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Infiniti Pro Series: Pikes Peak 100

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Pikes Peak 100

Infiniti Pro Series: Pikes Peak 100

Aaron Fike
Ron Hemelgarn
Arie Luyendyk, Jr.
June 14, 2003


MODERATOR: Arie, car gets stronger for you obviously as the race went along.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Right. We came to the track. We struggled with our setup. We thought it was motor-related. When we really looked at the data, it wasn't. The car was handling that bad. We were actually over two seconds slower than the quickest time yesterday in qualifying. We had a lot of work to do. We kind of gambled with the setup, and it actually turned out to be a really good car. When I was driving around the second lap, I could feel the car considerably better than it had ever felt this whole weekend. I was happy. The car handled great. It was great behind other cars, too. It was just a matter of time before I went to the front.

MODERATOR: Had there not been showers, obviously you could have improved your condition.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Yes, I think so. When Jeff's tires got warm, he was consistently two- to three-tenths slower than me. It was just when I got beside him once, I just didn't make it stick. So Jeff did a good job. We had a good race. I think I could have made it to the front. I was going quicker than the leader. It was just a matter of time before I made it there. Just ran out of time with the rain.

MODERATOR: Questions.

Q. This is your first time here at Pikes Peak. Talk about your impressions of the racetrack.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I think it's a great track, especially for a one-mile, just because I think there's so many passing opportunities because if your car is pushing, you have to enter the corner high. That allows a guy whose car is better to go low. It made a lot of good passes going into one on the inside and the outside. I think as far as a one-mile oval, I really like it, because there's so many places to pass, as opposed to Phoenix, which was a little bit more difficult for me.

MODERATOR: Jeff, obviously started on the pole. Had a great run yesterday in qualifications. Finishing second here today. 1999, 1998 Barber Dodge champion. Won the Infiniti Pro Series pole. I know we talked about it yesterday. It obviously was a situation where you did have an opportunity to test here a couple of weeks ago. It really didn't help you that much just simply because the weather was bad.

Q. You guys are going to Nazareth in August. Compare this track with the Nazareth track, four turns that are pretty well the same, whereas Nazareth you have as many as five turns.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: We don't run Nazareth.

Q. You don't?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: No. We're not going to Richmond either. We're going to St. Louis and Nashville.

Q. Gateway has two different types of turns. All four are the same here, right?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I think as far as the two tracks, St. Louis is a bit less of a momentum track. I think here you really have to keep the momentum up, especially with the horsepower our cars make. Here with the altitude, it kind of brings the engine power down. So it's a lot more momentum here. You'll see a guy run flat three laps in a row, and the third lap could be four-tenths quicker than the first lap he went flat. It's all momentum. St. Louis, last year we downshifted, most people did, for one of the corners, so it was less of a momentum thing.

Q. What was the difference of the setup in your car from qualifying to today? Obviously a vast difference in speed. Did you have a height adjustment?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: Rake, springs (laughter). Basically everything was different. Steve Ericsson did a great job on doing that. So we went back -- we came here with a totally different setup, and that didn't work. We went back to our Phoenix setup. That didn't work. So then we kind of went totally off, either we're going to do good or less. Made some great changes and the car was perfect.

Q. How difficult is it when you come in here and you've got such a short period of time to get the car set up? You're not out there very long and you have to figure out a race and qualification setup?

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: You saw the guys who tested, Cory and Aaron and Jeff. They all really shined here because obviously they had experience on the track, where we came here with a setup that wasn't right, and we had to completely change it. We basically missed one session. It's pretty crucial to come off the trailer and be fast. I think the testing really played a big part here.

Q. How is this series compared to the Barber Dodge?

MODERATOR: Congratulations, Aaron. We know you like this track. It had to be pretty sweet for you to win here today.

AARON FIKE: Definitely. We talked about when we came out here and tested. This is probably one of my favorite tracks. I've always seemed to have really good luck. Ron Hemelgarn and Roger Johnson, the crew gave me a great car today. Everything stayed together. Obviously this gets the momentum going for Kansas and we can get a win there.

MODERATOR: Questions for Aaron Fike.

Q. Have you actually won a race here in midgets?

AARON FIKE: No. I think our best is a second so far. I think a third or fourth in the midgets. We've ran in the Top 5 I think the last three years we've been here. We just can't get over the real hump there.

Q. (Inaudible)?

AARON FIKE: Hopefully. It conflicts with Kansas. We're hoping to. It conflicts with Kansas on the practice day. I don't know if they're going to skip the practice day and run Pikes Peak. I would imagine that's what we're going to do.

Q. You pretty much had the field covered today. Did you make a lot of changes, many changes in the car from qualifying to the race? You seemed to have everybody pretty well gone?

