How Arie Luyendyk Jr. Became An Auto Racing Star And TV Personality

Blessed with a sports pedigree and videogenic looks, Arie Luyendyk Jr. is best known among automotive fans for his tenure in the open-wheel racing world, as well as being the son of two-time Indy 500 champion, Arie Luyendyk Sr. But to the rest of the mainstream, the driver is better known for taking the fast track to fame in reality TV fare. Luyendyk Jr. became popular for his appearances on the ABC franchises, "The Bachelorette," where his charm took him to the finals, and "The Bachelor," where he became the dating sweepstakes prize for contestant Lauren Burnham — though not without controversy. In fact, his appearance on the show may have made him one of the greatest villains in "Bachelor" history

Fortunately for Luyendyk Jr., that storm soon subsided, and as of this writing, he continues to live with a stable family of his own. He still races occasionally and continues to be in demand on the reality TV circuit. In 2023, he debuted in Peacock's "The Traitors." While the series contains a premise far more duplicitous than what Luyendyk Jr. previously experienced in front of the camera, the show marks a vague homecoming of sorts in that the show originated in the racer's native Netherlands. And in a way, his ascent from the track to the reality racket defies any traditional logic that an unscripted show could follow.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. was born into a racing family

Born in 1981 in the Netherlands, Arie Luyendyk Jr. was later raised in Milwaukee from the age of three. As he recalled during an interview with Shanna Cudeck, he has idyllic memories of that first American home.  "I loved the winters. I loved the snow," he said. "The food was good ... [There was] a lot of cheese, you know, I love cheese." As he grew up, Arie likely felt his destiny lay in auto racing. After all, the lad was the proud offspring of Arie Luiyendyk Sr., a championship-level driver who was so prolific in reaching the winner's circle back in Europe that fans dubbed him, "The Flying Dutchman." Relocation added to his father's credentials, including two Indianapolis 500 victories, before he retired in 1999.

While still a youngster, Arie accompanied his father to races across the country, so it wasn't hard to get caught up in the action. Despite those influences, Pops wasn't keen on his son following in his footsteps. "He didn't really want to buy that first go-kart, I was really pushing it when I was 10, I was like, 'Come on, come on,' and then he finally did," Arie explained in a 2006 interview on the IndyCar program "Up To Speed." "... He never really encouraged me too much until, you know, he found that I had a passion for it."

He spent his teen years competing internationally

When Arie Luyendyk Jr. reached his teen years, that itch for racing wouldn't go away, and it didn't help that his famous father was reticent about his offspring trying his luck on the track. Fortunately, someone else provided the boost Luyendyk Jr. needed when he was only 14.  "My grandfather put me in a race car for the first time, without my dad knowing," he told North Valley magazine. "That's really when I got the bug and wanted to pursue racing." When Luyendyk Jr.'s dad finally noticed that his boy's need for speed wasn't just a passing fancy, he finally relented. Two years later, the budding race star found himself in international junior circuits that included the Formula 4 open-wheel series. 

Once he'd turned 18, Luyendyk Jr. was able to race in competitions that included Formula Ford, the US Formula 2000 championships, and the SCAA National Championship Runoffs. He finished third in the latter race, a personal best at that juncture in his career. By this time, his dad had retired from racing and started helping more. But with Arie still a teen, that advice went in one ear and out the other. "When I was, you know, 19, 20, I really didn't listen to him all too much," he said on "Up To Speed." "I think the older you get, the more you realize he's a wealth of information, so try to listen to him. And you know, he really doesn't have much to say anymore." 

Arie Luyendyk Jr. landed a spot on the Indy junior circuit

By his early 20s, Arie Luyendyk Jr. showed much promise on the track and tried to get into one of the more high-profile, development-oriented circuits, so he set his sights on the Indy Racing League's IRL Infinity Pro series. The problem was, despite his abilities, he had no cash, sponsor, or a car. "I have a strong Dutch name and heritage, so I don't have that all-American marketability," Luyendyk noted to North Valley magazine. That's when his father used his influence to create a team for his son. In 2002, Arie Luyendyk Sr. managed to finagle some sponsorships in order for his son to compete. 

Speaking about his son to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the proud father explained, "He's a really good driver, especially on the ovals. And he hasn't given up on racing." That year, Luyendyk Jr. captured several podium finishes and placed second overall in the series. The downside was that he didn't win a single race. "I am still looking for my first victory," Luyendyk wrote in his driver's diary posted by RPM ESPN at the start of the next season in 2003. "I have been second so many times — four out of seven events last year — that it is getting a bit frustrating." That year, Luyendyk Jr. was still without a win, although he managed to snare two podium finishes — a feat he duplicated in 2004. He'd need more than that to compete in one of the world's biggest races the following year.

