IRL: Las Vegas race report

LAS VEGAS, Saturday, April 22, 2000 - Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. ended a five-year open wheel losing streak Saturday by winning the Vegas Indy 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unser drove his backup Galles ECR Racing...

LAS VEGAS, Saturday, April 22, 2000 - Two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Jr. ended a five-year open wheel losing streak Saturday by winning the Vegas Indy 300 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unser drove his backup Galles ECR Racing Tickets.com-Starz Encore Superpak G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone car from 21st place to victory lane, becoming the third straight driver to win in Indy Racing Northern Light Series competition from beyond 20th starting position. "My crew had everything to do with it," said a tearful Unser in victory lane. "We never gave up. We fought really hard and got our lap back. I had my head down all the way to the checkered flag." The 38-year-old Unser took the checkered flag by 12.531 seconds over pole-sitter Mark Dismore. He averaged 136.691 mph in the 208-lap race around the 1.5-mile LVMS tri-oval, leading the final 20 laps. Unser Jr. moved from CART to the Northern Light Series and reunited with former car owner and fellow Albuquerque, N.M., native Rick for the 2000 season. "When Roger (Penske) made the announcement in Detroit about his two drivers, Rick Galles called me the next day. There are people in this world that never give up on you, and Rick Galles is one of those people." Unser's winning pass came over one of his long-time Indy Racing competitors - Scott Goodyear. Goodyear's Pennzoil Panther Dallara was leading when a loose oil fitting ended his chances for a win. "I was hoping this race would give us the opportunity to go to Indy No. 1 in the point standings," said Goodyear. "We ran into some oil problems near the end, but my guys did a fabulous job." Unser Jr. zippped by Goodyear, who finished 12th, on Lap 188 and cruised to his first open wheel victory since a Vancouver CART race in 1995. Dismore, who hugged Unser in victory lane and said, "Welcome back!" to his new rival, led the most laps (90) on his way to second place. Though dominant early, Dismore lost track position when he pitted under green flag conditions. Sam Hornish Jr. shadowed Unser the last twenty laps in third place, but one lap down. Hornish, a rookie from Defiance, Ohio, finished third in a 1999 model G Force chassis. "We actually came out here to just try and stay in the top 10," said Hornish. "It was a great day. I never expected any of this." Brazilian rookie Airton Dare appeared to have control of the race when he pitted on Lap 171 during a caution period. His day ended on pit lane when he lost the gearbox upon engaging the clutch. He had led 13 laps. "I went for first, and the gearbox broke," said Dare. "I don't know. I didn't have any gears." Unser Jr. and Dismore were the only drivers to finish on the lead lap. Rounding out the top five behind Hornish were Jeret Schroeder, another series rookie, and Robbie Buhl. With his finish, Buhl moved back into the points lead with 108. Following Buhl are Buddy Lazier (98), Goodyear (90), Unser (77) and Billy Boat (76). The Vegas Indy 300 had 11 lead changes among seven drivers. There were seven cautions, five caused by accidents. No one was injured. The next Indy Racing Northern Light Series event is the 84th Indianapolis 500 on May 28.

-IRLNS/IMS-

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Buddy Lazier , Billy Boat , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder , Sam Hornish Jr.