ANDRETTI, UNSER JR. RESPECTFULLY DECLINE SPONSORSHIP OFFER FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY TO RUN IN BOMBARDIER LEARJET 500K ON JUNE 10 Both Teams Cite Lack Of Proper Preparation Time, Exhausted Resources As Primary Reasons FORT WORTH, Texas...
ANDRETTI, UNSER JR. RESPECTFULLY DECLINE SPONSORSHIP OFFER FROM TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY TO RUN IN BOMBARDIER LEARJET 500K ON JUNE 10
Both Teams Cite Lack Of Proper Preparation Time, Exhausted Resources As Primary Reasons
FORT WORTH, Texas (May 31, 2006) -- Citing a lack of proper preparation time and exhausted resources, teams for Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr. respectfully declined Texas Motor Speedway's sponsorship offer Wednesday to compete June 10 in the Bombardier Learjet 500k IRL IndyCar Series race at "The Great American Speedway."
"We would have very much liked to have had both of these Indy car legends run here but we understand and respect their decision," Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage said. "They gave it thoughtful consideration and tried hard to put it together, but coming on the heels of an exhausting month at Indy there just wasn't time to make it work properly. I wish we had come up with this idea earlier and made the offers so the teams could plan, budget and staff accordingly."
Both drivers came out of retirement to run Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Andretti finished third while his 19-year-old son, Marco, finished an astonishing second in his Indy 500 debut. Unser Jr., who's last Indy car win came at Texas Motor Speedway in 2003, finished 24th Sunday as a result of an accident after running over debris on the race track.
Gossage, intrigued that both stars came out of retirement to compete at Indy, offered a $100,000 sponsorship fee if Andretti and Unser Jr. would "un-retire" one more time and participate in the Bombardier Learjet 500k. Had they both participated in the race, each driver's team would have received a $50,000 check. Both drivers had to compete in "America's Original Nighttime Indy Car Race" to activate the $100,000 sponsorship.
"Had we been given a few months to work on this, we may have been able to make it work," said Kevin Savoree, part of the ownership team at Andretti Green Racing. "We must be in a position to win every race we enter and their just isn't sufficient time to prepare and plan. Our key resource -- our staff -- is flat out preparing AGR's four full-time entries for a stretch of back-to-back-to-back races."
"We're a one-car team and we simply are not in a position to prepare a car for Al to run in Texas," said Robbie Buhl, a team owner of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. "We can't afford to take anything away from the preparation we have committed to support our regular driver, Buddy Lazier. We talked with some additional sponsors, but we simply could not put things in place to run Al at Texas properly."
Both teams indicated that they considered the offer and were intrigued to find a way to make it work, but in the end realized they simply could not put the program together to give the drivers the proper chance to win "America's Original Nighttime Indy Car Race."
"Clearly, the Bombardier Learjet 500k is the most important IRL race of the season outside of the Indy 500," Gossage said. "The work and consideration these teams gave to running here proves that. We wanted to honor both Al and Michael during our 10th season as part of our '10 Years Strong' celebration. Perhaps, though, we can work on it down the road and pay tribute to both these drivers at a future IndyCar race here."