Arie Luyendyk Sets Record In Phoenix Qualifying
PHOENIX (AP) _ Arie Luyendyk, the marquee name in the fledgling Indy Racing League, won his first pole at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday with a record-setting qualifying lap for the Dura-Lube 200.
Luyendyk, knocked out of the first IRL event Jan. 27 at Orlando, Fla., because of gearbox problems, scorched the mile oval in 19.608 seconds, a lap of 183.599 mph.
He missed the wall by inches on his second hot lap, but said he was in no danger of wrecking the Reynard-Ford.
``You’re only as confident as the confidence your car gives you,″ Luyendyk said. ``Right now the car has been so good to me. That last lap is an example. If you’re confident in your car, you will not take your foot off the throttle because you know it’s not going to slide away from you.″
Luyendyk, who won the 1990 Indianapolis 500 with the fastest speed (185.981) ever, and the 1991 Phoenix race, will have rookie Richie Hearn alongside him Sunday.
Hearn had a 182.797 mph lap and briefly had the track record after surpassing the 181.952 mark by Bryan Herta last April. Hearn settled for the outside front row for the second time in two IRL races.
``I knew it was a good time,″ Hearn said. ``I could see from the dash readout that it was faster than the record, and it was faster than we’ve run the last couple of days.″
Herta wasn’t around. He stayed with CART when the IRL split to form its own Indy-car series. So did superstars like Emerson Fittipaldi and Michael Andretti, along with defending Phoenix champion Robby Gordon.
The desire to bring along new drivers was part of the reason that Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George formed a competing league, and 12 of the 22 cars in the qualifying field will be driven by rookies.
But experience showed in the lineup of this race _ only two rookies qualified in the top eight.
Roberto Guerrero qualified third at 181.050, with first-year driver Tony Stewart, who finished second at Orlando, fourth at 181.041.
Scott Brayton, Scott Sharp and Mike Groff got into the starting order before rookie Buzz Calkins, who won at Orlando after surviving a race marred by five wrecks which left just nine cars running at the finish.
Rookie Stan Wattles and veterans Eddie Cheever, Lyn St. James and Buddy Lazier were sidelined by wrecks during practice Friday, but USAC added St. James after Team Scandia readied a new, untested car.
``We just purchased this car two weeks ago, and it was sitting in the trailer and not even completed. The crew’s done a great job pulling it together,″ St. James said after a few practice laps.
Cheever was released from a hospital Saturday and returned to the track, but Wattles and Lazier remained hospitalized, Lazier with fractures of one vertebra and his pelvis.
Only six drivers qualified at 180 mph or better, but Luyendyk said running with slower cars shouldn’t be a problem.
``It’s like at Daytona (an endurance race),″ Luyendyk said. ``There, you’re running against cars that are way slower, not a little but sometimes 60 mph slower. As the fast guy who’s overtaking, you just have to judge it.″