He finally grabbed a berth in the Indianapolis 500

Despite enduring another disappointing 2005 Infinity Pro season, Arie Luyendyk Jr. managed to secure a chance to qualify for the venerable Indianapolis 500 in May. He didn't have much time to prepare for the race, still managing to crack the 33-car grid with a qualifying speed of 215.039 mph. But with minutes remaining before qualifying was to end, a last-minute driver named Felipe Giaffone bumped him out of the lineup with a result of 217.815 mph. "After feeling you are in the race and then being bumped out, it's probably the hardest way to go," Luyendyk Jr. said to ESPN. "We'll come back and fight another day, and hopefully I'll be in the field next year."

In 2006, he fared better at the Indy 500, qualifying 31st on the grid, but finished 28th in the race after the car became unreliable following the 54th lap. That exit marked the end of Luyendyk Jr.'s sole appearance in the legendary race, a far cry from his father, whose 17 showings at Indianapolis included two victories. Still, the offspring of the Dutch great didn't rule out another shot at the event. "I think it is difficult to raise the budget. But I don't think it is out of the question," he said to Autoweek in 2017. "I'm only 35 now. The first year my father ran IndyCar, he was 32. I'm definitely confident I still have the ability."

Arie Luyendyk Jr. became a TV race commentator

While Arie Luyendyk Jr. didn't commit himself to another race at the Indianapolis 500, he continued his career with the IRL Infinity Pro circuit, which had since become the Firestone-sponsored Indy Lights series. He finally won his first race in 2008 in Chicago, the 16th and final event of the season. That year, he also landed five podium finishes in what was his best performance in the IRL league. "In 2008, I really came with a different mindset," Luyendyk Jr. told 16th and Georgetown. "I think I've matured since those first few seasons, and ultimately that led to my success. I think the potential was there in 2008 to win more races, but I'm happy with how it turned out regardless."

Luyendyk Jr. hoped to use that experience to vault himself into the IndyCars circuit. However, he was met with a financial shortfall and opted for a different career direction. "When funding wasn't available I turned to Versus and IMS Productions and I have to say it was a really positive experience," he said in the same interview. Versus was a sports channel that has since rebranded as NBCSN. It was where Luyendyk Jr. found himself as a commentator on IRL race broadcasts. "No one on the [TV] team knows more about the Firestone Indy Lights drivers, teams, and cars than me, so that's going to be an advantage for me on the broadcasts," he told the Associated Press (via ESPN).

A colleague's death prompted a radical career change

Broadcasting for Versus was an interesting diversion for Arie Luyendyck Jr. in that it took his mind off sitting out the 2009 Indy Lights season. He told the Associated Press (via ESPN), "It is not a career change for me because I still have a passion to be an IndyCar Series driver." The following year, he snared four races driving for Andersen Racing, but failed to reach the podium in any of them. Two years later, Luyendyk Jr. found himself relegated to smaller-scale superkarts in the SKUSA Pro Tour. Sustainability became an issue, especially with his sideline gig selling houses in Arizona. "I have been an agent since 2004," he explained in an episode of the "eXp Realty" podcast. "I got out of it in 2007 when the market crashed."

He didn't hit the track at all in 2012 and was on the verge of packing it in after hearing about the death of a racing colleague. "Dan Wheldon passed away at the last race of the year in Las Vegas, and it sort of made me question everything," Luyendyk Jr. told North Valley magazine. Fate intervened in the form of a phone call from an ex-girlfriend who just so happened to be a producer of the reality TV show, "The Bachelorette." After she asked Luyendyk Jr. for the credentials of a racer who was a candidate for the show, he instead blurted out, "What about me? I'm single."

Arie Luyendyk Jr. competed on The Bachelorette

In 2012, Arie Luyendyk Jr. found himself competing in another sweepstake — winning the hand of a woman in "The Bachelorette." Appearing on Season 8 of the series, he used his racing credentials to distance himself from the gaggle of suitors. Especially since bachelorette, Emily Maynard was once engaged to a stock car driver who died during a competition. John Swasberg, a culture critic at Slate, quickly picked up on that, writing, "Arie, a race car driver, was surely cast to remind Emily of her late fiance, but he's got none of the good-old-boy swagger you look for in a NASCAR man — his aggressively European kisses are very open-wheel."

