Gateway Indy 250 - Winner Al Unser Jr. And Rick Galles PETE WICKHAM: Al Unser Jr., with his second career Indy Racing League victory, the last win April of 2000 at Las Vegas. Best finish this season was third at Richmond and it's also his best...
Gateway Indy 250 - Winner
Al Unser Jr. And Rick Galles
PETE WICKHAM: Al Unser Jr., with his second career Indy Racing League victory, the last win April of 2000 at Las Vegas. Best finish this season was third at Richmond and it's also his best finish by far in four tries at Gateway. We are delighted to have you here. He also completes the New Mexico triple, the flyover your dad calling the engines and you finishing it off.
AL UNSER JR.: Well, what can I say? Thanks. I really enjoyed today. It was a great race. What can I say? Rick called it just right, man. I mean he's the one that did it. His team is the one that put me up front. I got one or two guys and the team got five or six. They kept me out front. They did it all and, you know, the Starz Super Pak Car ran super. It handled very good. The Firestone tires were right there with us. You know, I just -- if we were to win one, it was this one because, you know, we had Budweiser on our car at Indianapolis and we didn't help them at all by crashing out at 13 laps, you know. So if we wanted to win one, this is the one to win for them here in St. Louis and so on. What can I say? Everything just fell our way and the guys did a super job. They prepared the car great. Rick Galles called the race just perfect and here we are, first place.
Would it have been perfect if that last caution hadn't come out?
UNSER: Yeah, because it didn't matter. My guys were getting me in and out. We opened up on Sam under that green flag stop. So, you know, that's just the way that it went for us today. We hustled in. We hustled out. We hustled every single lap out there. Then when we were saving fuel, I was running the fastest laps of the day when I was on the full-lean position and Sam was still getting away from me. So, you know, what can I say? I mean, we were trying our best and the good Lord shined upon us today.
Al, how much did you have left when you finished? Could you tell?
RICK GALLES: Just enough.
UNSER: I had a lot of fuel. We were making fuel out there. (Laughter)
Did you run out as you were coming in?
UNSER: No, I didn't run out. I could have gone another parade lap. So I just wanted to come in because, you know, I'm not a doughnut man and nor are my fans after the end of the race. If that car can get me to victory lane, then it deserves a rest. (Laughter)
Al, the last 70 laps, did you run lean the whole -- you leaned out the whole time?
UNSER: We were full lean the whole time. That's why Sam got away from me. You know, we were there in the middle part of the race, we were running, you know, the go-fast position, the full-rich position and I could pull away from Sam. Then there at the end, you know, it was -- Rick said, "Hey, man, we've got to make it to the end of this thing and save as much fuel as you possibly can." So that's what I was doing. I was trying to keep the RPM out of it as much as possible.
On that restart where you blew by Hornish, was that where experience came into play, you having raced here four times or three times before?
UNSER: I don't think so. Sam was pretty excited and so he started in a little bit too low of a gear and got into his rev limiter real hard; and that's what enabled me to get by him. So, you know, Sam is a great, great race car driver, great young man, and he definitely kept us honest the whole time. So, you know, it was great, it was a great victory today for not only myself, but my whole team. You know, we've been working so hard. You know, we just haven't been able to put it together. So, you know, the whole thing is never give up and perseverance and just keep trying every day; and tomorrow is always a new day. I just want to dedicate this race to Little Joe, my little four-year-old. It's the first time we've won since he's been born. You know, the first race I won after he was born, it was after Cody got ill, so we dedicated that one to Cody and this one is all Little Joe's.
Al, does winning now mean any more to you than it did maybe five, six, seven years ago when the wins came a little more frequently?
UNSER: Yeah, they -- it's not really fair to say that they mean more. I mean, any time you win a race, you've worked your butt off for that win. So they all are important. Every single one is important. Every single lap that you turn out there is important. So, you know, the fact that they're not coming as often doesn't really mean anything, it just means that it's just more competitive out there. I'm in the prime of my career and it's just hard work. You've got to have everything go your way. You have to have a great team, you have to have a great car. You have to have sponsors that are supporting you. You know, you've got to have the good Lord on your side and Lady Luck to shine on you every now and then. What can I say? They shined on us pretty good today.
Rick, as bad as things went during the month of May, just how much were you beginning to wonder, you know, "Hey, this is getting pretty bad, how am I going to be able to turn this around?"
GALLES: Well, I mean, you really don't have time to think about that. I'm really fortunate. I've got a super group of guys that have been with us a long time, they're professionals. They're not paid to get down, they're paid to perform. Al's been a tremendous leader. He's never given up on the guys. When they get a little bit down, he'll call them together in the garage and pull everybody together. Racing is a tough sport, as everybody knows. Things happen and usually if you have a good team, you don't give up, things come around. We kind of felt like things were coming around after Richmond. Then doggone, we go to Kansas City and we wreck two cars. Now we're right back, so the guys at that point, I was really proud of them. Today, Al says it was all the team's effort and everything, but I don't know any of my guys that were out there driving that race car. If you saw Al pushing every lap as hard as he could, it was just a great effort on his part and the team. The team did a really good job. They always do a good job in the pits. But it's, you know, it's really very special, particularly to win at St. Louis with Budweiser. They've been very good to us and this is a big win for Starz. So hopefully everything is great. The IRL, I think today was a great crowd and I was really proud of the crowd today. It wasn't supposed to be as big as it was and they were very, very boisterous and loud; and it's fun to race when you have crowds like that. So we're making some great progress and I'm very proud of the IRL. I'm not a cheerleader for the IRL but I'm proud of this league and I'm proud of the drivers that compete out there. It was good, clean racing today. Sam and Al went at it pretty good. You know, I keep telling you guys, he's in pretty good shape; and if you doubt that, go try what he did today with Hornish because that Hornish is a good race car driver. All the guys out there try hard and the teams are getting better and better. Unfortunately, that means it's more competitive but it is great racing. So today was a good day for us.
