Ready to Rev
By Sondra Barr
Race car driver Arie Luyendyk Jr. is on the fast track. Fresh from his memorable stint on ABC’s The Bachelorette, this man-about-town is looking forward to getting back to what he does best. While his ardent female fans fervently hoped it would be as the handsome, dashing romancer on the upcoming season of The Bachelor, 31-year-old Luyendyk is opting for racing over romance—at least for now.
The Need for Speed
Raised in Scottsdale from the age of 9, Arie Luyendyk Jr. has an impressive racing pedigree and a passion for the sport cultivated by a childhood spent largely at racetracks. His Dutch father, a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, tested Indy cars at Phoenix International and Firebird International raceways during many off-seasons. The frequent Valley visits led to the family making a permanent home here after the patriarch’s first Indy win in 1990.
Despite a childhood spent traveling with his parents and three siblings to races across the globe, Luyendyk’s father was hesitant for his eldest son to follow him into the sport. So it wasn’t until age 14 that Luyendyk had the opportunity to slide behind the wheel. “My grandfather put me in a race car for the first time, without my dad knowing,” Luyendyk says. “That’s really when I got the bug and wanted to pursue racing.”
From there, his passion for racing convinced his father he was serious about becoming a professional driver. By age 16, Luyendyk was driving Formula 4 cars across the globe. Since he was born in the Netherlands, spoke fluent Dutch, and often traveled overseas, Luyendyk possessed the wherewithal to smoothly transition between international racing and school in Arizona. When he wasn’t competing, he attended Chaparral High School before transferring to Desert Mountain High School midway through his sophomore year.
“There was no room for partying,” he says, when questioned about any youthful transgressions. “It would have jeopardized my career.” He did, however, test other boundaries, most notably Scottsdale’s speed limits. “My first car was a Dodge Stealth, which was pretty cool. It looked like the Batmobile—it was black, and I drove the hell out of that thing until it broke down,” he says. In a National Enquirer article published earlier this year while he was on The Bachelorette, an unnamed source claimed that “Arie is a traffic menace to the cops in Scottsdale.” The local news picked up the story shortly thereafter and flashed his mug shot on television, much to the racer’s embarrassment. When questioned about his string of Scottsdale driving offenses and arrests over the years, Luyendyk admits. “I did have a few speeding tickets in Scottsdale. It comes with the territory. I’m a race car driver, remember,” he continues with a chuckle. Yet he’s quick to point out that he’s calmed down a lot in the last few years. “But definitely, when I was 16 to about 25, I had a lot of speeding tickets, he says. “Now, I try to behave myself. Tickets are expensive.” He says his penchant for speed is now reserved for the racetrack and that you won’t find him driving recklessly through Scottsdale in either of his two cars: a silver Ford F-150 pickup and a black Mercedes-Benz S500.
Over the last eight years, Luyendyk has spent most of his time competing in the Firestone Indy Lights, a developmental automobile racing series sanctioned by IndyCar, which he says is akin to the AAA team’s endorsement of IndyCar. In 2006, he made his Indianapolis 500 debut and has also driven in the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Daytona. It took him longer than he expected to break into IndyCar, which he credits to the difficulty in finding consistent sponsors. “I have a strong Dutch name and heritage, so I don’t have that all-American marketability,” Luyendyk says.
Racing Toward Love on Reality TV
His decision to appear on season eight of The Bachelorette was partly a way for Luyendyk to reevaluate his racing priorities. He hadn’t been aggressively pursuing sponsorships during the off-season, and he found himself without a ride at the beginning of 2012. “Dan Wheldon passed away at the last race of the year in Las Vegas, and it sort of made me question everything,” says Luyendyk of the semi-funk he was experiencing. So when an old girlfriend, who also happened to be a producer for The Bachelorette, called to ask him about the personality of a fellow driver they were considering casting for the show, Luyendyk chimed in, “What about me? I’m single.”
Surprisingly, he wasn’t an instant choice for the reality series. Instead, Luyendyk received a call from the show’s producers a mere week before shooting was scheduled to begin. They asked him to fly to Los Angeles to do a late casting on a Monday, and that Sunday, he was on a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina, to start filming. Luyendyk was cast so late that he didn’t have a chance to think much about his decision or watch past seasons before arriving on location. “I’m a very spontaneous person, and when it feels right, I just go for it,” he says. “I could be back in five days, or I could be back in nine weeks, so I thought, why not?” It was only after finding himself in a Charlotte hotel room after watching snippets of previous seasons that he thought, “Wow, so this is what I got myself into.”
