Guess who still can’t walk 5 feet without women practically swooning like teenagers?
That’s right. Arie Luyendyk.
Even at age 41, Luyendyk remains Tom Cruise-handsome.
With his shoulder-length hair and distinctive, jet-set appearance, Luyendyk looks more like a candidate for the cover of Gentleman’s Quarterly than someone who will start the Indianapolis 500 from the middle of the front row.
“It’s not always fun being here a whole month,” said Luyendyk, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife, Mieke, and four children. “But when you’re having a good time like our team is having, it becomes a lot more pleasant.”
What can be pleasant about Luyendyk’s position?
Sure, he’s starting from an opportune position, and, sure, he’s consistently been one of the fastest drivers all month.
But has Luyendyk forgotten what happens once the checkered flag is waved Sunday?
Has he forgotten he’ll be out of a job?
“No, I haven’t,” Luyendyk said. “I know my situation. But what can I do about it?
“That’s just the way it is. Worrying about it won’t help.”
No, it won’t.
But hey, Arie, no one’s going to blame you for having an anxiety attack.
“Win or lose on Sunday, I know I’m out of work on Monday,” Luyendyk said. “I’ve already got a vacation planned to go to Holland to visit some family and friends.
“Things won’t change, even if I do win the race. There still wouldn’t be an opening anywhere.”
There won’t be one at Team Menard because car owner John Menard races at Indy and Indy only.
Luyendyk also raced last month at Phoenix International Raceway, but that also was a one-race deal with car owner Dick Simon.
Wait a minute. Didn’t Luyendyk win the 1990 Indy 500? Isn’t that supposed to mean something?
“In another era, maybe,” Luyendyk said. “But these are the (1990s). Things have changed.”
They certainly have.
At a time in Luyendyk’s 11-year Indy-car career in which he should be enjoying the fruits of long-term contracts, he instead is sputtering along as if caught in rush-hour traffic on Grand Avenue.
You know, as in one red light after another.
Although Luyendyk has posted sparkling marks at Indy, which include finishing runner-up in 1993 to Emerson Fittipaldi after capturing the pole position and a third-place finish in 1991, it hasn’t meant squat.
Despite winning twice in 1991, Luyendyk was out of full-time work the next year when car owner Vince Granatelli of Scottsdale couldn’t obtain the kind of sponsorship financing it takes to run a competitive team.
Luyendyk, who made two starts in 1992 for Chip Ganassi, was hired by Ganassi to race full time in ‘93.
But Luyendyk lost that ride the next season when Michael Andretti returned from the Formula One circuit.
A year ago, Luyendyk started 15 races for Indy Regency Racing, an under-financed team based in Indianapolis. Although Luyendyk finished second at the Michigan 500, the team also closed its doors at the end of the season because no one from Corporate America would step forward.
Through it all, Luyendyk has remained undeterred.
“My spirits get down sometimes, but I always feel confident that things will get better,” Luyendyk said. “I don’t think bouncing around like I have has anything to do with my driving ability.
“It’s just the way things are today. It cost money to go racing and there’s only so much to go around.
“In a way, it’s good that we’re so busy here and that you don’t have a lot of time to think about the future. I wouldn’t want to have all the time on my hands.”
No matter. Luyendyk soon will have all the time in the world. Too much time, really.
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