Past Champions press conference April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Eddie Cheever, Jr Buddy Lazier Arie Luyendyk Part 3 of 3 - Family and racing King: All three of you are fathers. Obviously, Eddie, you've got two kids, Arie, you've...
Past Champions press conference
April 10, 2002, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Eddie Cheever, Jr
Part 3 of 3 - Family and racing
King: All three of you are fathers. Obviously, Eddie, you've got two kids, Arie, you've got three -- four and you've got two now Buddy, but both of yourself are very young. Will they be here with you the entire month, because it's tough when you've got one that's -- what Flinn's 3 and other one just a newborn.
Lazier: Jacqueline, the daughter, she is -- I think just six weeks now. It will be nice. That will be my time to let down is to spend the evenings with them. And I can certainly share the feelings of Arie in that, you know, even though he is only 3 years old, my son, Flinn, he races around in his go-karts. I can't imagine having a son -- knowing that they know what they're doing, but there are inherent risks in what we do, and huge consequences for mistakes made. It would be hard to watch your son race. But at the same time, it's what we love to do and you know, racing is -- has a lot of family tradition in it.
King: Arie, we talked to your twins there in Arizona. Have they ever seen you race here?
Luyendyk: No, they watch it on TV.
King: Are they going to come this year?
Luyendyk: No, it's really difficult to take -- first of all, they're in school. School is not over until the middle of May or maybe third week of May. With all the running around we do, there's really no time for the kids that much. Especially with -- most of my appearances are in the evening. They start at 7. Then by the time you get back to the hotel, it's 9:30 or so. So it's really hard. And then the kids really don't have a lot of places to go when they're here. They're not allowed to go in the garage. Not allowed to go hardly anywhere. It's better to leave them at home, I guess. For me, it is.
King: Eddie, how about your children. Will they come to see a race this year?
Cheever: No. I have a --
Cheever: -- policy, as Arie calls it. The month is just so intense and you spend so much time preparing for it, that it's a very difficult to be a father and a racecar driver, for me, at least, at the same time. And the racing would suffer inevitably because I love being with my children more than I do driving race cars. So I think that would really defeat the purpose if they were to be here. No, they will not be coming to the race.
Q Since all of you have been racing here for quite some time, Eddie in '90, Buddy '91, Arie I think back in '84.
Q Yeah, that was it.
Luyendyk: No, that was Mario, not Arie.
Q All that time there's kind of the senior statesman status you guys have developed over time, as far as understanding this particular race. But as you look back at what you've learned from the time that you guys were rookies through the years that you won, what would you say is the single bit of advice or less that you've learned in the process of having come here?
Luyendyk: Always turn left. I don't know. I guess respect for the racetrack. Like when I'll come back here in a couple weeks, you know, I won't go out and try to set really a fast time within the first 10 laps. I'll try and get into a rhythm, into a groove without rushing into it. This track can bite you before you realize it. And that's pretty much the advice I give to all of the youngsters. For the new guys, don't think it's just a track with four turns. A lot of Europeans come over and they go, ah, it's only four turns. OK, well you find out for yourself. They'll find out pretty quick it's more than that. A slow approach with a lot of respect is my advice to young guys and new guys.
Lazier: I would say I just learned patience and perseverance. It's a long month and it takes a lot to get the most of out your racecar. You can't make a car do something it doesn't to do. So you need to be patient. A lot of times when you're new here, you try to rush things, and that's where you get in trouble. Patience and perseverance.
King: Any questions? Got just a few minutes left. Right there in back. I can get Dick.
Q Eddie, you have had several drivers here in recent years, but you now have a driver that's driving full time with you, who maybe could beat you on a regular basis down the road. How do you look at that?
Cheever: I am paying somebody -- was that a question or a statement? That's sounded like a statement.
Q I said how do you look at it?
