Indy Racing League Weekly Teleconference Transcript July 1, 2003 Arie Luyendyk Jr. K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Conference Call for this week, Tuesday, July 1st. Today we visit with IRL Infiniti Pro Series...
Indy Racing League
Weekly Teleconference Transcript
July 1, 2003
Arie Luyendyk Jr.
K. Johnson: We certainly welcome everyone to the Indy Racing Conference Call for this week, Tuesday, July 1st. Today we visit with IRL Infiniti Pro Series driver Arie Luyendyk Jr., the son of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk. Arie drives the No. 5. Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone fielded by Sinden Racing Service. The runner-up in the 2002 Infiniti Pro Series championship, he has recorded a pair of top-five finishes over four events this season, with a fourth-place finish at the season-opening Western Union 100 at Homestead-Miami Speedway and a season-best third-place effort at the most recent Infiniti Pro Series outing, that being the Pikes Peak 100 two weeks ago at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Arie, good morning and thanks for joining us today.
A. Luyendyk Jr.: Thank you for having me.
K. Johnson: Let's look back at your most recent outing at Pikes Peak. You and the Sinden Racing Service team recorded your strongest outing of the season with a third-place finish. Is there a sense that you might be carrying some momentum into this week's event at Kansas?
A. Luyendyk: Yes, there is a feeling. We have a lot of bad luck this season, and we started having bad luck at Pikes Peak, too. We were over two seconds off the pole for qualifying, and we kind of lost everything and then everything came together for the race. So, I think we have our stuff sorted out, and we are going to be going to tracks now that we have a lot of experience on, and I think that they will benefit us. Yes, we are going to into this race with the momentum, and hopefully we can improve on that third-place finish.
K. Johnson: The Infiniti Pro Series celebrates its one-year birthday this week with the Aventis Racing For Kids 100 at Kansas Speedway. With you being in your second year with the series, you will now be returning to tracks where you have previous experience, obviously a benefit, but in what ways to the driver and the team?
A. Luyendyk: Excuse me?
K. Johnson: You will be going back to tracks now that you have raced on previously; how will that be a benefit to you and the team?
A. Luyendyk: Well, I think we can obviously use the data from last year, so that will be a big help. And, as far as my experience goes, it will be great to go to tracks like St. Louis and Nashville where I finished second both times last year, and we have a lot of good information on those tracks, as far as setup goes. It is going to be great to go back to those tracks, and I ran well everywhere last year, so hopefully we can carry the momentum that we gained a little bit at Pikes Peak and follow it through with the rest of the races.
K. Johnson: To this point, you currently lie eighth in the Infiniti Pro Series point standings, but the race is so tight that just 17 points separate you from second place. Is there a particular point in the season when you start to focus on the points race, or what is your approach to that?
A. Luyendyk: At first, my outlook on the season was just to win races. Last year, I concentrated a lot on the points, and I did not take as many risks after the first race. And, now I am just trying to win races because I am tired of finishing second. I finished second so many times, and finishing near the top so many times, it would be nice to get a win. So, right now I am concentrating on that, and I think if you are going for wins, the points will eventually come.
K. Johnson: You say that your focus is on winning races, but this year it appears that the depth of the field, the number of competitors who have a chance to win, is much greater.
A. Luyendyk: Yes, I think the last race we didn't have that many cars, but at Indy, I think, we had 19, and it is 19 very solid drivers. So, we have really good drivers in the field, and I think the talent level is a little bit up from last year, so it is very competitive. And you have teams this year, such as Panther, that have stepped in and really made an impact on the series, so it has made everyone else work a little bit harder to be quick. I think that is good. Obviously, you learn more as a driver if you are driving around people that are experienced and quick, so I think it is only making me a better driver, and that is why I stayed in the series another year because I am still learning, and that is what this series is all about.
K. Johnson: Arie, at this time let's go ahead and open our conference to the media. Just a reminder, we do a complete transcript of the call, and it will be sent to you via e-mail and fax machine. Now let's open the forum for questions.
Q: Hi, Arie. You know, you go back to Kansas and that was a debut race. Can you talk a little bit about that race last year, the first time these cars went out on the track, what were your thoughts then in how it was going to turn out and everything?
A. Luyendyk: Well, last year I came into the series with some high hopes, and we started seventh, and that was not the best, but we worked our way up and we were battling for the lead up until we had an accident, myself and Ronnie Johncox. We had the speed there, so the setup was good and everyone was still learning a little bit about the car, and everyone was learning a little bit about each other. And, I think this year it will be a little different because everyone is used to driving with each other. It is the fifth race of the season, I believe. So I think, going into this race, everyone will be a lot more confident than they were last year.
Q: You had two quick races this year, and then there have only been two in like two or three months, and now you go into a stretch where you race regularly. Is that going to be more important now to be able to go from race to race without big gaps between them?
