IRL: Chicagoland: Unser, Lazier press conference

Delphi Indy 300 Press Conference Al Unser Jr., Buddy Lazier Sept. 8, 2002 MODERATOR: We are joined by Al Unser Jr., who finished in second place and Buddy Lazier who finished third. Al is the 1992 and 1994 Indy 500 winner. He also finished...

Delphi Indy 300 Press Conference Al Unser Jr., Buddy Lazier
Sept. 8, 2002

MODERATOR: We are joined by Al Unser Jr., who finished in second place and Buddy Lazier who finished third. Al is the 1992 and 1994 Indy 500 winner. He also finished second to Jeff Ward in the previous close finish, and he has two IRL wins, and his last one came at Gateway in 2001. Buddy is the 2000 IRL champion and winner of eight IRL events, including the 1996 Indy 500. Al, that was a very exciting finish. Talk about the last bit of the race with the battle with Sam.

AL UNSER JR.: Well, it was one of the most exciting races I've ever been in in my life, the most exciting. We just came up short again. I honestly thought that we won the race. I thought I had him. It was that close. We had been timing it with the earlier laps; if I let him get a little bit ahead of me, going down the back stretch, then my slingshot come by the front straightaway, I would lead the lap, and I made that happen on the last lap. And quite honestly, I think it was the fact that we pinched it a little too much getting into (Turn) 3. In other words, he came down into me right getting into 3 and made me pinch it just that much, and that could have been the difference. You know, that's really all I can think of. I mean, I had plenty of racing room. I mean, Sam was excellent about that. We ran hard. We ran fair, we ran super-clean, and it was just one of the most exciting races that I've ever been in. I want to thank my crew, they put me out front, and you know even when we got back a little bit, it was excellent pit stops that got me out front, and then my sponsors. Firestone tires were excellent today, everybody. They are giving me great support over this whole summer, and I just want to thank all of them for helping me out today.

MODERATOR: Buddy, talk to us about your run today and about the race.

BUDDY LAZIER: I sure agree with Al. That was close, real close. I wasn't sure who won, either. For me it was just a long day. We had to start ?? we had a long way to go. We wound up going out of sequence on fuel, which made that last stint really critical because we were running long, so I had to try to conserve fuel and pick my way through the field. Then at the very end, I was trying to go for the lead and went high going into (Turn) 3 ?? and I know just what Al is talking about, because as I was entering 3, I was on the outside of Sam and we were three abreast, and Sam started coming up and had to get out of it just that little bit. And there at the end, it was just super close. All day long it was one of those hair?raising events. You didn't dare let your mind wander for a tenth of a second or you would be in trouble. A lot of give and take. A lot of times, I would have a great run on a pack in front of me and to jump out of the throttle from hitting somebody or something and five guys go by. You've got to be so patient, and if you're patient, you'd be able to pick your way one by one back up. A lot of times, washed out and had to start from the back again and work our way to the front. It was a great finish for us. My guys did a super job, giving lightning?fast pit stops. That's the direction we want to go. We've had not the season we're looking for, but this is a good way to start bringing it back to where we want it to be, toward the front. So, good day for us.

Q. Al, talk about realizing you didn't finish in first place.

UNSER: I don't know, I really don't know what to imagine. We've been working really hard for a race win, and we've been working hard at it. I mean, I keep coming up a little bit short, that much short. You know, so I thought I had it timed right, and I honestly thought we had a nose on him. I knew it was going to be close, but I thought we had a nose on him. I looked up at the tower, and I saw the tower; they had him up front. I started getting the feeling then, and then my crew verified. I said, "Look at the cameras, man, don't go off of those timing devices. I want to see a photo finish of this thing." And so I'm sure they did. They had it on TV; that he beat me to the line a bit. You know, what can I say? We were there. Everybody knew we were here, and that's what's important.

Q. Does this one hurt more than Michigan ??

UNSER: They all hurt. Any time you run second, you're the first one to lose, and, quite frankly, that sucks. (Laughter). I came here in the IROC race, run second to big Buddy here. I mean, we'll ?? hopefully next year when we come back to Chicago, we'll crack this thing.

Q. Compare this between the 1992 Indy 500 and the Delphi Indy 300 at the Chicagoland Speedway.

UNSER: Quite honestly, there's no comparison. There's no comparison. I was on the winning side at the Indy 500, first off. And secondly, you know, the Indy 500 is the Indy 500. I mean, you know, there's races that are races, and there's only one Speedway. There's only one Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and there's only one Indy 500, and it happens once a year and it was Memorial weekend. Racing is racing. My father, he told me when I first got to Indy, he says, you know, you've got to treat this place as just another race, because to us, that's what it is; it's just another race. And so, when you get out there among 600,000 people and a million-dollar paycheck at the end, that kind of changes things around. But only in the details, the actuality is it's just another race. And today's race, I tried to win it, just as hard, and I gave it everything I had, just like I do at every race that I've ever entered, and we were close. I mean, I think Buddy would agree with me. We go out there, no matter what town it is, what state it is. If there's a race, we pull it out on race day. That's what it's all about.

Q. Right now it's probably too close to call between Sam ?? and Helio, do you see that Sam is kind of coming out ?? (inaudible)?

UNSER: Yeah, I think he did a super job. Brian Barnhart says ?? and it's absolutely correct ?? there's two races within a race here. There's a lot of guys that want to turn their season around and win. Every race, like Al says, every race you want to win, you're going to give it everything you've got. But there is a championship race here, too. You don't want to ?? you want to race. You're going to do everything you can. If you're anywhere even close to being able to win the race, you going for it, but you don't want to affect the championship negatively. So it's a factor when you are racing with guys. These guys are in the championship chase. You're still going to take every inch you can take, but it plays on your mind. You don't want to bump wheels with a guy who is going for the championship and affect the championship negatively. It just doesn't make sense. But, yeah, he and that race team, such a talented team. John Barnes has put together just an awe?inspiring group, and they seem to have such a great camaraderie and believe in each other, and it shows. So they are going to be tough. It's going to be an exciting championship. Today was one of those days where you could get a run, but you couldn't go anywhere. No matter how quick you would be running down the straightaway, if there's three cars in front of you, you can't move one out of your way. And I think it's that way in the championship. You can't make things happen, you have to kind of wait for a time to be able to pick your way to the front. It looks like those two have been real patient, and it's going to be a great race in Texas for the championship.

Q. Inaudible?

LAZIER: Put me on the spot. That's tough because each ?? both one of those team, both one of those drivers and engineers have so many strengths, but certainly, in terms of most experience at Texas, you've got to lean toward the Panther team, but that's not taking anything away from the other team. They have got a lot of resources and a lot of experience to draw from, too. But it doesn't hurt. The more experience you have on these high banks, the more experience you have running wide open in packs, drafting the way that we do, IRL-intensive experience. I think that will weigh a little heavier. Go either way, though.

UNSER: I'd just like to make one more statement. In the Indy cars, we are running out there over 220?plus miles an hour. Me and Sam Hornish went around there for the last 25, 30 laps, never touched each other one bit, and that was the closest wheel?to?wheel racing that I think you'll ever see in the country today. And so, you know, there's fenders on those cars down south for a reason, and that's to rub on each other. What we do here is close wheel?to?wheel racing, a non?contact sport so that we can find out who the best man is and not run into each other and have a demo derby. So thank you. (Applause)

-irl-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Buddy Lazier , Jeff Ward , John Barnes , Brian Barnhart , Sam Hornis