86th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference Friday, May 24, 2002 Arie Luyendyk Q How serious was the problem you had on Carb Day? Arie Luyendyk was pretty serious. One of the bearings let go, and the shaft was bouncing up and down and causing a...
86th Indianapolis 500 Press Conference
Friday, May 24, 2002
Q How serious was the problem you had on Carb Day?
Arie Luyendyk was pretty serious. One of the bearings let go, and the shaft was bouncing up and down and causing a very bad vibration in the car. I just put on a new set of tires and filled up the car at 35 gallons to do at least a 20-lap run, that was the intent. After the beginning of the session, we played around with used tires to work a little bit on the setup and we found quite a nice balance, so I thought OK, I'll put new tires on it and do a big run. Three laps into the run, that was it. They warned me on the radio and said 'Looks like you have a gearbox problem' because the pressure was going down. Right after he said that, I smelled something and felt the slight vibration and slowly coasted it in. They put a new gearbox on the car. It's the one from the spare car, and hopefully that one will hold.
Q How did this month of May compare to your other months of May?
Luyendyk: It wasn't that bad. I don't think we were struggling or anything like that. I think what happened was-- What really caused or problem on Pole Day was in the morning we had to change an engine. We had an oil leak in the engine. The crew had the engine and they didn't have enough time to change the engine and get the car back on the setup pad and go through a complete setup check, which is really crucial because you may be off by 20 thousandths of an inch on the ride height of the car and the car is a different car through the turns. You really have to put the car on the setup pad and go through each step again to check everything. With the weather the way it was and threatening to rain all the time, we didn't want to miss our spot in the lineup. They just got the car ready and we were only able to check one thing on the setup pad and then roll it out into that lineup and we just made it by about 30 seconds. So, we were almost forced to take that run before we checked the car the way we should have. The car was really pushing really bad, and we were looking a 227 speed or more, and the car was dropping off a bit and we called off that run. The second time we did the same thing. It was really our fault to go that way, but with the rain just hanging up in the air and the threat of rain, we didn't take the time to practice the car after the setup pad and just put it in line and then it went to other way. It went loose. They told me because of the weather you just feel like you got to go out there and do it because you don't want to get caught in the rain and be a second-day qualifier. The third run we had a tire sensor problem. It gave me the wrong read on the tire pressure. It went too low. That could have been a flat tire, but it wasn't. It was a tire sensor problem but I didn't at least take the green on that run, because it would have been our third run in that car. So then we had one run left in that car and we did it Sunday without many problems. Any problems really.
Q What's it mean to you to be part of such a strong Indianapolis 500 field?
Luyendyk: It always been great to be part of the race. The race is made by the teams and the drivers, of course, but it's still Indianapolis. It stands alone as a great event. This does look like one of the best fields that's been here in a long time. It's a very competitive, very close field and teams are all high quality teams, so starting back in 24th is not going to be a matter of having a good car and driving to the front. It's going to be quite a bit of strategy, some luck with yellows, maybe not coming in when everyone else does to gain track position. Of course, then you have to have a break of a yellow again. For me starting back there is going to be tough because it such good, strong field.
Q How different is it going to be starting from the back instead of the front?
Luyendyk: I've always enjoyed starting as the front as possible because starting in the last couple of rows, you get behind some many cars that the turbulence is unbelievable the first few laps. The methanol gets in your eyes, and the dust does, too. No matter how clean the track is, in the race cars run where we haven't run and quite a lot of dust gets kicked up in the air and you get it all in your face at the back of the field, so I'd rather be up front.
Q What is the strategy for starting in the back?
Luyendyk: The strategy is basically we lay out our plans. If there is a yellow on lap such, we do this. If there's a yellow on lap such we do this. If there's no yellows, we do this. You have a possibility of different strategies based on what happens out there. You don't just have one plan. You have many plans because so many things could happen here. You have a Plan B, C and D, and they all contain lots of things. If my car is unbelievable and I car drive my car from 24th to 15th, we might not go to the plan where there is early yellow and when others come in, we don't come in. If you're struggling to improve, you may stay out when the leaders pit to get track position. You have to play it be ear based on how good your car is.
Q What's it like being the oldest driver in the field?
Luyendyk: A lot is being made of young drivers and rookies, but the young drivers these days have been around for so long because they started racing go-karts when they were 8 and 9 and 10. By the time they are 20, they have a wealth of experience and are pretty levelheaded. Of course they have a lot of adrenalin going, and they make pretty ballsy moves. I think there's always a balance between being too or being somewhat conservative and relying on your experience. I have a lot of experience, so I probably won't make the last-ditch kind of moves that they make. It all depends what you are going for. If the race is on the line with 10 laps to go, I'd probably answer this question like any 20 year old out there. I don't think that will be a problem because I don't feel old.
Q How old do you feel?
Luyendyk: I'm kind of holding on. I've had days in my 20s when I've felt worse than I feel this morning. It all depends on what you did the night before.
Q You only run this race each year. How long does it you get into race shape?
Luyendyk: The very first time I got into the car like I did this year and again last year, after the first day, I'm pretty stiff here and there in my neck and arms. It gets less and less as you drive more and more. That's the nice thing about Indy. It's not just a weekend event. It's a month event. You get to practice hundreds of laps. That's one of the reasons I do this race.
Q Are you comfortable with your cars and driving in traffic?
Luyendyk: Racing wheel to wheel with guys doesn't bother me. At least up until now. I'm really ready for the race. Even though I ended up something like 31st on the time sheet yesterday, I felt really good about the way my car handled based on the amount of laps on the tires I had.
Q As you run more laps with the SAFER Barrier, do you become more comfortable with it?
Luyendyk: When I'm driving, I don't think about the barrier. Either way, when you are driving, you don't want to end up on that side of the track, anyway. Obviously, it's good to know that so far it seems to help in reducing the impact and the amount of G's that the cars hit the wall. Some drivers walked away without any injuries. Some had slight injuries like Mark Dismore, well not Mark, he was bruised up pretty good and knocked unconscious. PJ (Jones) had a slight hairline fracture, and (Robby) McGehee had a slight hairline fracture in his leg, but he was out there driving again. If you look at McGehee's impact that would be a 100-g impact, for sure, without that wall being there, and now it's reduced to 40. So I think, knowing the future, that they are improving the system. It's good to know that in the future that we'll be talking about how did we ever race without these walls.
Q After 16 Indy 500s, does the hair still standup on the back of your neck when you walk out there on Race Day?
Luyendyk: I'd say that's the best moment in racing. Just walking out there and getting ready to sit yourself in the car is always the biggest thrill of any race I've ever run in. It's always there every year. That's what makes it special.
Q How much did you miss that moment when you were in the TV booth?
Luyendyk: Enough to want to come back. That was the moment I said to myself that I want to race again here and be part of it as a driver. That moment being in the booth in 2000 is when I realized I missed driving.
Q Are the cars too fast these days?
Luyendyk: I don't know. Sometimes they are too slow when we're going around the track. It doesn't matter what you feel as your going around the track. What matters is what happens when you hit the wall. That's where they look at. The fact they want to reduce speed is because they want to reduce the impact that the driver sustains when he has a crash.
Q Do you think the records you hold here will ever be broken?
Luyendyk: I don't care if my record stands or if they break it because it's just a number in the end. At the time when it counted, it was pretty cool and records are there to be broken. It doesn't have to stand forever. I think it will stand for a long time because they keep the speeds in check now and they want to keep them in check. The only reason I have the race record is because there weren't many yellows, not because I was the fastest guy out there. That will probably never be broken because since then because they close the pits before you come in, so that brings down the average, and the pit speed limit is 60 mph whereas in the past we'd come in at 200 mph and hopefully get stopped by the end of the pits. It was pretty crazy back then. That not more accidents happened in the pits was amazing. You probably won't see those records broken because the rules and regulations are different.
Q Did you ever think the field would get back to way it is now?
Luyendyk: You could see right away that each year it was more and more competitive. In '97 when I won the race, there were like six guys who I really had to race hard to win this race. In my opinion that was a good race, a competitive race. But now the numbers are adding up. It just makes for a stronger field. It's always good to see. If you win, you've really accomplished something. But I think it's always been the case, even in the beginning of the IRL. You had a lot of teams that were just focused on Indy like Team Menard and Hemelgarn. To win this race you had a lot of guys, but this year, there are many more. I think it will be a great race. It will be really cool to watch and compete.
Q How big a problem is blocking here?
Luyendyk: There's been a lot of blocking in the past. There's been a lot less of it recently because you could get black-flagged. There's all kinds of way to block someone. You could do it very subtle, and it's very hard for the officials to see. And then there's blatant blocking. You don't see that anymore. There used to be some blocking where that you could never get by a person. Indy is such a tough place to pass anyway. You can run two-wide for about a lap. It's easy to block someone just enough so he can't take the line he needs and he won't get around you. I agree it needs to be made more sportsmanship-like. If they guys quicker than you and he can get by you, there shouldn't be a problem. But if I was going into the last lap, I'll probably be blocking too. You'll have to black-flag me after the checkered flag. I wouldn't want to be up there making the decisions, but I know if I'm leading the last lap and I have to block the guy to win, I'm going to block him. They can count on that now.