A. Luyendyk: I think it is great, because it allows the driver just to be sharp, because when you have these long breaks in between races you just need like a session to back up to speed. I like having races back-to-back just because it keeps me constantly focused. The team will have to work a little harder, but I think for the driver it is a lot easier.
Q: And what have you been doing between races to keep yourself sharp?
A. Luyendyk: I have been just concentrating on keeping fit, running every day and doing that. But as far as that goes, I live in Arizona so it is a little hot to be going running and that kind of stuff, so basically just keeping fit. That is about it.
K. Johnson: Arie, you talk about fitness level and staying fit, this and that. This week you go to Kansas, the breadbasket of America, in the summertime. It is always hot there. As a driver, do you notice the temperatures and the conditions, or how do you deal with that?
A. Luyendyk: Well, you notice the temperatures because you are wearing a three-layer fire suit, but when you are in the car and you have your helmet strapped on and you are sweating like crazy, actually it is not too bad once you get going because the air gets on you. It is just important to drink a lot of water and just concentrate on that, because you lose so much water at Kansas because of the high temperatures and the humidity. So, basically just try to stay hydrated and make sure that you get plenty of water.
Q: You are in the series to learn and then move on. How will you know when you are ready to move on and move up?
A. Luyendyk: Well, as far as moving up goes, I think the car -- At first when you get into the car, it feels very quick because you have come from a slower car. So now the quickness has kind of worn off, and you get into the car and you don't even think twice about going fast right away. And, I think the speeds don't seem as quick and you are more confident and you know a lot about how the car works, and then you are able to move on because you have basically exceeded the car that you are driving. Like last year, I did my rookie test in Kentucky in the IndyCar Series car, and after I drove that I felt very comfortable in the IndyCar Series car, so I didn't really want to get back into the Infiniti Pro Series car. But there is so much to be learned, as well, and as far as racing technique and restarts and doing all the things in the race scenario, once you get the swing of things then you are able to move on.
Q: Do you feel you are getting close?
A. Luyendyk: Yes, I think I could have gotten to an IndyCar Series car this season if we had the budget behind us. But I wanted to stick it out and do another a year in the Infiniti Pro Series because I learned so much last year, and this year we obviously have a full schedule, so now I get to go to many more tracks that I have never seen before, like, for example, Pikes Peak. I have never been there before, and Homestead, I have never driven on the oval there. So it was nice to learn the new tracks, and now I am very comfortable with the car, and I feel like I could get into an IndyCar Series car as soon as possible.
Q: You tested in the IndyCar Series. How big a jump was it? How different was it?
A. Luyendyk: At first, it felt different because getting up to speed in an IndyCar Series car is difficult, because the slower you go the less downforce it creates, which is with every race car. But in the IndyCar Series car you really feel it. So if you are going around the track at 190 miles an hour it actually feels more uncomfortable than going to 150, for example. So that was the step to learn how to go quickly. Then, once you got up to speed, it actually felt as comfortable as my Infiniti Pro Series car. And I think the Infiniti Pro Series car really developed me to the point where it was very easy to get into an IndyCar Series car.
Q: How tough has it been for you to not want to make the jump too soon?
A. Luyendyk: I am 21 now, and I feel I could have made the jump last year, but we have to get everything in line. There are so many more things to racing than just being prepared yourself. You have to get, obviously, the funding. You have to have people notice you. I mean, I am trying to work hard. I am doing well at these races, and sometimes the race weekend doesn't go good, and you feel bad because it reflects upon you. I would just love to get a couple of wins under my belt and show everyone the talent level that I have because I think that I am prepared to get into an IndyCar Series car and race anybody out there. So, I really would like to get a win under my belt and get the sponsors in line and shoot for the IndyCar Series next year.
Q: Arie, three of the first four races were on the 1-mile ovals, and then you had Indy. Now you are going to the 1.5-mile track. What does it take to do well on the longer tracks compared to the 1 miles?
A. Luyendyk: I think as far as the 1 mile goes, there are a lot more drivers involved, as far as Pikes Peak, that was very much a driver's track. And, once you step up to these 1.5-mile tracks, you really have to concentrate on getting the car trimmed out and working on the setup, because as far as difficulty with our cars, it is not so difficult. So, you need to really make sure the car has zero drag and is very good through the air, and then that will be key. So, I think the driver that can go out there and run a very good line right away and get the car set up quickly will be the quickest.
Q: Arie, let's go back and talk about two statements that you made earlier. The first was that you were looking forward to going back to tracks you were familiar with, because you already had acquired data from last year. Then you talked about going to Homestead and, I believe, Pikes Peak, and how much fun it was learning the tracks. Is familiarity something that you would rather have or do you want to go out and have fun learning the tracks? What is going to make you more successful as a driver?
