Indy 500 Rookie class to lean on Luyendyk's Indy experience
One particular tip about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during Arie Luyendyk's first year attempting to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 has remained cogent for 27 years.
"We had only a little bit of insight from some guys," Luyendyk says. "Mario (Andretti) said don't rush into anything because the track will bite you before you know it. It says a lot in a few words. You have to have a methodical approach about the place."
On May 10, the two-time Indy 500 winner will relay that information and ample amounts more during the Rookie Orientation Program at the Speedway. The 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. session, which also will include a refresher course for competitors, is free and open to the public to watch from the South Terrace Grandstands adjacent to Gate 2. Opening Day for all-cars practice is May 12.
Participating in the Rookie Orientation Program (confirmed entrants):
Katherine Legge, No. 6 Dragon Racing
Rubens Barrichello, No. 8 KV Racing Technology
James Jakes, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing
Bryan Clauson, No. 39 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Wade Cunningham, No. 41 A.J. Foyt Racing
Josef Newgarden, No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing
Simon Pagenaud, No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports
Luyendyk was the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year (he started 20th and finished seventh) in a class that included Raul Boesel, Jim Crawford, John Paul Jr., Ed Pimm and Rich Vogler. Insight about how to approach the 2.5-mile racetrack and the mental aspects of how to approach Race Day will be prominent in the lead-up to on-track activity.
"I'll take them around in a pace car and show them the general line," says Luyendyk, an IZOD IndyCar Series race steward and driver coach. "And I'll point out things to them like keep your eye on the wind sock on a windy day because you can adjust your position as you turn into Turn 1 or Turn 3. I'll tell them where all the trucks are stationed so if they have a problem they can try to pull off nearby. When you come out of the pits on the backstraight, don't think the track's your own because the guy coming up behind you is a lot quicker.
"As I go around with the pace car I keep remembering things and I'll share. Some of them are personal preferences like the way I was seated in the car or the way I wanted to have the steering wheel (level).
"Then there's the mental approach to the race. If you're on the radio with a guy, you can mentally coach him at certain times through the race. Like if he has a certain set of tires and all of a sudden the car is not handling well and he's going 5 mph than before, you need to step in and say, 'OK, this is bad news but you have to hang on. Don't get frustrated. Other guys will have it happen to them.' You have to reassure them that it's going to be OK, even if it's not.
"A lot of guys get on a roll, they're running well, and one stint in their mind is destroying their race. You don't want them to get frustrated and crash."
Luyendyk, who made 17 consecutive starts in the "500," winning in 1990 and '97, also holds the track four-lap (236.986 mph in 1996) and one-lap (237.498 mph) qualifying records. The past two years at Indianapolis, he's coached Mike Conway and Charlie Kimball.
"Having Arie there -- not just for ROP but the whole month -- made a difference because Indianapolis is one of those places where the second you stop paying attention you end up doing something that gets you into trouble," says Kimball, driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing car.
"The first time you go there the safe thing is to lift early and turn in early, and then when you're starting to go flat if you turn in early you get yourself in trouble on Race Day. So having Arie there to say, 'Look, here's how it's going to play out if you keep doing this.'"
Adds Luyendyk with a chuckle: "Turn 1 is a corner where most guys have a tendency to turn in too early and they keep turning in early and early. I went on the radio and said, 'Do you want me to remind you every lap that you're turning in too early or every other lap?' I think he got it then."
It's a cogent bit of information that Kimball will pass along during his IndyCar career.