Cheever: I think it's great. Actually, Arie walked up to me in Phoenix and he was saying, "This guy is going pretty good." And if I recall, I said, "This is great. I'm going to be paying somebody who is going to be kicking my ass." I think it's great. Of all the drivers we have had in Indy, one of the biggest disappointments I ever had was when Scott (Goodyear) got caught up in that accident last year. I think that Scott would have had a very good run at winning the 500. I have always chosen drivers that I thought had potential to do well. The team and the company has come way in front of me, my own personal driving ambitions for many years. Do I think I'm going to win the 500? Absolutely. Do I think I'm going to win every race I compete in? Yes, if it goes well. But you want to have members of team that are very competent in what they're doing. You don't need somebody who does not believe he can win. Tomas has true and honest aspirations to become a Formula One race car driver. I think it will be the first time in the history of the IRL that a driver has come through this series with an aspiration of becoming a Formula One driver. And in his case, his father was a Formula One World Champion. I think it's great. I admire his tenacity. I admire his commitment to what he is doing, and I give him every possible bit of equipment that I can, as does everybody on the team, for him to compete. It would be very stupid to block somebody inside of a team because they can beat the owner. His job is to beat me.
King: Eddie, your team has had two rookies of the years here. Is that right? Haven't you had two drivers that have been named rookie of the year?
Cheever: I remember one. Robby.
Lazier: Jeff Ward.
Cheever: Jeff Ward, yes, two. Jesus, you're right. I am one of the senior statesman. What did I have for breakfast this morning? Who in the hell are you? Why am I sitting up here with you?
Luyendyk: Who was the other one, Robby who?
Cheever: Robby and Jeff Ward. And Jeff Ward could have won the race.
Luyendyk: Oh, Unser.
King: He was third that year, right?
Cheever: Yeah, it was great. There you go. Jeez, thank you.
King: Thanks for confirming that for me. Any other questions?
Q Eddie, some people in other series have tried owning and driving at the same time, and find it very difficult to do, and eventually pull out. How do you manage to manage it at this point in your career?
Cheever: Up until probably November, I was very actively involved in the day-to-day running of the race team. I made a decision this autumn that it wasn't possible to do that anymore. My driving was -- I made mistakes last year that I should not have done. You drive -- when you're racing, you have to drive on automatic. You can't be thinking what is going to happen at this pit stop? Have we got the flow right? Is the mechanic in the right front going dog to do his job. You just can't do that. I have given all those responsibilities to Richard Caron, who has been with me since the beginning of the team. He is now the general manager and president of the company. I am focusing just on the technical side and driving. I was spending more time in boardrooms than I was in the gym. I was having business meetings an hour before I got into the race, many races last year, which just wasn't possible. I need to thank Red Bull for that. I need to thank Nissan for that. They gave me an opportunity to where we had what we needed to go out and race. But the first job of any team owner is to make sure you have enough assets and sponsorships to go out and do the job. The year we won Indy 500, I was at Marsh's, I believe, the week before and selling potato chips. I was very thankful for the opportunity. I was very happy. That meant that we were going to go Indy. That meant we might have a chance at qualifying, much less winning the race. Your priorities do change. As the team owner you have the responsibility toward all of your employees. As a driver, your responsibility is just to make sure you drive as fast as you can and has hard as you can and get everything done. I can understand why drivers have gone away from the owning and driving at same time. It isn't feasible. Just not enough hours in the day.
King: A quick question for each of you, same question, obviously. Do you remember the first time you came in to this place, literally, physically, as a driver, and when you did, did you imagine yourself in Victory Lane, Arie, lets start with you.
Luyendyk: Well, you have these dreams, we all have dreams. One of my dreams was to win this race. Not the first time I walked in here. The first time I walked in I was probably actually intimidated, let's put it that way. Coming here with a team that had never not one of the team members had ever seen the place, let alone seen an oval, and here we are a bunch of rookies from the crew chief to the engineer that didn't really know much about ovals. But, yeah, I always had dreams of winning the race. When I did win it in '90, I had kind of gone through that scenario in my mind, what would I do if I were leading the race with 20 laps to go, with 10 laps to go. So then when it happened, I had it running through my mind. So I was mentally prepared. But I do remember the first time being here physically was way before I won the race in 1981. I took a ride in the bus, that was my first ride around Indy as a tourist with (wife) Mieke, and first thing I thought to myself, I can't believe these guys are going over 200 on a narrow track like this. So I do remember that very well.