During the season, Luyendyk Jr. and Maynard enjoyed a date at Dollywood amusement park, where they were graced by the presence of Dolly Parton herself. "I can't believe the connection that we built today," the race driver gushed after receiving Maynard's rose in the episode. "The way it's going, I can imagine myself someday getting down on one knee."

Luyendyk Jr. made it all the way to the season finale but lost out to Jef Holm. Bombing in the final might have been reminiscent of all the times he competed in the Indy Racing League — managing to reach the podium, yet failing to take the top prize until very late in his career. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, was a seemingly apt idiom for his life on — and away from — the track.

He courted controversy on The Bachelor

Once the tears had dried up following his "The Bachelorette" heartbreak, Arie Luyendyk Jr. saw his wealth grow after taking advantage of a rebounding real estate market. He also took to stadium super truck competitions, winning two races in 2018. That same year, ABC saw potential in showcasing him as "The Bachelor" for the show's 22nd season. "This is pretty surreal," Luyendyk Jr. told People. "It doesn't really feel real yet, but I'm taking it step by step." Being on the other side of a romantic pursuit might have felt weird to Luyendyk Jr., who was more accustomed to pursuing a prize, usually in a four-wheeler. But audiences found the season-ender even stranger.

In the finale, he gave the coveted rose and ring to Becco Kufrin, only to break up with her weeks later after realizing he still had feelings for another contestant, Lauren Burnham. Worse still, he suggested to ABC that a film crew document the breakup and his subsequent proposal to his new fiancee. Afterward, he griped to GQ that it's a well-known fact that the show is heavily edited for the sake of entertainment — so why was he taking the blame?  "Everyone makes me out to be the bad guy for filming it," he said. The star also insisted that he made the decision for the closure of all parties — Kurfin included. While an angry audience expressed their disapproval, there was at least one person who bought his side of the story — his future wife.

Arie and Lauren settled down in Scottsdale

Once the tempestuous winds surrounding Arie Luyendyk Jr.'s turn as "The Bachelor" had died down, he and Lauren Burnham were married in 2019 and pursued a more blissful life in Scottsdale, Arizona. Like her husband, Burnham is also a realtor, a career path she followed once she moved in with Arie. "We're both very goal-driven and we are successful in our own right," Luyendyk Jr. told Bachelor Nation. "We are both the income earners for the family and I think that's really cool." Burnham agreed, stating, "We're both equal, and we compete every year." 

As well as owning a retreat in Hawaii, they also live in a palatial home in Arizona, boasting a swimming pool and stables. It's certainly a large and exciting enough space to raise their three children. Their first, Alessi, was born in 2019. A year later, the couple tragically experienced a heartbreaking miscarriage during Burnham's second pregnancy. However, in 2021, the couple joyfully welcomed a set of twins, Lux and Senna. 

For the most part, the two admit parenting isn't easy and on occasions when they bicker, they try to keep those differences under wraps and off social media. "What you guys see is the good days and easier days," said Luyendyk Jr. to Bachelor Nation. "Those are the times when we're able to pick up our camera and film. The days when we're radio silent, it was probably a tough day."

He returned to the reality TV bandwagon

Arie Luyendyck Jr. hasn't raced since 2020, but fortunately, he exited that year with a win in the Stadium Super Trucks Road America race. But while the jury is out on whether he'll ever return to racing on the IndyCar scene, the scales are obviously tilted towards more appearances on reality TV. In 2023, Luyendyk Jr. appeared as a contestant in "The Traitors," an unscripted competition streaming on NBC's Peacock platform that sees him among a variety of reality TV stars striving to win a $250,000 grand prize. However, the catch is that some contestants are actually saboteurs hoping to spoil the efforts of those truly in it to win it.

Luyendyk Jr. was already familiar with the original Dutch version of the series after a few friends overseas had tipped him off about it. He was reportedly blown away by the premise. "It is something so far removed from 'The Bachelor' and a dating show," he said during an interview with Pop Culture. "This is my first competition show, and it was a cool opportunity, so I jumped at it." However, his life as a former participant of just two reality shows doesn't exactly put him in a favorable position to win. This U.S. version will see alumni from other shows including "Big Brother," "Survivor," Fear Factor," and "Below Deck." It's also unlikely that Luyendyk is hungry for that cash, given that as of 2023, he was rumored to be worth around $4 million