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INDY 500

Injury to Keep Luyendyk Out of Race

May 15, 2003|Shav Glick | Times Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS — Still woozy from Friday's hard crash into the Turn 1 wall during practice for the Indianapolis 500, two-time champion Arie Luyendyk and Speedway medical director Dr. Henry Bock agreed Wednesday that Luyendyk should not drive in the May 25 race.

"Since the crash, I noticed I wasn't as coherent as I should be," Luyendyk said in announcing his decision. "Obviously, my back and neck had some pain, so I got in touch with Dr. Bock and told him I didn't think I was ready to get back in the car."

Luyendyk, 49, who passed on his qualifying attempt in last Sunday's four-lap time trials, had planned on making an attempt in the final day this coming Sunday. Mo Nunn, owner of the Toyota-powered Panoz G Force assigned to Luyendyk, said he will name a replacement driver soon. Possibilities include Max Papis, Alex Barron and Eliseo Salazar.

"Obviously, our concern, first and foremost, is Arie's health and well-being," Nunn said. "He's just not 100% yet after the accident. And even though he wants more than anything to drive the Meijer car for his sponsors, you can't force these things if your body is just not right."

Luyendyk, winner of the 1990 and 1997 Indy races, said he is leaving open the question of his racing at a later date.

"I don't know [about driving again]," he said. "I'm not really looking a year down the road. I retired in 1999, and then I came back two years later, so obviously I was made out to be a liar. Definitely for this year and into the future, I don't know where my mind is going to be."

Luyendyk, who has not raced since the Michigan 400 last July, was part of a three-car team fielded by Nunn. The other two, rookie Tora Takagi and Felipe Giaffone, qualified seventh and 16th, respectively, last Sunday. Takagi was the fastest driver on the track Wednesday, posting a 229.704-mph lap. Most of the qualified drivers were practicing with full fuel loads.

This would have been his first time driving for Nunn, although the two worked together in 1993 with Ganassi Racing when Nunn engineered Luyendyk's pole qualifying effort and second-place finish. In his last six 500s, including the 1997 win, he drove for Treadway Racing.

Luyendyk said he would continue to oversee his son Arie Jr.'s effort in the Infiniti Pro Series, which will hold its inaugural Freedom 100 here Saturday.

Jimmy Vasser, who missed qualifying because he was racing with CART last Sunday, made his first appearance on the track in Bobby Rahal's Dallara-Honda. He is one of four unqualified drivers practicing. Others included Billy Boat and Shigeaki Hattori, both of whom were cleared to drive after recovering from accidents last week, and Airton Dare, driving one of A. J. Foyt's backup cars.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Indy 500

When: May 25, 9 a.m. PDT.

Where: Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

TV: Channel 7.

Starting grid:

Row 1: 1. Helio Castroneves, 2. Tony Kanaan, 3. Robby Gordon

Row 2: 4. Scott Dixon, 5. Dan Wheldon, 6. Kenny Brack

Row 3: 7. Tora Takagi, 8. Tony Renna, 9. Scott Sharp

Row 4: 10. Gil de Ferran, 11. Roger Yasukawa, 12. Tomas Scheckter

Row 5: 13. Michael Andretti, 14. Greg Ray, 15. Shinji Nakano

Row 6: 16. Felipe Giaffone, 17. Al Unser Jr., 18. Sam Hornish Jr.

Row 7: 19. Buddy Rice, 20. Jaques Lazier, 21. Buddy Lazier

Row 8: 22. Robbie Buhl, 23. A.J. Foyt IV, 24. Sarah Fisher

Note: Final starting order to be determined after Sunday's final day of qualifying.

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