A. Luyendyk: Well, I think any time you have driven on a track before you go there for the race weekend, it is going to benefit you because you can go in with the attitude of knowing every bump, knowing where to enter the corner and where to exit. The experience is always better, but it is nice to go to a new track sometimes and learn. Typically, you want to be competitive right away. So, if you are going to a track like Pikes Peak or St. Louis or Phoenix, you want to already have driven there, just so you know all the tricks to it before you get there so you can be quick right away. So, I think learning the tracks are great. I mean, I had a blast at Homestead, and I have always loved Phoenix, and Indy was amazing, and Pikes Peak was great. It is just that next time I go there I think I will be much more prepared.
Q: Working with Sinden Racing, I believe this is your second year with that team?
A. Luyendyk: My first year we were with Luyendyk Racing.
Q: Talk about how the team has progressed and come along as this season has advanced.
A. Luyendyk: Well, our team is basically run by Sinden Racing, but we have all the same crew members as we did last year. So, we have worked together all through last year. So it was great to come back this year and work together with the same people -- my engineer, Steve Erickson; chief mechanic Tim Shank. They have worked really hard this year. It is just that we have a lot of bad luck. So I think the results that we have had don't reflect how quick we are, because every time we qualified we have qualified third, third, fifth, and I know we qualified second-to-last in the last one, but we have been quick everywhere we have gone, and that is in part due to the relationship I have with my engineers, through Erickson.
Q: And that has to be a big key. I mean, you talked about you have qualified at the front, but you have also qualified at the back, and again, we go back to just how stiff a competition you are facing in the series this year.
A. Luyendyk: Right, I mean, the first three races we qualified third. In the first race, we dropped to fourth, so it wasn't a bad result, but the second race was unfortunate because of the crash in the warm-up that we had to start last. In two races this year, I have had to start pretty much in the last row, so I think if we just play it safe and make sure we qualify well and race consistently, I think we still have a shot at the championship. Don't count us out yet.
Q: As you go through the championship, we have talked about how you are getting into a very regular pattern of races. Do you take it as it comes or is it a matter of: 'Gee, I don't want to lose points here. This is a good opportunity to gain points?'
A. Luyendyk: I think you always have that in the back of your mind when you look at the qualifying sheets and you look at who is in front of you. And when you are out there on the racetrack, it definitely feels good to pass the point leader. Last weekend, Pikes Peak, it felt good to pass Mark Taylor and Ed Carpenter to get up into third. So you always have that in the back of your mind, but basically you take every race as it is and you want to get to the front no matter who is there. In the points, it is kind of an afterthought after the race. You have in the back of your mind as far as if you are going to take a big risk or not passing somebody, but it is so early in the season that it is not really too big of a factor yet.
K. Johnson: Arie, let's go back again and talk about the Infiniti Pro Series. You talked about a year ago, getting into it with the hopes of jumping up at the IndyCar Series, and then you got to test drive and now you feel like you are advancing, not quite there yet, but advancing toward getting ready to go. It seems like as you get to the upper echelon of the sport, the IndyCar Series, F1, whatever, the avenues for getting there are narrower. But for the Infiniti Pro Series, you have drivers coming in from many, many different avenues of motorsports. What is the camaraderie like in the paddock, the fact that you have guys coming in from road racing, you have guys coming in from dirt-tracking and some guys come in from karting? You have quite a mix there.
A. Luyendyk: It is a very diverse field. You have many guys from sprint cars, Ed Carpenter and Aaron, and then you have people from Formula 3 such as Thiago and Mark, and I came from F2000, as well as Jonathan Urlin. So, I think you have lots of guys from road racing, lots of guys from sprint cars, so I think it is a good mix of drivers, and this series really lets our talent show through. The equipment is very equal, and I think that it is great. We have a good camaraderie, and it is like a family. The Indy Racing League is definitely like a family because you see all the same people in the paddock all the time. It is very nice to be around all the same people. They become very good friends of yours.
Q: Looking at the tracks again, what are you favorites? Do you like the big ovals? Do you like the shorter ones? Would you have liked to have run at Richmond last week on the ¾-mile?
A. Luyendyk: Yes, I would have liked to run there. That is unfortunate that we didn't get to run there, and I would have liked to run at Nazareth, as well. I like the shorter tracks. I like St. Louis. That was probably one of my favorite tracks last year. And I like Michigan because I did so well there. So I like all sorts of tracks. But, I think for our cars I like the shorter track.
Q: What would be the reason for that?
A. Luyendyk: Just because it takes more of the driver and less of the engine and the setup. I think when you get to the bigger tracks, some people can have disadvantages if they have a little bit of an older engine, or if someone gets a fresh engine they are at an advantage. So, I think that the shorter tracks are where the driver talent shows through, and I think that is the better tracks for these cars.
K. Johnson: Arie, again, we certainly appreciate you joining us this morning, and we look forward to seeing you and wish you the best of luck this week at the Aventis Racing For Kids 100 at Kansas Speedway.
A. Luyendyk: Thank you.