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Luyendyk Jr. celebrates first win
Luyendyk Jr. gets a kiss from 'mom' after his first win
Rick Schenk/AR1.com
Shortly after winning the SunRichGourmet.com 100, Arie Luyendyk Jr., received one of the two checkered flags that Indy Racing League starter Bryan Howard waved as he crossed the start-finish line.

The driver's father, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, asked if Howard had signed the keepsake, which the starter gives to each first-time winner. He wanted his son to remember everything about the moment.

"It's been a long-time coming," the elder Luyendyk said. "He’s had a lot of opportunities and chances before where he’s missed out on them. There have been ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ but finally he got the job done, so it’s awesome."

Luyendyk Jr., the only driver to compete in every season of the Firestone Indy Lights history, earned his first career win in the 2008 season finale at Chicagoland Speedway. He passed his teammate and 2008 Firestone Indy Lights champion Raphael Matos on a Lap 67 restart and held off Ana Beatriz for the win.

"It was a great run," Luyendyk Jr. said. "I think in years past, you've seen a lot of impatience here and you've seen a lot of side-by-side racing for the lead. Sorry it couldn't have been a better show, but it definitely benefited me the most. That last restart I knew I needed to get it done. It was a good opportunity. I poked my nose through there. He wasn't able to close the door in time. It's a great feeling to finally get that win.”

The win capped a rebirth in the racing career of the second-generation driver, who finished second to A.J. Foyt IV in the inaugural Firestone Indy Lights season under the Indy Racing League sanction, but had yet to tally his win in more than 60 starts. That changed with his signing with the AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing team at the beginning of the season.

"The season has been great," Luyendyk Jr. said. "I think I exceeded a lot of expectations out there this year, and hopefully people noticed that. I feel a little bit robbed of the top three just because I had the knee injury that really held me back at Infineon and had a couple really poor finishes there.

"But, overall I think a pole position and a win this year and lots of podiums, it's been a great year. Working with Rafa, he's been definitely the most enjoyable teammate to work with. I can't say enough about the crew. The crew has been great. They've been awesome to work with. My engineer has just been a breath of fresh air. "

Another key in the development is maturity. No longer a young driver with a famous name, Luyendyk Jr., now 26, has committed to his craft in hopes of following his father's path in the IndyCar Series.

"I think a lot of letting go of the frustration of not winning was the biggest thing," Luyendyk said. "Everyone always saying, 'When are you going to win your first race? When are you going to win your first race?' Then when you're in the car, you're overly aggressive. Instead of thinking about the big picture, you're thinking about getting ahead of the car in front of you and you'll do anything for it. I think that patience really paid off today. It's been like that all year basically.

"I can't take all the credit. It's just I think knowing that I'm 26 years old and I want to be an IndyCar driver and I need to make it happen. I need to make changes to my style."

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