INDIANAPOLIS, MAY 28 -- Arie Luyendyk's Indianapolis 500 victory here Sunday, behind the wheel of a Chevrolet, preserved two short streaks and probably signals the start of an Indy-car trend.
It was the second consecutive victory by a foreign-born driver and the third straight for a car powered by a Chevy engine. In fact, the top seven drivers starting Sunday's 74th running of the Indianapolis 500 all had Chevrolet engines.
Luyendyk, born and raised in Holland, found out tonight at the official banquet that he is pocketing more than $1 million for his victory, which he indicated probably couldn't have been achieved without "the right equipment," meaning his Chevy.
Luyendyk followed Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi, who won last year's race, into Victory Lane. It wasn't the first time foreign-born drivers won consecutive races here; Scotland's Jimmy Clark won in 1965, followed by England's Graham Hill in '66. But drivers in Europe are finding sponsorship difficult at the Formula One level.
Luyendyk, in fact, left Holland for Phoenix at the invitation of a race promoter, and it wasn't long before he had gained the backing of Domino's Pizza. "I was aware of the Indy 500 growing up," he said. "I was a big fan of Jimmy Clark. I was born and raised there, but there were more opportunities to race in the United States. I still have a Dutch passport. I'm a legal alien; I have my green card."
Eddie Cheever, an American who emigrated to the European circuit before returning recently and taking rookie of the year honors for his eighth-place finish Sunday, said American Danny Sullivan's successful return from the Formula One scene to Indy-car driving "opened the door to more Formula One drivers coming here. He won the Indy, and he won the national championship. When I made my decision, I looked very closely at what Danny had achieved."
While Sullivan and Cheever are Americans, most Formula One drivers are Europeans, and they too are aware of the money available in the United States. Luyendyk, for example, had not won an Indy-car race of any kind until Sunday, but had earned nearly $1 million since 1984 on that circuit alone.
Luyendyk's victory was worth a record $1,090,940, $16,650 of it in lap-prize money for leading 37 laps. Fittipaldi, who set the early pace and led 128 of the 200 laps, earned $57,600 in lap money and $75,000 more when he got back into the lead lap by passing Luyendyk, who had just taken the white flag. Finishing the full 200 laps carries a $75,000 bonus. Fittipaldi had held the previous record for a winner with $1,001,604 a year ago.
Of the eight foreign-born drivers who competed Sunday, six were still running when the 200-lap race was completed, with Luyendyk crossing the finish line ahead of American Bobby Rahal, having averaged 185.984 mph and shattering Rahal's record of 170.722 set in 1986.