Wynn Institute takes center stage at Indy 500

Wynn Institute takes center stage at Indy 500


By: Aaron Blau  |  2014.05.22  |  10:50 pm

Indianapolis 500 Media Day took place on Thursday, May 22, with the majority of the drivers answering questions for over an hour at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Topics ranged from past experiences at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” to the promising forecast for the rest of the week.

Buddy Lazier, the 1996 Indianapolis 500 champion, answered numerous questions about the logo that appeared across the chest of his team racing shirt – the University of Iowa Stephen A. Wynn Institute for Vision Research logo, along with the famous Tigerhawk.

Lazier’s 12-year old daughter, Jacqueline, has 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. Aniridia, combined with glaucoma, has caused Jacqueline to lose vision in her right eye. The Wynn Institute is conducting research on aniridia and glaucoma as well as other inherited eye diseases.

Lazier was more than happy to field multiple questions about the UI’s world-renowned institute.

What does it mean to you to have the Wynn Institute for Vision Research as a member of your team?

The Wynn Institute at the University of Iowa has already cured some rare eye diseases and they just keep moving on to the next one. Stephen Wynn has been working on finding a place like this for a long time and he certainly knows the real thing when he sees it.

What was it about the Wynn Institute that stood out for you and your family?

We visited the institute a little while ago and we were very impressed. The doctors and scientists on campus are on the cutting edge of their specialty and they are making breakthroughs everyday.

Once we visited, we started wondering what we could do to help get the word out. It took us 10 years to find these guys (the Wynn Institute). We are trying to raise awareness to make it easier for the next family to find the institute. If you get a devastating prognosis from your doctor, you don’t have to feel like you don’t have hope. You can talk to the people at Iowa and they will give you hope.

Buddy Lazier during an interview at Indy 500 Media Day.
Buddy Lazier answers questions about his partnership with the Wynn Institute at Indy 500 Media Day.

You are obviously very passionate about this issue with the impact it has had on your family. It seems like you have combined that passion with your profession.

This is a great example of how different people use the sport in different ways. The Wynn Institute is bringing a lot of those research doctors and scientists out for the race. They are buried in their labs all day long and making breakthroughs. Now, they get to come out to the Indy 500 and see other professors working on how to get the most out of the race car. It’s really a neat place to meet for these guys.

As a competitive person that’s reached a major goal like winning the Indianapolis 500, you know what a successful team looks like. What do you see in the team that is working at the Wynn Institute?

I can’t say enough about the Wynn Institute. I look at a body of work like that institute and it comes down to a few things. You’ve got the guy on top, Ed Stone, and he is remarkable. He is absolutely brilliant. He has assembled a very smart group and I’m very impressed and excited about what the future holds. There is no question that they are the smartest of their kind and it’s right there in Iowa City.

After all the years of flying here, there, and everywhere, it was Iowa all along where we should have been going. The resources have been there in the past, they are definitely there now, and they will be there in the future, and we hope to help in that way. We are all in and this is one of the ways we feel like we can help.

Tony Kanaan, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, also fielded questions about Lazier and his partnership with the Wynn Institute.

What are your thoughts on Buddy Lazier’s partnership with the Wynn Institute in Iowa City?

I’m a father and I know it must be hard for him to be going through this. I would race in the Indy 500 for my son and I think it’s very honorable.

Tony Kanaan at Indy 500 Media Day
Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indianapolis 500 champion, discusses Buddy Lazier and the Wynn Institute.

How much will it help the visibility of the Wynn Institute in Iowa City by appearing on the side of Buddy Lazier’s car this weekend?

It’s the biggest race in the world. If they are trying to send a message, they are definitely in the right place. It’s extremely important and it’s a great idea. In the future, I hope we can do more of that for other things as well.

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