Luyendyk Sneaking Up On Win

Each year before the start of the Indianapolis 500, a Stealth bomber thrills the crowd at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a low-speed, low-altitude flyover.

This year, they’ll be two Stealth machines at the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing." Arie Luyendyk will pilot the other one on the track.

Luyendyk, a two-time winner, has flown in under the radar at Indy and positioned himself as a favorite while the media, fans and competitors focus on drivers such as Michael Andretti, Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, Jimmy Vasser and Gil de Ferran.

That may be just the advantage the Flying Dutchman needs to capture his third Indy title.

Luyendyk will start the May 27 race from the sixth starting position on the outside of Row 2 after turning in a four-lap, 10-mile qualifying run of 224.257 mph Saturday.

Even after a year of retirement, the 47-year-old hasn’t seemed to lose his touch at IMS.

“I'm really at ease with myself that I'm driving again,” said Luyendyk, who returns to Indy with Treadway-Hubbard Racing in the No. 5 G Force-Aurora. “I'm really happy to be out there being competitive and being charged up and thinking about what we need to do to go faster and just being part of it, the whole thing again.

“The whole thing about Indy is it's great to be here as a driver, which is what I wanted, but I also wanted to be here as a competitive driver and to be able to mix it up with the fast guys.”

So far, so good.

On opening day of practice May 6, Luyendyk was seventh fastest with a top lap of 219.481 mph. If the speed wasn’t impressive enough, the ease at which it came is.

“I just wanted to take my time and get comfortable with the car,” he said. “I do not think that it is important to be at the top of the speed charts on the first day, but it was nice not to be too far off the pace for the day.”

In the next five days of practice, Luyendyk was consistently among the six fastest drivers. Indy, it seems, suits his driving style perfectly.

“I don’t really know how to say what it is, but having grown up and raced on road courses in Europe, I always had a knack for fast turns, even on the road courses,” he explained. “I always seemed to be able to pull away a little bit in fast, fast corners. So I guess that’s what it is around this place.

“I don’t really think I’m doing anything much different than the other guys. Obviously, I can only be as good as my car and as the team that helps me out to get the car working for me.”

In this case, that Treadway Racing team is the same one that produced the 1997 Indy 500 victory, Luyendyk’s second win in the Memorial Day classic.

“I think it's such a major part of any driver to be able to walk into the garage and be comfortable with his surroundings,” said Luyendyk, whose other Indy win came in 1990 with a different team. “They have a great responsibility towards you as far as putting the car together right and as far as making the car work right. So for me it was such an easy adjustment to come back out of retirement knowing that I'm going to be with guys that I trust 100 percent.”

With a little luck, Luyendyk could be going for his fourth or fifth win this year. In 1999, he was leading the race when he touched a car in Turn 3 and spun out of control and hit the wall. He started from the pole in 1993, led 14 laps but ended up finishing second to Emerson Fittipaldi.

“I'm not the only one that has stories like that,” Luyendyk said. “Mario Andretti has maybe three or four of those stories and Michael Andretti, as well. So there are many drivers that have chased the dream of winning it once and never done it. So I've won it twice; and if that's the way it's going to be for the rest of my life, it's still going to be great.

“But obviously we're chasing No. 3 here.”

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