IRL: Arie Luyendyk - A Man in Transition

Arie Luyendyk - A Man in Transition Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International Indianapolis, Indiana May 29, 1999 - Arie Luyendyk has been driving Indianapolis cars and coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 15 years. Some of the raw...

Arie Luyendyk - A Man in Transition

Ken Plotkin - Motorsport News International

Indianapolis, Indiana May 29, 1999 - Arie Luyendyk has been driving Indianapolis cars and coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 15 years. Some of the raw statistics do not mark him as a legend: seven wins in 166 races. But two of those wins came in the Indianapolis 500, including his 1990 victory in the fastest 500 ever run. He has always known his way around the Speedway, and commands as much respect as any man who has run at the Brickyard. He begins his final race from the pole, holding the one and four lap records for normally aspirated cars here. In 1996, he set the one and four lap records for turbocharged cars.

Last year Arie made the decision to retire from this form of racing after the 1999 Indianapolis 500. He may do an occasional major sports car race - LeMans or Daytona with a good team still holds allure - but this year's 500 is his last open wheel event.

As he approaches his final race, retirement does not occupy his mind. "I haven't been thinking about it that much. Of course, you can't get around it because this is the last time I'm here and we have 'Arie's final 500', and of course that is the theme here. What is most on my mind is how to be as fast as I can and competitive. That is what is on my mind, and that's obviously a good thing because that's what I am here for in the first place: to be competitive and try to win the race.

"But of course I can't help but realize that this is my last time here. Especially yesterday in the driver's meeting when I was presented with all of the driver's gloves signed to me. It was nice to see this genuine friendship that you have with the drivers. You can't think of that friendship too much going into Turn 1 side by side with these guys, but still there is a lot of respect and there are a lot of emotions going that way."

While the emotions of retirement have not yet hit him, he knows that they will come. "If I'm around at the end of the race that will be an emotional time, and I'll probably take a long time to get back so I can compose myself before I get into the pits. When I come back here next year ... there might be some regrets that I won't be in the car. For now, just that cool down lap, and I know that will be the end."

The end is not really an end, but a transition of interests.

"Ten or twelve years ago all of a sudden I became interested in art and architecture and things like that. Well, before that I never looked up at a building. But when you get older you get different interests. I like to be on the boat on Sunday now as much as I like to be in a race car. So I'll go on the boat.

"I think your life style changes.  You change.  You adjust to the
surroundings.  And right now I just don't want to pack my bags all the
time to go racing.  I also don't want to wake up in the hospital any more
wondering where the hell I am.  I'm just kind of done with that.

"You have kids that grow up around you. For the last 18 years everything has revolved around me. Now it's time for me to spend more time with the family at home and do other things - normal things."

He looks back on his career with great satisfaction. No second guessing of how things might have been with other teams or different opportunities. Perhaps there might have been more victories. "But that's just the way it is. I'm happy with the way my career went. Based on what teams I've been driving for I'm really happy with my achievements."

He has been pleased with his involvement with the Indy Racing League over the past several years. "When the IRL came up, it still gave me an opportunity to run in the Indianapolis 500, which I wanted to do. It also gave me the chance to help Fred Treadway build his team. I had a lot of say in how we were going to put together this team. And that's been a lot of fun since I was able to hire the best people in the business."

The Flying Dutchman will not disappear from the racing scene. This year he has been part of Fox Sportsnet's broacast team. "That's been a lot of fun," Arie says. "We've done two races together and it's been going well, so that's my schedule for the rest of the year. I'll go to all the IRL races, and also find some time to be helpful to the (Treadway Racing) team"

Besides broadcasting, supporting Treadway, and a possible LeMans entry, Arie also sees an involvement helping his son embark on a racing career. "But," he said, moving toward his family first role, "he first has to finish school."

Arie is proud of his accomplishments at the Speedway, and views his success as associated with what he has done here. "Being successful here has made my name in American racing. Especially when I won it here the first time, then of course I had to come back and prove that that wasn't just a one timer. So I think we've done that. To me, it's an honor that when people bring up great achievements at the speedway my name is on the list."

When reminded of sports greats who have retired this year, Arie does not warm up to the idea of being called a legend. "People don't have to call me a legend. It's really not necessary. I'm considered one of the guys who achieved a lot here, and that's great for me. As far as being remembered of how I was, just as a regular guy who stayed that way, and despite that success didn't become somebody totally different than he was.

"I think I'm one of the top Indy car guys to drive around the Indianapolis 500 track. But I don't put myself in the Michael Jordon category or John Elway or Gretzky or those guys. Those guys - they're legends."

Two time winner, record speed holder, and pole sitter in his final appearance in the 500. History may take issue with Arie Luyendyk's opinion of who is and who is not a legend.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk