Past Champions press conference April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Eddie Cheever, Jr Buddy Lazier Arie Luyendyk Part 2 of 3 - Engines, history and wining the Indy 500 King: Buddy, there was a lot of talk, obviously, last season...
Past Champions press conference
April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Eddie Cheever, Jr
Part 2 of 3 - Engines, history and wining the Indy 500
King: Buddy, there was a lot of talk, obviously, last season about the progress of Infiniti and the 35A, and it's obviously been reflected. But the Chevrolet guys, how much of an advantage do you feel that you might have with a Chevrolet engine now?
Lazier: I couldn't be happier with the motor that we have this season. It's been -- it's an all-new engine. It's performed pretty much flawlessly, especially for just a new motor. Obviously, the competition has been fierce and seems like they are really catching. You know they're moving hard. But Chevy is moving hard, too. All I can speak is on my team and my behalf, we're very pleased with the decisions that we made enabling us to have the Chevy motor, because we feel like that's the way to go.
Cheever: You're happy with it because you haven't tried Infiniti yet.
Lazier: Have you tried a Chevy yet, Eddie?
King: Did California teach you guys some things that you had to know before you come here to run that engine 500 miles?
Cheever: I think Fontana is harder on the engines than Indianapolis is. We spent 90 percent or 95 percent of our race full throttle. And here you won't do that. In all the races I have had in Indy, maybe I hae had 30 percent of those races where you did a certain number of laps -- or 30 percent of the laps full throttle. Always on and off, and gives the engine a break. So, those 400 miles I think are tougher on an engine than what you would have around Indy. Did we learn something? We learned a lot of things. Speed, pit stops, engine liability. A lot of things. Engine fuel consumption.
Q We asked earlier who was the best, but give us your feelings on being part of this elite group of Indianapolis 500 winners across the board?
Cheever: Sounds like an Arie question for me.
Luyendyk:: Because I'm one year older than you? He's always lied about his age so nobody really knows how old he is. This race when I came to America in the early '80s, you know, this is the race that you hear about. So this is the race that everybody wants to win, every open-wheel driver. And having won it in 1990 was just amazing. And then what happens, you win it once, and your goal is to win it again and again, because it's such an addictive event. Everything about it, the history -- just everything about it. The way qualifying goes, the amount of people that show up for Race Day, the electricity in the air on Race Day. It's just an enormous. To have won it is obviously an honor, and you feel privileged to be able to say I won the Indy 500, because you don't really have to say much more than that. At least it explains everything. Everybody pretty much knows what the Indy 500 is all about. And it's a lot easier to explain to people what you do when you say I won the Indy 500. Then they know. And that's it. And that's why I'm here again. The attraction to race here is enormous, and will always go on. Obviously, there is a point when you have to say now I have to really retire. So, that's my opinion, a small part of it.
Lazier: Just it's a total honor to be part of history. And I'll never forget, we used to go to Lake Powell in Utah, which is a ways out of Vail. And camping out, unfortunately, we didn't have a TV so we would listen to it on radio. And then growing up, my father was in racing. So, you know, as he was trying to prepare himself to become a rookie here. But watching it on TV, it was always -- the month of May in Vail, Colorado, where I grew up, was always a very special month because it was time trials and practice. Just fond memories of the event, in general. And just to have made it, the first time I made the race was 1991, and it was just an amazing feeling. Changes your life as a race driver just to make the field. And to go full circle and actually win the event, it's just -- words can't place how meaningful it is. And to be part of the history, it's a huge honor.
Cheever: I think they both put in words very eloquently, it's -- if you spend your life driving race cars, and you have a passion for this, it is always nice when it's all said and done and you're no longer racing, that you won an event like Indianapolis 500. Our faces will be on the Borg-Warner long after we are no longer here. And maybe my grandchildren one day with walk into the Museum and say, "Hey, we won the 500 one year." But it's such a big event, it's hard to put into words. I am pretty brash when I do certain things. I remember when I was a bachelor, after I won the Indy 500, I went out with a tennis player of mine, Jim Courier, who had won a bunch of U.S. Open championships. There were two pretty girls, we started talking to the girls, it was getting pretty interesting. They said, "What do you guys do for a living?" I said, "Well, he's won the Masters of tennis." They had no idea who we were. I said, "I won the Indianapolis 500." They both got up and said, "That is so lame. I mean, you had us. Why was it necessary to make such a big lie?" So from that point on, I never ever tell anybody I won the Indianapolis 500. I have been cured of that problem.
Luyendyk:: They must have been 15 years old.
Lazier: I would say definitely exceeds expectation. There are so many things in life when you accomplish a goal, it's a flutter as opposed to the bang that you expect it to be. Wining the 500 exceeds all expectation for the driver. It's fantastic.
