car schedule. We are going to continue to work on the program, ramp it up, and get that much better.”
The 2014 edition of the Indy 500 was Lazier’s 18th career start. This one, however, felt different. Not on the track, but the feeling surrounding the partnership with the Wynn Institute.
“It really helps personalize it for me,” Lazier says. “The Wynn Institute is a very non-traditional sponsorship on the side of the racecar. There are so many things about Indy Car racing that are used as a tool. It might be a business tool, or a research and development tool for cars and parts. That tool can be applied to the Wynn Institute as well.
“There is a lot of excitement that takes place at the top level in motorsports,” Lazier says. “We want to blend that excitement with the institute.”
Lazier’s positive energy is infectious. Even after a tough finish in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” Lazier’s face lights up at the slightest mention of Ed Stone, director of the Wynn Institute.
His positive outlook not only on the track, but also in regards to the Wynn Institute and finding a cure for blindness, makes the relationship between racing and vision research at the UI a perfect marriage.
When asked about the new following his race team has gained from the UI and Iowa community, Lazier has only one thing to say.
“If you enjoyed that, just wait until next year.”