- Byrd Brothers, with partner team KV Racing Technology, have announced a return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2015 with Bryan Clauson.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Q&A With Arie Luyendyk Jr.

16thAndGeorgetown: In a recent Q&A with Jonathan Byrd II, he mentioned that one of his favorite racing memories growing up was in 1996 when your father broke the speed record at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his dads team. With a father that has one 2 Indianapolis 500's among many other accolades, what are some of your favorite racing memories?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Life obviously changed a lot after the 1990 Indy victory but the years between 1996 and 1999 really stand out. He seemed unstoppable at Indy and had a chance to win every year. He had a lot of back luck but in '97 it all came together. I think I was at the age where I could really appreciate how talented he was and I was on the path to my career so those years really left an impression.

16thAnGeorgetown: Can you tell us a little bit about Anti-Celeb, the clothing company that your involved with?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: It's a start up clothing line me and my two friends debuted last year. I've always liked the fashion industry and thought it would be fun to start a small clothing company. Every month we grow a little bit but the main focus has to be racing so a lot of my attention has been on my plans for 2010. Anti-Celeb is the counter culture to the main stream gossip that fills our news these days...basically we promote individualism.

16thandGeorgetown: By far and away you hold the FIL record for most starts with 62. Unfortunately you went the first 61 races without a win, but that all changed in September of 2008. At Chicagoland Speedway your teammate, Raphael Matos finished 3rd and secured the championship, while you took the AFS/AGR car to victory lane for your first win. How did it feel to finally get that monkey off your back?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Honestly it did bother me the first few years in Indy Lights. In 2002 I finished second 4 out of 7 races so the competitiveness was there, but luck was definitely not on my side. Throughout my career I have been up front so it was always on my mind and I think that made it even more frustrating. In 2008 I really came with a different mindset and poured through data and really worked with Rafa and AGR, I think I've matured since those first few seasons and ultimately that led to my success. I think the potential was there in 2008 to win more races but I'm happy with how it turned out regardless.

16thAndGeorgetown: In 2009 you joined Mike King in the VERSUS booth for the Firestone Indy Lights broadcast. Was it difficult sitting on the sidelines watching the series that you've competed in since 2002?
Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Yes and no. I feel like there is always room for improvement but after the 4 full seasons running Indy Lights I have maximized what I can learn and I was ready to move to IndyCars. When funding wasn't available I turned to Versus and IMS Productions and I have to say it was a really positive experience. Mike King is great to work with and I really enjoyed calling the races with him. That being said it was still difficult not to jump in a car. Panther's driver Pippa Mann was sick in Kentucky and if it had not rained out on race day I would have subbed in, so I was close to making a start in '09.

16thandGeorgetown: Without turning a lap in 2009, I'm sure the season didn't turn out the way you would of liked. Is there anything in the FIL or IRL pipeline for 2010 and if not is a return to the VERSUS booth possible?
Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Unfortunately Versus won't be airing a full race show for Indy Lights in 2010 but I will take that experience with me and hopefully get back to the booth in the future. As for next season things are looking good for a return to Indy and possibly the event before in Kansas. I have aligned myself with a new management company, Top Speed Management and things are looking positive for 2010.

16thAndGeorgetown: Since the end of the season you've spent the off time racing karts. How has it gone and have you enjoyed getting back to your racing roots?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: Karting is such a great sport and I have enjoyed running a lot of local races in the Phoenix area. It's hard to explain to someone that doesn't follow the karting scene but it has to be most raw talent driven side of racing. The physical side of it helps a lot when it comes to driving the bigger cars, I've always been a huge fan of karting.

16thAndGeorgetown: The Month of May 2005 seemed to be one of extreme ups and downs for both yourself and the team. After first qualifying for what would of been your inaugural "500", a controversial last minute entry bumped you from the field. Do you use that experience as motivation or do you just try to block it it?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: No I don't block it out, it was a bad experience and I feel like I performed as well as any other driver could have in that car and that situation. It was rushed and not done properly, I learned a lot through that experience and the one lesson I took from it was that not just any ride will do, sometimes as a driver you have to make hard decisions for your career and now I try and align myself with good equipment. My move to drive for AGR in Indy Lights is a perfect example of this.

16thAndGeorgetown: Redeeming yourself in 2006, you qualified the #61 Panoz/Honda for your first Indianapolis 500. With the start you and your father joined a list that includes Michael & Mario Andretti, Gary & Tony Bettenhausen, and Al Unser Jr. & Sr. as a father a son combination to drive in the race. What did it mean to you to make the Greatest Spectacle in Racing?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: It's every bit as big as everyone says and I feel honored to have been a part of that field of 33. We ran the '06 Indy on a tiny budget and it was completely spontaneous because we starting planning to run the race just a few weeks prior to opening weekend. So many people made that ride possible and it was a great feeling to make it into the show after the drama in '05. I think I proved I have what it takes to qualify on a low budget, but now my goal is to show everyone I can run up front if given the right chance. I feel like I have some unfinished business at the speedway.

16thAndGeorgetown: Both the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights schedules have changed a lot over the last couple years. What do you think of the 2010 schedule and in a perfect world, what would you like the ratio of Ovals, Road, and Street circuits to be?

Arie Luyendyk Jr.: The schedule looks great to me but I will say from a fan prospective the oval racing is the most entertaining. Drivers love the challenge of different circuits and I would love the schedule to be half oval and half road/street courses. I think then you can keep the championship diverse but still retain the excitement that comes from passing which the ovals provide more of.

I've gotta give a huge thanks to Arie, and be sure to check out Anti-Celeb on the web. And while your at it follow him on twitter and facebook.
Photos courtesy of Indycar.com & Arieluyendyk.com

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