WINNING MATTERS MOST TO LUYENDYK DURING CHAMPIONSHIP PURSUIT
INDIANAPOLIS, March 11, 1998 - For a guy who admits that he doesn't think much about point standings, Arie Luyendyk's chances of winning the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League championship climbed this winter when the league changed its points system.
Race winners receive 10 points more than the runner-up in the new system. The winner earned just two more points than the runner-up in the old system. There's a much greater premium placed on winning, and that's fine with Luyendyk.
Because winning is the only thing that matters to two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Luyendyk when he is strapped into the Sprint PCS/Radio Shack/Qualcomm G Force/Aurora/Firestone. As far as he's concerned, second place is first loser.
"Winning is the ultimate goal," Luyendyk said. "Anytime you have a chance to win a race, you go for it. I'd rather win a few races than not win any and win the championship."
Luyendyk's quest for his first victory of the season - and his first Pep Boys IRL championship - will continue at the Dura-Lube 200 on March 22 at Phoenix International Raceway. It's the second of 11 races this season in the Pep Boys IRL.
Winning is one of many motivating factors for Luyendyk in the 200-lap race on the fast, 1-mile oval at PIR. Another strong motivator will be the bitter memory of last year's race at Phoenix, where Luyendyk finished last in a 22-car field, dropping out after just 11 laps with mechanical problems. It was one of six races in the 10-event 1996-97 season in which he wasn't running at the finish. The Phoenix result was even more cruel considering that Luyendyk, from Scottsdale, Ariz., entered the race as defending race champion after a dominating performance in 1996.
"Phoenix was a big disappointment for us last year," Luyendyk said. "We barely got the car warmed up. There's more motivation for us at Phoenix because it was one of the races that we didn't finish, and that cost us the points. But I think the 500 made up for that."
Luyendyk heated up in a hurry at the Indianapolis 500, running in contention all day from the pole position and passing teammate Scott Goodyear with seven laps remaining to give Treadway Racing a 1-2 sweep of the world's most prestigious race. Luyendyk also won the next event, at Texas Motor Speedway, to become the first IRL driver to win three career races.
But then the trap door opened on Luyendyk's season. He finished in the top 10 just once in the last four races of 1997 and ended up sixth in the standings with 223 points.
The 1998 season opened with a different look for Luyendyk, as he was flying solo with Treadway after Goodyear left to join Panther Racing. Luyendyk and Treadway struggled during preseason testing but fought to earn a solid eighth-place finish at the season-opening Indy 200 in January at Walt Disney World Speedway near Orlando, Fla.
Luyendyk was the fourth-fastest driver during the "Test in the West" on Feb. 25-26 at PIR, firing a warning shot that he would be a contender for a victory in the Dura-Lube 200. And that's what it's all about for Luyendyk. "I think the points' championship would be nice with that Pep Boys' money out there," Luyendyk said. "But let's win races first and go for points later."
DURA-LUBE 200 NOTEBOOK
No home advantage: Arie Luyendyk may live in Scottsdale, just north of Phoenix, but he doesn't think that sleeping in his own bed during race week gives him any advantage while racing at Phoenix International Raceway.
"It's not like we race there any more than anyone else," Luyendyk said. "It's more work for me. I also have to take care of everybody who wants a ticket."
Still, Luyendyk may have an important mental advantage while racing at PIR: He loves the track.
"I think it's the best 1-mile oval in the country," Luyendyk said. "There's more room for passing there."
Luyendyk is one of three Phoenix-area drivers competing in the Dura-Lube 200. Billy Boat and rookie J.J. Yeley live in Phoenix.
Solo show: Arie Luyendyk's workload has increased this season now that he is the only driver for Treadway Racing, but he's adjusting quite nicely. Scott Goodyear left Treadway after the 1996-97 season to join Panther Racing. "I had a good experience with Scott last year," Luyendyk said. "Finishing 1-2 at Indy was great. But I think the team was stretched a bit too thin last year.
"It's a little bit more work to be with a one-car team. There were times last year when Scott would go test, and I would stay home. But it was hard. We had to share a backup car, and that was tough because I'm a lot taller than Scott."
Luyendyk had a teammate for three days during the "Test in the West" last month at Phoenix International Raceway. Rookie Brian Tyler tested Treadway Racing's backup G Force chassis, powered during the test by a Nissan Infiniti engine. Luyendyk's primary car is powered by an Oldsmobile Aurora engine.
Tyler's performance with Treadway was temporary, for now. The team entered only Luyendyk's cars for the Dura-Lube 200.
Broadcast schedule: The Dura-Lube 200 will be televised live on ABC at 4 p.m. (EST) March 22. Oldsmobile Pole Day will be televised live on Speedvision at 2 p.m. (EST) March 21.
The IMS Radio Network will broadcast the race live at 4 p.m. (EST) March 22, with a pre-race show starting at 3:30. The IMS Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute show from Oldsmobile Pole Day at 5:30 p.m. (EST) March 21.
For the fans: Fans will have many chances to meet their favorite Pep Boys IRL drivers during Dura-Lube 200 race week.
An autograph session featuring all IRL drivers will take place from 5:15-6:15 p.m. March 21 in the garage area at PIR.
An autograph party featuring top Pep Boys IRL drivers will take place at 7:30 p.m. March 19 at Toolies Country, a country-and-western club located on the southeast corner of 43rd Avenue and Thomas Road in Phoenix. IRL race cars also will be on display.
Pep Boys IRL drivers Billy Boat, Davey Hamilton and Jimmy Kite will make various appearances with the Oldsmobile Aurora Pace Car Display at Pep Boys stores in the Phoenix area. The updated schedule:
March 16 - 6311 W. Bell Road, Glendale: Pace car display, 2-8 p.m.; Boat signs autographs, 6-8 p.m.
March 17 - 1233 S. Country Club Drive, Mesa: Pace car display, 2-8 p.m; Boat signs autographs, 6-8 p.m.
March 18 - 2424 E. McDowell, Phoenix: Pace car display, 2-8 p.m.; Boat and Kite sign autographs, 6-8 p.m.
March 19 - 7440 W. Peoria Ave., Peoria: Pace car display, 2-8 p.m.; Hamilton and Kite sign autographs, 6-8 p.m.
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