King: I have always been curious about when you decide to wear your winner's ring. Buddy, you've got yours on. When do you guys wear them and when don't you? I know Brian Barnhart has his on today.
Luyendyk:: Did he win it, too?
King: As a member of a team. Yeah, he was a winner. When do you wear your ring, Arie?
Luyendyk:: I need to have it made larger because it's too tight now.
King: So you can't wear your ring?
Luyendyk:: No, I have gotten fatter, I guess, over the years.
King: Eddie, what about you? When do you wear it?
Cheever: I don't like wearing rings.
Luyendyk:: Same here.
King: Is that right? It might have been helped you out in the bar if you had had the ring on. You know.
Luyendyk:: I wore one for a long time.
King: Questions for our three former champions. Let me get to you, Dick.
Q Arie, earlier this morning Brian Barnhart said in qualifying he expects them to push close to a 230 mile-an-hour lap. Tell us, it was only six or seven years ago where you went 237 and 239 in practice. How frightening was that at those speeds, and are you glad they went to the, you know, new formula to slow them down?
Luyendyk:: Well, it wasn't frightening at all because the cars back then had a lot of downforce and a lot more horsepower, and the combination of that to produce those speeds. Also back then, in 1996, the track had just been resurfaced. Firestone came out with a better tire. Got away with the rumble strip. So they gave us a foot, foot and a half more racetrack. And all these factors played into producing those kinds of speeds. The following year, in 1997, they went to the normally aspirated IRL cars with less downforce, and from -- I could do 238 with the old cars. I was doing a 218 with the new cars. It was more frightening to do the 218, believe me, than it was the do the 238. So the new cars were a little bit more tricky. A lot of weight. The engines and the gearbox, that combination, was very heavy. So the car was always on the edge and never really as comfortable as the car doing the 238 speed. So, now we're getting close to, I think, we will get closer to 229 and 230 maybe in qualifying. So it's getting up there again. These cars now also feel very comfortable at those speeds, so there is nothing frightening about it. So that's it.
King: Have any of three of you had an opportunity to spend any time on the track since they graded some of the areas? Eddie, you say you have. Is it just incredibly smooth? I mean, the track, there's always been talk about how smooth the surface it is.
Cheever: It's not like when you resurface it. But they've taken a lot of bumps out that were in 1. Still a few bumps up high entering into 2. It's even a visually different racetrack because it has different shades to it now, where they've taken some off in one area and some in another. But it has a lot more grip because of that. As cars run, they will put more rubber down, it will get a groove. It didn't have a groove yesterday. I think with all that construction work -- all the construction work they were doing, there were heavy trucks on the track. I think that was upsetting a bit.
King: Other questions? Right back here. Let Joe get to you in just a second.
Q Thanks. Arie, this is for you. I know your son's an excellent driver. Do you have hopes some day of racing with him here at Indianapolis?
Luyendyk:: I think it would be fun, yeah. We're going to -- we're almost certain that he is going to run in the new Infiniti Pro Series, so we're working on that really hard trying to scrape together sponsorship, which is really difficult. But I have gotten to the point where you have to make a decision, OK, are we going to do it or not. We pretty much decided we are going to do it. And he'll drive one of these new cars, I'll go check out the car later to see what it looks like. Looks like Dallara built a really nice car there. So we will see. He has always been from day one very quick and really fast turns and on ovals, the few ovals that he has run in the Formula Ford 2000 series. I am hopeful he will be very competitive in this series and it will lead to an Indy Car ride in the future. He is only 20 years old so. He doesn't sound as Tomas does, but impatience is a word that I can describe him with as well, but that pretty much goes with the age. He can't wait to get the season started, which starts in July in Kansas. And so we're looking forward to that -- or he is looking for forward to it than I am, because it's pretty scary watching your own kid driving racecars.
King: Buddy, I recently heard an interview with -- it was a feature, you at home and heard Kara talking, your wife, talking about how different a guy you are away from the racetrack. When you come here, is it difficult wearing a game face for an entire month?
Lazier: Yeah, I suppose it is. It's a long month. You know, you've got to be cautious. As a rookie, I remember I probably spent a little too much time, 100 percent into the race and preparing. And it's a long month, so you need to be able to get away and have times to let down, because it's -- it's kind of like a roller-coaster ride. As many years as I have come here, it never seems to change. Two things never change, you never get rid of the butterflies at the start of the race, right before you roll off the grid, and the month of May never seems to always go perfectly smooth. Always ups and downs. Be really quick one day, real slow the next day. So in terms of finding that balance, like most drivers, I think it's pretty important to have, you know, to have some time where you are able to get away from the racetrack and let down with friends.
Part III - Family and racing: Part III