IRL: Arie Luyendyk Plans to Exit Indy with Flair, Victory

LUYENDYK PLANS TO EXIT INDY WITH FLAIR, VICTORY By Dick Mittman INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 23, 1999 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk doesn't plan, like an old soldier, to just fade away from the sport that made...


By Dick Mittman

INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 23, 1999 -- Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Arie Luyendyk doesn't plan, like an old soldier, to just fade away from the sport that made him famous. On Feb. 23 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, Luyendyk unveiled the car he will drive, the sponsors that will support him and his plans to salute the fans at his final race, the 83rd Indy 500 on May 30. Also, he revealed a will to go out with a bang. "Although it is going to be my last race and only race this year in Indy cars, it's not going to be a race for me to come to Indianapolis and treat it as a farewell race," he said. "That's going to happen. But we are going to be here and be competitive and try to win this race. We've always done that, and I'm not going to stop now. Our first and foremost mission is to come here strong, be competitive and try to win the race." If he does that, he would join Louie Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose, Bobby Unser and Johnny Rutherford as three-time winners of the world's most prestigious automobile race and the only foreign-born driver to accomplish that feat. Only A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears, all four-time champions, have won more times. Speedway President Tony George saluted Luyendyk both for his skills on the track and his stature off the track as an ambassador for auto racing. "It's safe to say when his name comes up on the ballot for induction into the Hall of Fame he will most likely be elected on the first ballot," George said. Luyendyk, born Sept. 21, 1953, in Sommelsdyk, Holland, won the race in 1990 and 1997. His winning speed in 1990 of 185.981 mph probably will stand for many years to come. The same can be said for his one- and four-lap qualifying speeds of 237.498 and 236.986 mph in 1996. Also, add his unofficial one-lap speed of 239.260 set in 1996 practice. The Scottsdale, Ariz., resident unveiled a new logo that symbolizes his 15-year career at Indy. The Speedway's 2 1/2-mile oval constitutes the outside edges of the logo. At the bottom is the famed "yard of bricks" start-finish line with a pair of checkered flags indicating his victories. Inside the logo are the words "Arie's Final 500" and his trademark helmet. Luyendyk will drive his last race again for Indianapolis businessman and car owner Fred Treadway. Arie joined the new team when the Pep Boys Indy Racing League began competition in 1996. His four career Indy Racing League victories, including the 1997 Indy 500, are the most by any league competitor. Treadway was in Europe on business. But he provided some special comments in a release distributed to the media. "Arie is not only my driver, but a true friend," Treadway said. "I'm honored to support his final 500, and I'm proud of his accomplishments with Treadway Racing and throughout his career. He's a champion on and off the track." Sprint PCS continues as sponsor of his No. 5 G Force/Aurora/Firestone machine, while Meijer Stores and Coca-Cola are coming on board for his final race. Provimi Veal, which became a financial helper before he reached Indy-style cars, will be part of the sponsorship group, too. Other sponsors are WavePhore, Miller Lite, Chicago Pneumatic and M&M Precision. Arie admits he easily could have retired after winning the 1998 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season finale at Las Vegas, but felt he owed it to the Speedway and the fans to say farewell at Indy. "This is the appropriate place to announce my plans," he said. "This track has been kind to me. I want to use the '99 race as my farewell race because of my special bond with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "It will give me a chance during the month of May to thank everybody who's been involved in my career, my sponsors throughout the years, my car owners, hundreds of mechanics who worked for me on all the teams. It will give me a chance, if I run into them, to shake their hands and thank them for helping me out. "And also to say thank you to the fans. Racing needs the fans. The grandstands need to be filled by the fans who come out to watch us race. Without the fans, there wouldn't be an event." Part of his May retirement routine will include daily appearances and autograph sessions with the paying customers. He joked that he may have to greet people with his left hand toward race day because he'll have tennis elbow from penning his name for appreciative autograph seekers. Luyendyk's followers can watch him at the Speedway during the Indianapolis 500 Open Test in early April before the opening of the track May 15 for Indy 500 practice. "I think the first time I came to Indy something just clicked," said Luyendyk. "I always had a good feel for this place." And what will Luyendyk do in retirement? Well, for one, preparing Arie Luyendyk Jr. for a racing career that also may someday bring the 17-year-old to Indy. Young Luyendyk will drive in the Dutch Formula Ford series this season. He'll compete in eight races in Holland and Belgium starting April 15. "I chose that for him over there because I really couldn't put together a deal for him in America," Luyendyk Sr. said. "We still have to find some sponsorship. I'll probably be the sponsor for a while." And how will he get his son out of high school in Scottsdale? "We'll just report him sick all the time," Arie Sr. concluded with a chuckle.

Source: IRL/IMS

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Al Unser Sr. , Rick Mears , Bobby Unser , Tony George , A.J. Foyt , Johnny Rutherford , Arie Luyendyk Jr.