Former Indy 500 champ to drive for Schmidt team

INDIANAPOLIS -- Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indy 500 champion,
plans to return to the cockpit in May with Sam Schmidt Motorsports.

He announced the move Wednesday during a conference call with

Lazier has not driven in the Indy Racing League's first two
races of the season nor does he anticipate competing in the next
two races -- at Japan and Kansas City, Kan. -- before heading to

Even so, the 39-year-old Lazier believes he can be competitive
in May against drivers who will have had more track time.

"There are times I've raced in the past where I haven't been
real pleased with my ability with what we came with, race car,
level of preparation," Lazier said. "That's why I'm real

Schmidt has been running a car on the Indy Pro Series, the IRL's
developmental league and his team has won two of three points

Schmidt, a former IndyCar driver who injured his spinal cord
during a January 2000 crash in testing and is a quadriplegic, has
had drivers entered in the last six Indy 500s. His team's best
finish was sixth by Richie Hearn in 2002.

The team hopes Lazier's experience at Indy -- five of his 14
career Indy starts have produced top-five finishes -- will make them

And Lazier is eager to prove that he's still competitive in the
series' biggest race.

"I have a lot of confidence where I'm at as a racing driver,"
Lazier said. "I have an equal amount of confidence in the crew
that Sam has amassed. Sam is very race-savvy and very intelligent
in racing. He's put some spectacular people on his race team."