IPS: Phoenix: Arie Luyendyk Jr preview

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#5 Active Intl / Sam Schmidt Motorsports / Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone
Driver: Arie Luyendyk Jr. (teammate to #11 Thiago Medeiros)
Owner: Sam Schmidt
Team Manager: Michael Crawford
Crew Chief: Chris Griffis
Chief Mechanic: Scott Fehr
Engineer: Blair Perschbacher
Websites: www.ArieLuyendykJr.com -- www.SamSchmidtMotorsports.com

PREVIOUS PHOENIX INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY EXPERIENCE: Arie Luyendyk Jr. raced at Phoenix International Raceway during the 2003 IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series season, qualifying 15th and finishing 10th in the race (originally qualified 3rd, but a practice crash forced Arie Jr. to start at the back of the grid on race day).

Arie Sr. Note: Arie Luyendyk, Arie Jr.'s father and two-time Indy 500 winner, qualified on the pole at PIR (a track record he still holds, 19.608 seconds, 183.599 mph) and won the IRL race there in 1996 and also won in 1991 when CART was competing at PIR;

Quote from Arie Jr. on running with Sam Schmidt Motorsports in 2004:

"I am really happy to have the opportunity to race for Sam this year. I know he's got good equipment, good personnel and an all-around good team, so I should be able to do very well there and hopefully win a race or two. Of course, we are still working on an IndyCar Series program for this year, and hope to have something in place soon. But I need to be in a race car as much as possible, and this ride is giving me the opportunity to do that and stay sharp as the 2004 season starts. I want to thank Sam for this ride - I hope I can reward him by landing in Victory Circle."

Quote from car owner Sam Schmidt:

"Arie Luyendyk Sr. and I were teammates on Fred Treadway's IndyCar team in '99 at Indy, and I still have that in my memory as one of my absolute best experiences as an IndyCar Series driver. He was a phenomenal teammate. Either one of us should have won (the Indy 500) in that year. So to be able to put this deal together to run Arie Jr. is great for everybody. I'm pleased to be running Junior. I think he has a great personality and I think he's got a lot of talent - hopefully our team can help show that."

Arie Jr. Pre-Race Interview:

After a rough start to the year (being taken out in a crash at Homestead while racing for second, eventually finishing ninth), what is going to be your approach to the tough PIR oval?

"We're going to go off of what we learned in pre-season testing. Because our car had to be rebuilt after the crash in Homestead, we'll have to take some time to shake the car down and make sure everything is bolted on and running properly. After that, we'll stick to our regular routine. I've gotten past thinking about the crash in Homestead - if I continue to be frustrated about it, I've already put myself at a disadvantage. I won't change how I approach the weekend as far as doing anything to avoid another situation like that as it wasn't my fault to begin with. If I hit the wall again, then I do.

"Last year we got off to a good start at PIR, but we had an unfortunate practice crash which put us at the back of the grid for the start of the race. The emphasis this year will be to get the car good on long runs. You obviously want to be fast in qualifying, but the track is fairly difficult and the guys who have the best car late in the race will do well. One thing that will help will be that a lot of my friends and family will be there to support me, which will be really nice."

What do you think about the new changes at PIR?

"The changes will be good for racing. We'll be able to go two-wide through turns one and two, which we couldn't do before. It will be easier to be racy with everyone. The only thing that might be a bit harder is that we don't have the same reference points as before. But after two laps, you get used to the new configuration and it's not an issue. During the open test, it was my first time with the new track configuration, so I had to change my approach in the corners a bit and adapt to the changes. Once I got the hang of that, it's really the same."

You were fast all weekend in Homestead and looked to be headed toward a great finish. Talk a little about the mental boost of being at the top of the speed chart in practice in qualifying?

"It's never a bad thing to be fast any time you are on the track. Obviously, everyone wants to be quick every time. It's a little less important at tracks like Homestead and Texas because of the track length. But at Phoenix, if you are at the top of the speed charts for practice and qualifying, it typically reflects in the race. It will be important to be fast in practice at Phoenix because we don't have that much time before qualifying there."

Your dad won at PIR in '91 and '96, currently holds the 1-lap track record, and he is now your spotter. Talk about how that will help you?

"His experience really won't help me much except for what he typically does as my spotter. It's my third year in the Pro Series. If I don't know the line around the track by now, I'm in the wrong sport. If I do something wrong, he tells me - he really doesn't need to coach me too much anymore."

Talk a little bit about the frustration that was a result of your Homestead crash?

"It was really frustrating because in 2002 we could have won the championship if I hadn't crashed in the first race. Last year was bad all the way around, ending with the crash in Texas after sitting on the pole, and this year has not started off very good. It seems like every time we qualify on the front row, something bad happens in the race. We get ahead of the game in qualifying, then the bad luck hits. All of my good finishes last year came after I started on the back row. I seem to have had a lot of bad luck lately, and I tell myself that it will turn around soon. Maybe Phoenix will be the start of something good."

-al/jv-

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About this article
Series Indy Lights
Drivers Arie Luyendyk , Sam Schmidt , Thiago Medeiros , Arie Luyendyk Jr.