Arie Luyendyk's Big Weekend

Arie Luyendyk's Big Weekend

Alex Zanardi suffered two accidents during practice on Friday. The first was when Patrick Carpentier crashed ahead of him and a chunk of gearbox sliced through his suspension, sending him careering into the wall and destroying his primary car. Later in the day, Alex's backup car twitched momentarily, initiating another pirouette into the concrete. This time he hit with a force that registered as 88 g, giving him a mild concussion that was sufficient to ground him for the rest of the weekend.

Wanting to protect Jimmy Vasser's third-place standing in the championship, team owner Chip Ganassi turned to old friend and former 1993 team driver Arie Luyendyk to step in as a replacement for Zanardi.

Saturday Afternoon

Arie caught in the Target team garage being fitted for Jimmy Vasser's backup car. Alex's cars were both write-offs for the weekend.

Car Fitting
TV Interview

With all the other cars already qualified in Saturday's first qualifying session, Arie had the second session all to himself to set up the car. There was much excitement at his arrival in the pit lane - here we see him being interviewed by Dutch TV.

Arie is no stranger to the speeds at the California Speedway - while he currently races in the Indy Racing League, he's a two-time Indy 500 winner, including in 1997, and previous holder of the fastest lap record.

Helmet On
In the Car

Helmet on and settling into the cockpit, he prepares to set off on his first lap.

The car roars out of the pit...

Out of the Pits
Onto the Track

... and onto the track.

His fastest lap was at an average of 225 mph, although his speed was irrelevant to his starting position. With the other cars previously qualified, he would be starting last whatever.

225 mph
Speed Trap

A local motorcycle cop checks out his speed with a radar gun!

The session over, Chip seems satisfied.

Happy Chip
Last Out of the Pits


Last out of the pits, Arie makes his way onto the track for the start.

On the way to the flag, Juan Fangio's Toyota caught fire, delaying the real racing start to lap 11.

With nothing to lose at the back of the field, Arie dropped into the pits to top up with fuel, but there was a scary moment when a methanol spill burned the refueling man.

Dramatic Pit Stop
Out of the Race

Arie's day ended as early as lap 40 when Arnd Meier spun ahead of him. Too close to avoid a collision, Arie speared him almost head on and then got clouted again as he rebounded from the wall. He was knocked out by the impact and, although it took several minutes to free him from the wreckage, he was otherwise unhurt.

In the Pits and Paddock | On the Track

Paul Jasper's Web Site | Racing | Fontana 1997

1997-1998 Paul Jasper. Last updated Friday May 06, 2005.