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Infiniti Pro Series: Tennessee 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Tennessee 100

Infiniti Pro Series: Tennessee 100

Aaron Fike
Ron Hemelgarn
Arie Luyendyk, Jr.
Cory Witherill
July 20, 2002


THE MODERATOR: Cory Witherill ran last year in several events with the Indy Racing League. In fact, finished 19. And won Indianapolis 500. This course is his second start. He competed in the Kansas Speedway with a podium finish there as well. Cory, congratulations on your great run here today. What a fine effort by you and your team.

CORY WITHERILL: Thank you. It was an awesome job that the team did. They gave me a car that was perfect. It was perfect from the moment on. We had no problems with the car stop whatsoever. I have to hand it to the crews, they really worked really hard the last few days and the last few weeks getting the car ready. This one definitely goes to them. Everyone that helped out, WSA, Firestone Tires, they had me hooked up out there awesome.

THE MODERATOR: Cory, maybe you can inform the people. This has really come together very quickly, the Infiniti Pro Series, and what a solid product they've been able to put on the track. How much testing has been able to go on for you guys before you opened at Kansas -- Ron Hemelgarn is giggling on that comment -- this has really come together quick.

CORY WITHERILL: I myself really only had about 12 laps into the car itself before we got to Kansas, didn't really get out there until the Saturday morning session. I'm limited on laps on the car. They did a really good job on working hard with what little information we had on the car and getting together and getting the right set up for today's race.

THE MODERATOR: Cory, your background before we came to the Indy Racing League last year and now into the Infiniti Pro Series. You've ran sprint cars in the SCRA, you have also been a champion in the off-road series out in California. Inform the people what Cory Witherill has done before today's victory.

CORY WITHERILL: I started off when I was in high school racing motorcross, off-road cars. I started pavement racing in 1994, all different series, 2000 Series, Indy Lights -- (inaudible) -- last year, up until. I was hoping this year to go IRL, but the normal story, ^ fell apart over the winter. We were looking at Indy or do the whole Infiniti Pro Series and hopefully move up next year. And I chose to do -- (inaudible) -- race this year, instead of one and that one doesn't guarantee me in there, especially seeing how competitive it was this year.

THE MODERATOR: Our second place running driver comes from Scottsdale, Arizona, this is Arie Luyendyk, Jr. Arie, congratulations on a second place run. You were quite strong all day long. Cory got a little bit of length, weren't able to reel him in, but your car looked like it was in line for a potential run of victory here in the upcoming events.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Well, definitely, the start went great, got by Johncox. Then developed a little bit of a push, but nothing we couldn't change with the late jacker. Cory's car was just obviously a lot stronger than mine was I think. The Hemelgarn Team did a great job. Congratulations, guys. My team did an awesome job this weekend, we had a pretty bad car, coming into here and then we changed a lot of things, put it on the front row and finished second. So I would really like to thank my sponsors and my crew, they did an awesome job this weekend.

THE MODERATOR: Of course, your father, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, he participated in this year's Indianapolis 500, a big part of what this team -- I remember when we interviewed you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you talked about how he was really able to help put this whole thing together for you.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Yeah, well he's definitely hired the right guys; Tim Shank, Steve Erickson, my engineer. And he has definitely put a great team together for me. The Infiniti Pro Series is definitely the series to be in right now. I am really proud to be here.

THE MODERATOR: What do you foresee happening in the next year or so as you run in this series. How quickly can you make the jump from where you are now to feeling comfortable with getting into an Indy Racing League car, about 200 more horsepower, a little bit bigger car, about the same size car, how quickly can you make that jump?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I would say bring it on right now. I think I'll wait. I think I want to stick it out this year with Infiniti Pro Series, possibly next year, then weigh my options. I definitely want to be winning races in this series. So that is my goal for now.

THE MODERATOR: Our third place running driver comes from Galesburg, Illinois. We've watched him run in the United States Auto Club Open-Wheel Series where he has been the most improved and one of the best in the midget, the sprint, and the World Racing Silver Crown Series. Aaron, Congratulations. Aaron Fike with his third -place run. Great effort today, you had to come from the tail of the field.

AARON FIKE: We had a gear box problem, our issue yesterday. We had to start last today. Ron Hemelgarn and Roger Johnson gave me a great crew. And everything went really smooth. I am sure me and Cory had the fastest cars out there. I already have a guitar, so Cory can keep the guitar.

THE MODERATOR: So you know how to play the guitar?

AARON FIKE: I am not saying I could play it, but I got one.

THE MODERATOR: Aaron, you had to charge from the tail, it had to take alot of concentration, it is a very hot day out there. Do you have the assistance of a spotter? And 77 laps, I'm sure, went very quick as well.