Rick, yesterday when we were talking you seemed pretty up. Did you have a feeling about this weekend?
GALLES: You know, my sister had dinner with me, she lives in Kansas City and she came over last night and had dinner. She said, "You're going to win this race tomorrow." I said, "Yeah, I just think we might." (Laughter) When I was talking to you, Mike, I did feel good because we tested here and we had a good test. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to test as much as we want but we had a good test here. I thought Alan and Al did a great job this weekend with a limited amount of time. We always felt we had a good race car and our guys, they did a good job today. They put everything together; and when you do that, it turns out well.
Rick, how confident were you that there was enough fuel?
GALLES: Well, I'll tell you, I told Bob Reif, I was either going to head for the motor home and hide or I was going to join the celebration but there wasn't going to be any in between. We weren't bringing him in. You know, when we had that first -- when we had that last yellow, we had to make a decision, did we want to stay out or did we want to come in. I didn't want to -- you know, even though it was less than half tanks and we usually pit around half tanks, I just didn't want to take a chance of it continuing to go green and pit under the green, which is what would have happened to us and we would have gone down a lap. I wasn't really thinking of going to the end until, you know, then we turned it -- leaned it down and said, okay, we can go to lap 196 unless there's a yellow. By Al saving fuel, we were able to make it. I'm surprised he made his parade lap if that is any indication, but he did. (Laughter) I also want to thank Franz Weis, our engine builder. He's done a terrific job with our motors and worked real hard on fuel mileage and still getting -- you know, Al was lean but he was still getting really good lap times, quicker actually than we were running when we were practicing. So I want to thank Franz Weiss for that. He's a terrific engine builder.
This is like the second race in a row where there were virtually no crashes. We had a couple go into turn two, minor incidents and at Kentucky Dismore had a tire go down, drifted into turn two, but really no contact out there. After some of the racing we've seen earlier this year, drivers complaining about blocking, what do you think is happening the last couple of races?
UNSER: I think everybody is paying attention to Brian Barnhart. He's serious about this, there isn't a board that decides things; it's his way or the highway. You know, that's the way it is. So Brian, he has two guys that have all the experience in the world with Johnny Rutherford and my father up there helping him make the calls. So he's being serious. Scott Sharp got sat down a little bit and, so, you know, everybody is starting to pay attention because this is too close competitive racing. We're running too close. When you have open wheels out there, you know, this is not NASCAR, this is not stock cars where you can rub on each other through the corners and so on and nobody gets hurt, you continue on. You start touching each other in these things and they'll start flying in the air. So that's what open-wheel racing is all about, it's about being precise and being fair and competitive and giving your competitor enough racing room to go racing; and that's what me and Sam did today. We went around here side by side and I gave him just enough room and, you know, I mean he stuck right there. So, you know, that was racing and that's what it's supposed to be all about, not moving over on straightaways and driving with your rearview mirrors. That's not the way you go racing. So, you know, mirrors are to see how close your competitors are, not to block your competitors. So Brian is just laying the law of the land down. The talent of these guys, it's just getting better and better every single race. It's just getting better and better. It's tough to run up front, no doubt about it.
Is it satisfying to, as it were, poke one in the eye to those who thought maybe you were washed up?
GALLES: Haven't asked me. I'd tell them. (Laughter)
UNSER: No. I don't really care what people say and what the newspapers say. I know I love racing and I know the obstacles that have been put in front of me. I know that, you know, the hurdles have been awfully tall. I just keep working at it, you know. I don't care what anybody says about me. I'm just going to go out there. I love racing, I love driving single-seat open-wheel race cars, pushing the envelope of technology, pushing the envelope of speed. I've done it my entire life and I'm not going to stop now. I have too much fun driving these race cars. So, you know, whatever they want to say about me, they can say about me. They don't drive them.
Rick, what were you going to say on that subject?
GALLES: Well, I think today -- I don't want to dwell on the negative, but I think today is a good example of Al's talent. He really drove a hell of a race today. I don't know if anybody was watching, but it was a great race. It was close and the way he and Hornish went after each other, it was pretty exciting. I'm just glad we finished. I'm just glad we had enough fuel.
WICKHAM: One more question.
Al, the last time you won, Dismore finished second to you then. Two of you trying to hook up more often? (Laughter)
UNSER: If that's what it takes, that's what it takes. I don't care who runs second.
Hornish was third that day, too.
UNSER: Hornish was third, also.
GALLES: Brought it from Vegas.
UNSER: If I'm winning, I'm loving it. We can stay this way the whole time. It doesn't bother me a bit.
WICKHAM: Before you guys get away, ladies and gentlemen, the push on this race started in December of last year and right in the middle of it was Al Unser and Al Unser Jr., and Team Galles. We want to thank you very much for all you did and we are delighted that you are our first Indy Racing Northern Light Series champion.
UNSER: Thank you. Thank you, everybody.