For Arie Luyendyk Jr., life and his celebrity status changed when he starred on “The Bachelorette.” But racing fans will instantly recognize him as the son of the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion, and a one-time starter in the race in his own career.
Luyendyk’s back to racing full-time in 2013 for the first time in five years. The all-time starts leader in Indy Lights (the current, 2002-2013 iteration) has now done a racing career 180, as he races in one of the Stadium Super Trucks in Robby Gordon’s new series.
“I think the SST is so fun and unique, compared to what I’m normally used to with IndyCar,” Luyendyk told MotorSports Talk at Long Beach. “As a driver, it’s been a lot to get used to. Our first event in Phoenix was insane. There’s so much support for series – it is new and fresh – but happy to be a part of it at the ground level because I think this thing is going to get big.”
Corralling a truck and racing it indoors is something he didn’t expect to be doing, but he described that sensation.
“You have these 600hp trucks that are doing big jumps, and on TV it looks great,” he said. “Our first broadcast on NBC went really well. In the stadium, you have the noise reverberating, the huge jumps, the pyrotechnics. It’s like a Supercross race with trucks. And I feel like you can race these a lot harder than the bikes. I’m having a blast doing it.”
It’s an adaption for Luyendyk to this style of racing, but he did well in his debut, finishing fourth.
“It’s a lot like driving in the rain,” he explained. “The dirt does change a lot through the race so you’re adapting in the moment. It’s actually very technical; it might not look that way on TV. But it’s how you read a jump, read the terrain, what you have to do to preload before a jump.
“A lot of these off-road guys have a jump on me – pun intended – but it was really cool to come so close to a podium in my first race. Robby got me at the end. Basically to have never done anything like it before, and finish fourth after racing with Robby, Rob Mac, and P.J. Jones was really fun.”
New Jersey Supercross Preview: Webb Rolls On, Forkner Returns
Two races remain in the 2019 Supercross season and the handwriting is on the wall. Cooper Webb’s magic number is now five; all he needs to do in the final two races is finish fifth or better. Since he has finished worse than that only twice this year – and not since Week 5 in San Diego – it’s a fair assumption that he will keep his momentum alive through the end of the season.
Webb’s competition is not going to let up, however. Last week in Denver, Eli Tomac won his second consecutive race after Webb got off to a slow start. There was a glimmer of hope while Webb was outside the top five on Lap 1, but the points leader meticulously picked off the competition and settled into second. Third in the standings, Marvin Musquin finished third to keep his title hopes alive as well.
But this is Supercross. Anything can happen. Just two weeks ago in the 250 class, Austin Forkner tweaked a knee and failed to start the Feature in Nashville. His one-race cushion evaporated in an instant and his advantage over the field is only three points with two races remaining in that division.
Two weeks ago at Nashville, Tyler Enticknap and Ronnie Stewart crashed hard and will be missing from the New Jersey lineup.
In 250s, it took an injury for the field to catch up to Forkner. He’ll be back in competition this week and forced to answer the question of whether he is in full form after undergoing therapy on his knee for the past three weeks. Since none of the 250 East riders have beaten him on the track, the answer would seem to be a simple one.
But now the competition senses weakness which is likely to be compounded by Forkner’s propensity to struggle in practice and qualification. Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper have been racking up top-fives, but now they need to step up and win. If either rider can do that this week in New Jersey or next week in the East/West Showdown in Vegas, that should allow him to snatch the championship away from 2019’s dominator.