INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, March 19, 2003) -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will join Mo Nunn Racing's full-time IRL IndyCar Series drivers Felipe Giaffone and Tora Takagi for a three-car team entry at this year's 87th running of the Indianapolis 500.
"I'm really looking forward to the race this year and being back with Morris and our sponsors Meijer and Coca-Cola," Luyendyk said. "I'm really impressed with the team and they have a strong motor program with Toyota. The last time I ran Indy with Morris I started on the pole and finished second, so this time I hope to reverse those positions. "
Luyendyk's third-place Indy 500 finish in 1991 with Vince Granatelli Racing and runner-up finish in 1993 with Ganassi Racing both were engineered by fourth-year team owner Morris Nunn. Consequently, Mo Nunn Racing team manager Peter Parrott was also at Granatelli in 1991, when Luyendyk also scored CART race victories at Phoenix and Nazareth and finished sixth in the driver championship.
"The 500 has always been a very special place to be for me, and everyone knows what a special place it is for Arie," Nunn said. "Both Arie and I have pretty good records at the Speedway and we have worked well together in the past. We have a tremendous amount of confidence heading into May. I am very pleased with the team that we have assembled."
Luyendyk contested his last six Indy 500s with Treadway Racing, a run that included the 1997 victory and his start from the pole position for the third time in his career in 1999. He has completed 2,957 laps in 17 Indy 500s, leading 188 laps in all. His 1996 qualifying speed of 236.986 mph still stands as the track record, as does his average speed of 185.981 mph for the race distance in his 1990 Indy 500 victory.
Mo Nunn Racing fielded a pair of Indy 500 entries last year for the first time in its brief history, the team's first year in the IRL IndyCar Series. Giaffone's #21 Hollywood-sponsored team car qualified fourth and led 11 laps late in the race. Giaffone was in contention for the victory all day and made a move for the lead in the closing laps that was foiled by a lapped car. He finished third. Later in the season, Giaffone scored the team's first-ever race win at Kentucky enroute to fourth in the driver championship.
Giaffone returns for his third Indy 500 in the #21 Hollywood-sponsored team car. The 28-year-old was 10th during his 2001 Rookie of the Year season with Treadway-Hubbard Racing.
Meanwhile, it will be the first Indy 500 for the 29-year-old Takagi, who rose through the Formula Nippon Series and Japanese Formula 3 ranks before landing with the Tyrell and Arrows Formula 1 teams from 1997 through 1999. He scored 11 top-10 finishes while driving for Walker Racing on the CART circuit in 2001 and 2002. He'll be at the controls of the #12 Pioneer/Mo Nunn Racing Toyota-powered Indy car this May.
Practice opens for this year's Indy 500 on May 4, with Pole Day qualifying set for May 10. The IRL IndyCar Series will race at Phoenix (March 23) and Motegi, Japan (April 13) before Indy 500 activities commence.