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Indy 500 winners kick off Arizona Concours d’Elegance; by Keith Jones

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Phoenix, ARIZ. (January 25, 2016) – IndyCar was front and center during the 2016 Arizona Concours d’Elegance. Several historic cars were on display at the Arizona Biltmore Resort, with Saturday afternoon highlighted by the Indianapolis 500 Winners Roundtable, celebrating this year’s 100th running of the Indy 500.

IMG_6272Tom Sneva, Arie Luyendyk, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Hunter-Reay spent 90 minutes sharing racing stories in a panel moderated by Lyn St. James.

As for the Verizon IndyCar Series returning to Phoenix International Raceway in April, all are looking forward to seeing the cars back on the one mile oval, which was originally built for IndyCar racing.

“I’m a huge fan of coming back to Phoenix. For Phoenix to be back on the schedule, I’m just really psyched and really looking forward to coming back,” said Hunter-Reay, winner of the 2014 Indy 500.

Whether it was talk of fans, competition, safety, rivalries, choice of milk in Victory Lane (whole, 1% or 2%, always cold) or “kissing the bricks” (tastes awful), the quartet had plenty to say.

As drivers, they are appreciative of the fans who support IndyCar. Luyendyk, Indy 500 champ in 1990 and 1997, said IndyCar fans are among the most passionate about their sport. “I go to races and I see some of the same fans year after year.”

What can fans expect at PIR?

“The competition now is as good as it’s ever been,” added Franchitti, Indy 500 winner in 2007, 2010 and 2012. “The guys driving now don’t get near the recognition they should… these cars haul ass.”

Safety is always top of mind, for the drivers as well as the rules makers.

“One of the most difficult jobs with IndyCar is finding the balance between downforce and horsepower. The guys that make the rules have a very tough job,” said Luyendyk.

IMG_6245Sneva agreed. “The balance between safety and speed is important to keep the sport entertaining. But keeping the sport safe is the priority,” said the 1983 500 winner.

Drivers may be friends but when the green flag drops they race for bragging rights as much as anything, said Franchitti. “It was a big deal to beat (Alex) Zanardi for me. And I always knew that if I was going to race for a championship I’d have to go through Scott Dixon.”

Sneva joked that he is the only driver on the famous Borg-Warner trophy with glasses, something he used to his advantage. “Al Unser told me I looked like Elvis on that trophy. I’d try to psych out the other guys to make them think that I couldn’t see well,” he laughed.

The competitive fires still burn. Mario Andretti and Luyendyk both drive the Indy Racing Experience two-seaters, and Andretti still likes to go flat out, said Luyendyk. “Mario always asks for the reds (qualifying tires), and is always driving it as hard as he can!”

How fast will today’s cars run at PIR? We’ll find out soon enough. The “Test in the West” will be held Feb. 26-27, and the Phoenix Grand Prix is on April 2 – a night race. Tickets, which include pit access on race day, are already on sale.

Keep an eye on the PIR website, www.PhoenixRaceway.com, for more information.

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