October 9, 1997 - Las Vegas, NV

Las Vegas 500K - Thursday Practice & Qualifying

Johnny Unser will start in 31st position for this weekend's Las Vegas 500k IRL race, after mechanical problems in practice left him unable to participate in the Thursday evening qualifying session.

Unser had just finished his warm up laps in the early practice session, and was beginning to get up to speed when a plume of smoke was visible from the rear of the car. No fluid leaked from the car, and Unser was able to bring the car into the pits undamaged, but the engine needed to be replaced, and a fresh one could not be installed in time for qualifying.

A new motor will be installed in the car in time for Friday's short practice session, and Johnny will start in the rear of the field for Saturday's race as a provisional entry. Eddie Cheever, who also did not participate in the qualifying session because of engine problems, will also start from the rear of the field in 30th position.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't have a chance to participate in practice and qualifying" said Unser, "and it will be difficult starting from the rear of the field. We'll just take our time and try to move up through the field as quickly and safely as we can. It's a long race, and we'll try to stay out of trouble and be running at the end. If we can do that, I think that we can have a good finish."

Billy Boat is on the pole for Saturday's race, beating out his teammate Davey Hamilton and rival Tony Stewart for the top spot. Robbie Buhl, Eliseo Salazar and Arie Luyendyk round out the top 5 positions. The qualifying speeds and starting positions are listed below.

Johnny will be competing in the Sahara Race for Charity on Friday morning at the Sahara Speedworld IRL Simulation, and will then be preparing for the race in a real IRL car during the final practice from 5:00 to 6:30pm Friday evening.

************************************************** Las Vegas 500K Starting Position, Car #, Home, Car Type and Qualifying Speed Courtesy of IRL

1. (1) Billy Boat; Phoenix, Az.; D/A/G, 207.413 2. (14) Davey Hamilton; Boise, Idaho; G/A/G, 205.300 3. (2) Tony Stewart; Indianapolis; G/A/F; 205.113 4. (3) Robbie Buhl; Miami, Fla.; G/A/F; 205.074 5. (7) Eliseo Salazar; Santiago, Chile; D/A/G; 204.615 6. (5) Arie Luyendyk; Scottsdale, Ariz.; G/A/F; 204.460 7. (33) Jimmy Kite; Stockbridge, Ga.; D/A/G; 203.758 8. (6) Scott Goodyear; Carmel, Ind.; G/A/F; 203.489 9. (28) Mark Dismore; Greenfield, Ind.; D/A/G; 203.443 10. (70) Marco Greco; Sao Paulo, Brazil; G/A/G; 203.221 11. (17) Affonso Giaffone; Sao Paulo, Brazil; D/A/G; 202.916 12. (35) Jeff Ward; San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; D/A/G; 202.680 13. (4) Kenny Brack; Karlstad, Sweden; G/A/G; 202.589 14. (91) Buddy Lazier; Vail, Colo.; D/A/F; 202.240 15. (22) Vincenzo Sospiri; Monte Carlo, Monaco; D/A/G; 201.568 16. (77) Stephan Gregoire; Vittel, France; G/A/G; 201.372 17. (40) Dr. Jack Miller; Carmel, Ind.; D/I/F; 200.885 18. (21) Roberto Guerrero; San Juan Capistrano, Calif.; D/A/G; 200.714 19. (27) Jim Guthrie; Albuquerque, N.M.; D/A/F; 200.602 20. (10) Paul Durant; Manteca, Calif.; G/A/F; 200.185 21. (97) Greg Ray; Plano, Texas; D/A/F; 199.837 22. (12) Buzz Calkins; Denver, Colo.; G/A/G; 198.529 23. (99) Sam Schmidt; Las Vegas, Nev.; D/A/F; 198.231 24. (95) Tyce Carlson; Indianapolis, Ind.; D/I/G; 197.998 25. (18) John Paul, Jr.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; G/A/G; 197.679 26. (19) Stan Wattles; Sewall's Point, Fla.; R/A/G; 197.542 27. (24) Billy Roe; Gilbert, Ariz.; D/A/F; 196.951 28. (30) Robbie Groff; Atlanta, Ga.; G/A/G; 195.893 29. (23) Mike Shank; Columbus, Ohio; R/A/G; 191.918 30. (51) Eddie Cheever Jr.; Tampa, Fla.; G/A/G; NS 31. (9) Johnny Unser; Sun Valley, Idaho; D/I/F; NS