AARON FIKE: Ever since we unloaded the car, we were pretty fast. My second gear seemed like it went all the way down the straightaway until I went into third and fourth gear. Those were really quick. I don't know, I was real worried about Jeff there when we got the yellow. I was being pretty conservative with the car throughout the whole race, had quite a bit left actually. You know, it was great for the team and great for me. Hopefully we get some momentum going for Kansas.

Q. (Inaudible)?

AARON FIKE: He had some smart-ass comment (laughter). I forget what he said. Something over the radio.

Q. How much did the test help? You had some pretty good time on the track.

AARON FIKE: Not really. If you remember, it was probably 30, 40 degrees. It was windy. It was pretty cold that day. We probably ran 40 laps. But, you know, we got the gears where we wanted to, what we thought we were going to run. It definitely helps to test anywhere, to get some laps, not only for me, but for the car and the crew.

Q. It snowed that day, too?

AARON FIKE: Yeah. It was like a blizzard out.

Q. This team has been fairly decent, fairly consistent. How much of an effort are you putting into this program to take the driver you have here and move him up into the IndyCar Series?

RON HEMELGARN: That's been the plan all along from when we first started to race last year. Running two years in the Pro Series and run him up into IndyCar. Obviously, many factors are involved in that. You have to have sponsorships. Working on that very hard. A couple years in this I think it's very, very important for any driver to move up. It gives you a lot of track time. Basically you have to get that horsepower behind you and then learn how to work in traffic and so on. Yeah, that's the goal. That's been the goal from day one. I think that's very achievable. To bring a guy out of USAC and bring him into this series I think would be fantastic.

Q. You said it was windy when you tested. It started gusting in turn four. Was that a concern?

AARON FIKE: Yeah. We started out the race a little bit tight. As the wind picked up coming off of four, pushed the front end down. Obviously, made the cars tighter. I'm sure everyone was having problems with the push, especially running in traffic. I wasn't the only one having problems passing people or getting by lap cars, I don't think anyways. It definitely made the cars tighter and tighter as the race went on.

Q. Anybody concerned the fact essentially there were 12 starters today? Not a positive direction that the league needs to be going. Are you concerned as we move into the summer?

RON HEMELGARN: As far as the league is concerned, any time you start a new league, it takes time to build momentum. You have cars that start out. They drop out because of financial problems and so on. I remember when we started Indy Lights back in the middle of the '80s, we had two cars going to Phoenix. There were four of us. I owned two of them. There were only four cars there. Pat Patrick and Roger Bailey had to drag cars out of the trailer just to put guys in to start the race. Actually we're further ahead than Indy Lights were back then. But it is hard. It's hard to find sponsors. It's hard to get teams. Obviously we need more of the IRL teams to get involved in that. As the program begins to build, I think you'll see more and more of those team comes in. I think that's what happened with the Indy Lights back then, when the IndyCar teams got involved, it started to change. It's part of the growing pains. Unfortunately, you lose some, you gain some. Gee, when you just think about the IRL itself, there's only three of us still running out here today from the original group that started the IRL. If we're going to go through that, I don't see anything changing in the near future. I think as time goes on, this will be a very valuable series, I think it will be a competitive series, and I think you'll see guys run this series, move up into the big cars. There's no question about that.

ARIE LUYENDYK, JR.: I think the depth of the field is much better than last year. I think last year, at the opener, we all saw 12 cars. If you look at the drivers in our series, it's very competitive. I think the talent level has stepped up a little bit. It's definitely the depth of it is much greater.

AARON FIKE: Not only that, our last race, we had our biggest field. Obviously, we had some carnage there. We took out probably five or six cars. I think definitely that's a factor, too.

Q. Aaron, I noticed that you got quite a busy itinerary coming up here. Do you always do this busy of a schedule, seven races in the next seven days?

AARON FIKE: It's about once or twice a year, you know, more like once a year actually. Iowa, sprint week, whatever you want to call it. We usually keep pretty busy, trying to run as much as we can in USAC, midgets. We've always been pretty busy. I ran probably 60, 70 races the last three years. I've gotten a lot of experience for my age. This program definitely helps me, too. I think running in as many different types of cars is good for you. You get the experience of running at all these different tracks.

Q. What is your itinerary going to be? Night race tomorrow?

AARON FIKE: Yeah. We shouldn't be too pressured to get there. My dad has his own plane. He's a great pilot.

Q. (Inaudible)?

AARON FIKE: Talked right through the middle of it. My dad goes, "Do you want to go left or right?" "Let's go left." Probably would have been in a tornado if we went to the right. I slept through most of it. I get in the plane and I just fall asleep. My dad is a really good pilot. I rarely ever get nervous in a plane.

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