INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk stood in a garage in Gasoline Alley Wednesday, wearing a driver's suit and eyeing the Treadway Racing No. 5 Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry that had...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 18, 2001 - Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk stood in a garage in Gasoline Alley Wednesday, wearing a driver's suit and eyeing the Treadway Racing No. 5 Meijer G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone entry that had just carried him for a few shakedown laps around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in private testing. Those few laps were important ones, though. They were his first in a race car at the Speedway since Lap 117 of the 1999 Indianapolis 500, when he hit the Turn 3 wall while leading in a bid for a third "500" crown. He had announced before that race that it would be his last at Indianapolis.
The 1999 race was certainly not the storybook ending Luyendyk was hoping for after a distinguished open wheel racing career. You could hear the excitement in his voice Wednesday as he began his quest for another coveted win at the Indianapolis 500. "It's fun," Luyendyk said. "I went out there like I've never been away. I was looking forward to it. I'm kind of stoked to be back. I had to contain myself to not go too fast too soon. That's a good sign. It's a brand-new car. I went up to 208 (mph) right away but I didn't want to really lean on it until the crew looked it over. We're taking one step at a time, then start taking it to the next level. "As far as the race track, it's pretty much the same as two years ago. It's really easy to come back with the guys at Treadway Racing I worked with two years ago and it's also easy for them." Luyendyk also hinted that a second retirement is not on the immediate landscape. "To me, this is not going to be my final '500,' he said. "I'm keeping my options open to run a couple more years. As long as I want to do it, I'm going to do it." Others testing Wednesday were Scott Sharp (Kelley Racing No. 8 Delphi Automotive Systems Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone), Mark Dismore (Kelley Racing No. 28 Delphi Automotive Systems/Bryant Heating & Cooling Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone), Greg Ray (Team Menard No. 2 Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone) and Davey Hamilton (No. 99 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Racing Special Dallara/Oldsmobile/Firestone).
Private testing continues daily through April 24. Official practice for the 85th Indianapolis 500 begins with Opening Day on May 6.
IMS PRIVATE TESTING QUOTES
SCOTT SHARP: "We're pretty excited about this May. It's the best opportunity I've ever had and the best shot for the team. We've added some great people - Tim Bumps, the team manager, and my engineer, Jeff Britton, has an excellent record here. We're excited about our situation with Ilmor (Engineering, the team's engine builder). The first time they saw an (Indy Racing League) engine was five months ago and we're confident they'll get there quick. For the first day out, the car is running well. We're not trying to set any records in April. Every year, I come back with more confidence, more patience. You have higher expectations as the weeks unfold. There are fewer surprises. That lets you get less distracted."
MARK DISMORE: "The car's really good. It's an ideal day, too. The quickest race lap last year was 218 and we're already there with a bunch of fuel in the car and used tires. Dallara changed the center pressure of the car and you have to feel where that's at and learn how to take advantage of it. My third lap was 216, so we're fine."
GREG RAY: "We're just getting used to being back at Indy. We ran 219 our first time out. These are great speed conditions. It's our first time back with the new aero(dynamics) package from last year. It's very emotional coming back here. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 are the reasons I'm in racing. We've had some good months of May but they've not finished the way we wanted them to. This'll be my fifth Indy 500 and I've learned a lot in the last four years. You have to come already having done your homework. All you can do is prepare. You really can't plan. Too many things happen."
DAVEY HAMILTON: "Just a little shakedown. We ran almost 216 in 15 laps, so that's not a bad start. Nothing's easy around here. We can get to the 219-220 area but the 221s and 222s are tougher - really anything over 220. It's getting tougher and tougher each year. Look at how close times were in qualifying last year and so many more guys are coming in. When it comes to Race Day, that many more guys are challenging."