King: Buddy, what about you?
Lazier: My father raced, but I never was here at the race during the time he was racing. But my first vivid memory was I had been trying to make it in racing and had broken a March car mid-'80s and drove it in the back of a pickup truck out to be fixed from Bill Findlay, who used to be a pretty good guy at fixing cars for not a lot of money. Stayed at Speedway Hotel stood on the back of the truck looking over just in awe of the racetrack. First time here as a driver, I think was around 1989, trying to make the race, you know, my dream was just to get in, and just couldn't believe how much money was in each race team and each racecar. And so, yeah, it's really -- it's been a wonderful experience for me, and one I hope to continue for some time.
Cheever: I did what Arie did, I was in a bus during the tourist thing, it was a rainy afternoon, I was the only guy on the bus, and there were spin marks and -- spin marks and marks on the wall. And I asked, you know, what it was, and the driver had a perfect description of the accident what happened and what was the aftermath of every one of those spins. And halfway through the lap I said, "There's no way I'll ever do this." I don't see how you drive a racecar at those speeds and with no catch fence. I raced Formula One, where if you make a mistake, in Spa, for example, which is a big circuit, there is 20-feet of sand, 6 rows of tires, and there's a soft guardrail. And, I mean, by the time you get to the guardrail, you're really not going that fast. Here, you make a mistake, there is no credit. You make a mistake, you pay for it like that. It's a blink of an eye. You barely have enough time to just close your eyes and get ready for the hit. And it took a lot of mental practice to say, OK, go out there and forget there's a wall and just use it as your friend. It's a hard thing to do. Coming from road racing to here is very difficult, but it is -- it has been the greatest experience I have ever had in racing is to come here, more than racing at Monte Carlos, more than racing at Le Mans. There is nothing that ever compared to this. Probably because I am an American. I think this is an American icon. We're a young nation. I was raised in Italy, where you could still walk the same place the Julius Caesar walked. You come here, this has been here for such a long time. It has been here since the start of the car. All car racing started. There is so much history. To come and see the same place where they raced so many years ago is really a very special feeling if you're a racecar driver.
King: Arie, Buddy, Eddie, all great car drivers. We've got just a few minutes, I guess, for one on ones. What, do we have one more question? Go ahead.
Cheever: We've been missing you.
Q Speaking of one of the great Americans, we've got one that put a whoopin' on the field here the last 12 to 14 months, in Sam Hornish. Can any of you speak -- we obviously know that Panther has had a lot of reliability. We know that Andy Brown's pretty good. Can you talk about what you have noticed from Sam as another driver? Maybe Arie has watched him from afar just a little bit. What have you noticed?
Luyendyk: He's got big balls. Right?
Lazier: Thank you for coming.
Luyendyk: I have two twin boys, they are 8 years old and I had to explain to them what that actually meant. And they figured it out. They looked at the babysitter, they go, "You've got big balls." But, anyway, he has that, but when everything is working for you, they obviously have everything together, that car is handling very good. And as the equipment gives the confidence, you know, to go for it, you just go for it more and more. He has a good way of finding the limit and he has good judgment, too, because you don't finish, I think, nearly every race the last season and up until and through this season. So obviously he's the guy to beat.
Q Either of you two guys that have watched him in traffic, he just seems not to be where the accident is too. I don't know maybe luck and it's being pretty smart, too.
Luyendyk: You guys race with him, so talk.
Cheever: What can we say after your comment of having big balls? That's it.
Luyendyk: Well, you've got big balls too.
Lazier: He does a fantastic job, he really does. John Barnes, you had mentioned, Andy, the engineer, but also got to give a lot of credit to Barnes for giving him -- for spotting the talent. And I would say he is a super-talented young race driver and you've got to give John some credit for seeing that in a young driver giving him an opportunity. That's what's so great with the Indy Racing League, there's opportunity for talented young race driver.
King: That's going to wrap it up. Guys, will you be available for a few minutes for one-on-ones?
Cheever: I have got to go.
King: Eddie has to go. Arie and Buddy will be available for just a few minutes.
Part I - The Indy 500 and 2002 season: Part I