AARON FIKE: Yeah, my spotter is the same spotter I have used anywhere else. My dad spots for me. He does a great job. We had a long way to go, we didn't have any yellows. We needed a longer race, or a couple of yellows to attack the field up there. I was coming, we just didn't have enough laps.

THE MODERATOR: You didn't have anything in the cockpit of your car you could throw out for a yellow.

AARON FIKE: I was telling my dad, wave some money and tell someone to spin out or something.

THE MODERATOR: Ron Hemelgarn sitting next to Aaron. Of course, Aaron and Cory are both teammates for the Hemelgarn Racing Team. Ron was in victory lane, he sat in this exact seat last year when Buddy Lazier came home with the win. Congratulations, Ron, on another victory. I bet you like to run here a couple of times a year it appears.

RON HEMELGARN: Absolutely. I hope Buddy does good tonight, because we'll have three guitars that way and we'll start a band.

THE MODERATOR: This series is really used to develop drivers to get used to rear engine cars. Aaron Fike, he's always ran the front engine cars. Tell us about the ideas and development of this series.

AARON FIKE: I have been favored from day one. One of the problems that was happening with USAC drivers is they would have a front engine car with alot of power, but when the car started willing in the back, they would just drive through it. Well, you can't do that with a rear engine car, you'll end up in the well, so. I've watched alot of USAC drivers early on IRL sort of struggle. And I think it was just not the experience behind them. I think this is going to give them that experience that they really need. And I think that is going to develop some of those USAC drivers into real champions. So I am pretty excited about the whole program. We have had a little ^ teasing problems and so on. I've got on Roger quite a bit about a few little problems. But other than that, it is great. And Firestone did an unbelievable job giving us a great tire. They were just consistent the whole time. By the way, I want to introduce Roger Johnson. He is a Silver Crown owner. Him and I have teamed up together to form this team. This is Roger Johnson for those who didn't know who the Johnson was.

THE MODERATOR: It's great to have him with this series. It's come together rather quickly. We had no yellows today. You talk about the growth and the quickness of this. No yellows today. Ron Johncox dropped out. But I believe he might have been our only dropout. I would have to look at the official results. Let's go ahead and open it up to the questions. I will repeat the question and also to who we are directing the question to. Any questions? Johnny Parson is asking Aaron Fike the question: Why did he all of sudden jump forward? He asked if his handling changed.

AARON FIKE: We didn't get any testing yesterday. We only ran about 15 laps. I really didn't get up to speed. I got more comfortable the longer I ran out there. I got more confident in the car. I kept going faster and faster as the race went on. I didn't get any laps yesterday, so the longer I went, the faster I got -- not braver, just more comfortable out there.

THE MODERATOR: Any other questions for our top three or Ron Hemelgarn or Mr. Johnson? We also have Roger Bailey, of course, who is the director of the series back there. He's done a great job putting this together, our second event. Real quick, Cory, we go to Michigan International Raceway next weekend, a two-mile track. You have to be excited about going up to that very fast place. I'm sure you haven't had a chance to test up there. What do you foresee happening the next weekend?

CORY WITHERILL: It is a pretty big track. I'm hoping to come out with another win or the podium. We haven't tested there, but I ran there many times before in the Indy Lights Series and I am definitely familiar with the place.

THE MODERATOR: So you hopefully have an advantage over the other drivers around you?

CORY WITHERILL: I do have the advantage, but it'll be a race just like Kansas, flat all the way around. (Inaudible) -- three laps, everyone will be flat around the track. Who can get the car set up for the draft, little hammering, things like that.

THE MODERATOR: Last year Aaron Pike won at the Richmond International Raceway, becoming the youngest winner of all time, Silver Crown Competition. Of course, former champions; Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Jason Leffer, Mike Lisk. You already won six major races this year. Looking to pick up some more, I would probably guess. So you will probably fly up and run a midget tomorrow night; would that be a correct assumption?

AARON FIKE: Yeah, we're going to try to win the Dodger Series up in Wisconsin. So I think we are about 19, 20 points out of the lead, so we have already missed a couple of races, so we'll try to make all the races up there so we can win that division.

Q. End goal, Arie Luyendyk, Jr., To have an opportunity to beat your dad in the Indianapolis 500?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Yeah, if he sticks around that long.

THE MODERATOR: We sure hope he does.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: He will be running in Michigan next week.

THE MODERATOR: Your dad will be running in Michigan next week.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Yes, they just decided about two days ago, so he will be there.

THE MODERATOR: In the Indy Racing League?

ARIE LUYENDYK: Yes, with Treadway Racing.

THE MODERATOR: Wanted to make sure everybody got that different information there, sometimes we get it from different spots. Your top three, your winner and, of course, Cory Witherill.

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