When he met single mother Emily Maynard, the woman whose heart he was vying for against a field of 24 other accomplished, handsome suitors on the show, he was floored. “We had a connection at first sight—it was undeniable.” he says. Over the course of six weeks, Luyendyk fell hard for Maynard against a backdrop of whirlwind dates in exotic locales.
Acting natural in front of the camera wasn’t difficult for Luyendyk, who’s grown up honing his speaking skills giving interviews and as an analyst for Indy Lights on NBC Sports. “For me, I really didn’t notice the cameras at all, and that was the best part of it because I could really be myself,” he says. Often, it was the more offbeat scenarios that producers put the contestants into that nudged Luyendyk outside his comfort zone, like when he had to wear a kilt or recite Shakespeare.
“That was what was so interesting about the show, coming from racing—we do some spectacular things and we’re put in situations that are very difficult,” he says. “But it was odd, because aside from the show, I would never recite Shakespeare, and that made me feel more uncomfortable than barreling into turn one at Indy.”
When asked about the authenticity of the show and his feelings toward Maynard, Luyendyk claims it provided a fairly accurate representation of the dynamics between them, save for a bit of creative editing. “As far as our time, I really feel like they edited it to be very physical,” he says. “They showed us kissing a lot. It did happen, but there was also a lot of great conversation they left out. When I was watching it afterwards, I was like, ‘Geez, I keep kissing her, why can’t they show the conversation?’” His passionate kisses, frequent displays of affection, and affability earned him legions of devoted female fans, many of whom took to the Internet confessing their adoration for Luyendyk.
Based on his smoldering chemistry with Maynard, Luyendyk was shocked that she didn’t select him. He wasn’t privy to what happened after his ousting, so on the off-chance she hadn’t chosen the last suitor left standing, Jef Holm (Luyendyk’s fellow competitor and friend), he boarded a red-eye from Phoenix directly to Charlotte to profess his love about a month before the finale. By the time he arrived, he thought better of landing unannounced on Maynard’s doorstep and instead left a journal he’d kept during filming on her front porch. He waited for a phone call from Maynard, which never came. On the show’s finale, Maynard returned the journal unread. But by that time, Luyendyk says he was over it.
With some distance, Luyendyk now believes Maynard made the right decision. “I kind of relate it to a summer romance, because you’re not in your daily life and that is where you need to really connect,” he says. “For us, that didn’t match up.” Luyendyk maintains that he’s happy for the newly engaged duo. The racer says he still talks with Holm and contends that Maynard couldn’t have picked a better man based on the circumstances.
Approaching the Homestretch
While Luyendyk was being seriously considered for the lead role on the upcoming season of The Bachelor, which started filming in mid-September, he decided to take himself out of the running to concentrate on his racing career. Turns out he’d found what he was looking for on the show, and it wasn’t necessarily love. “The Bachelorette allowed me to refocus on what I wanted. I think everyone on the show is in a place where they’re finding themselves or where they need something different. It’s exactly what I needed to reassess my career. And I fell in love on the way. So it was amazing—it was an amazing journey, I wouldn’t take it back” says Luyendyk, who’s since realized his heart is tied to the racetrack.
For now, Luyendyk’s happy with his role as a broadcast analyst for Indy Lights, and he has his eyes set on competing in The Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona with Michael Shank Racing, followed by the 2013 IndyCar Season. With a fan base that has increased exponentially since appearing on The Bachelorette, it’s doubtful that Luyendyk will have problems securing sponsorship.
As for his life in Scottsdale, he has no plans of packing up and heading to Hollywood for a career in entertainment. “I love it here and how it’s sleepy during the summer and then in the winter everyone comes back and the city comes alive,” he says. Meanwhile, Luyendyk is still single and hasn’t ruled out falling in love, perhaps a bit closer to home—he just doesn’t want to rush it. What is he looking for in a mate? “I don’t have a type, but I love smart, witty women with humor,” he says.
Arie Luyendyk Jr.’s Valley Favorites
For a first date: Postino. You can do a bottle of wine and bruschetta, and you are not crazy full. I just love that place.
For cocktails: I only drink one thing—Ketel and soda with lime, and it’s really hard to mess it up.
To grab some grub: I like Fox restaurants: Blanco Taco, True Food, etc. The Mission and Kazimierz are also on the list.
To put the pedal to the metal: Anywhere where there’re no police. I love driving down to Saguaro Lake. It’s windy and hilly.
Spots to hang: I have an Australian shepherd mix named Bastian that I got from the Humane Society in Mesa, so I like going to the dog park on Chaparral and Hayden. I also enjoy hiking Camelback and Pinnacle Peak.
Catch Arie in action! Watch the videos here.
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