HAMPTON, Ga., Aug. 27, 1998 -- Fred Treadway owns a Pep Boys Indy Racing League car that is driven by two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. He has a son, Ricky, who has won two midget races in a row. On Saturday night,...
HAMPTON, Ga., Aug. 27, 1998 -- Fred Treadway owns a Pep Boys Indy Racing League car that is driven by two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. He has a son, Ricky, who has won two midget races in a row.
On Saturday night, Luyendyk will drive his Sprint PCS-RadioShack-QUALCOMM G Force/Aurora/Firestone in the inaugural Atlanta 500 Classic presented by MCI. On Sunday, Ricky, a commercial pilot, will fly his father home to Indianapolis and then will fly to Wisconsin to seek his third straight victory at Sun Prairie Speedway.
"It's the first time somebody has offered me a ride," said the younger Treadway, 28. "Actually, he hired me."
Fred Treadway, whose No. 1 goal at the moment is to get his Dutch driver back in Victory Lane, had little to do with his son becoming a race driver.
"Everybody was saying, 'Oh, he's doing it because his dad's an Indy-car owner," Fred Treadway said. "Actually, I didn't want him to drive. But I couldn't stop him."
Ricky, who has the same straw-colored hair as his father, first showed an interest in fast things when he was 5. A friend of Fred Treadway showed Ricky how to shift the family tractor into gear. When Ricky approached his 15th birthday, his mother, Janice, wanted to give him a gift of tuition to the Bob Bondurant driving school.
Father Fred was aghast.
"I said, 'Wouldn't that be stupid? Someday I'd have to buy an Indy car,'" he said, laughing at the irony of his 1985 statement.
It wasn't until 10 years later that Treadway, asked to make a business loan to Andreas Lieberle so he could purchase an Indy-style car, gained a first-hand interest in the sport of auto racing. At about the same time, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George was forming the IRL. Treadway decided to cast his lot with the upstart league and field a team.
"I told Lieberle my criteria was that I would put in whatever money was necessary so it would be a top team," he said.
Treadway met Luyendyk at Elkhart Lake, Wis. When the new car owner learned 1990 Indianapolis 500 winner Luyendyk was out of a ride because he didn't have any money to bring to an owner, Treadway quickly signed him. Treadway took over the team at Phoenix in 1996, and two months later watched Luyendyk set qualifying speed records at Indy that might never be broken. He led the race when he was knocked out in a strange accident on the south end warm-up lane.
A year later, though, Treadway stood in Victory Circle with Luyendyk at Indy.
Again last May, Arie led at Indy when the clutch failed.
This year Luyendyk is mired in 11th in the standings with a best finish of fourth at Charlotte, N.C. Treadway says he can't put a handle on the problem, but blames much of it on hard luck because Arie has been competitive only to have something ugly happen on the track.
"We're looking forward to good things happening," said Treadway, ever the optimist.
When Treadway isn't in the pits rooting for Luyendyk, he tries to be on hand to cheer for his son.
"I go to every race I can, more as a father," he said.
"I'm asked if Ricky is going to drive one of my cars. My standard answer is, it depends on the sponsor. This sport is so expensive you need corporate sponsorship. I'm trying to teach Ricky the business side of the sport. If he can learn that, he'll make it to Indy."
Ricky Treadway, like his father, got a late start in racing. He worked as a commercial pilot for 10 years, then last year made a small start in the sport as a driver in a rented car at the Indianapolis Speedrome. He thinks that flying helps his hand-eye coordination and mental preparation.
While the Pep Boys IRL has opened opportunities for USAC open-wheel drivers to get into Indy-type cars, it also has provided seats in the race cars those drivers vacated for hopeful neophytes like Treadway. This year he has a solid midget ride with John Lawson Motorsports, a team for which Pep Boys Indy Racing League star Billy Boat once drove.
"He does all his own things," Fred Treadway said proudly of his son. "After a race he gathers all the team shirts and takes them to the laundromat, and writes his own press releases. They're like letters from camp."
Ricky Treadway already has learned about the unexpected fates of being a race driver.
"Racing has its ups and downs," he said.
The week before he won at 16th Street Speedway he finished last because of an accident. Then the next night at Sun Prairie he charged into the first lead of his short career only to have his engine blow. He didn't think he would run at all last weekend. But the crew got the car ready, and he won twice.
Ricky said his father doesn't help him much because he is involved in the big leagues, and Ricky is trying to put together a racing program in the minors. But hanging around his father's pits has helped him become acquainted with various sponsors.
Would he like to someday drive for his father?
"That would be incredible," Ricky Treadway said.