INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Dec. 7, 2000 - While Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. prepare for the 2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series season this winter, they might want to moonlight as a father-and-son comedy act. The Unsers were in peak, dry humor during a function Dec. 5 in downtown St. Louis to promote the Northern Light Series and other series competing this season at Gateway International Raceway just east of St. Louis. Officials from St. Louis-area government, including St. Louis Mayor Clarence Harmon, members of the area tourism industry, Gateway International Raceway officials and area media joined Indy Racing drivers and officials at the luncheon. The inaugural Indy Racing Northern Light Series event at Gateway International Raceway is Aug. 26, 2001. Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, who serves as a driver coach and consultant for the Indy Racing League, was asked during the presentation which driver has been his best student. "Best student?" Unser said. "Has to be my son, taught him everything he knows. And after he came back from the Petty school, I helped him get back on track." As he said that, Unser flashed a grin at seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup Series champion Richard Petty, who was present to promote the addition of the Richard Petty Driving Experience driving school to Gateway's offerings in 2001. In a classic case of like father, like son, Al Unser Jr. shot right back. "Yeah, Dad taught me everything I know but not everything he knows. He still lets me know that when we're on snowmobiles." *** Goal setter: Sam Hornish Jr. may be entering only his second season in the Indy Racing Northern Light Series, but he has lofty goals for 2001 as he takes over the coveted seat at Pennzoil Panther Racing.
"I'd like to win a race or two, just to get that under my belt," said Hornish, whose career-best finish is third. "If one of those races happens to be Indy, that's great. I'd like to finish in the top five in points. That would be a good year for me."
*** The big chill: You've got to give Dick Simon Racing credit, as the team tried valiantly but failed to get Stephan Gregoire's Mexmil/Tokheim/Viking Air Tools/Cigarette/Nada Guides G Force/Oldsmobile/Firestone started in 20-degree temperatures Dec. 5 for a drive on the streets of downtown Chicago. The cold temperatures, combined with 14-mph winds, dropped the wind-chill temperature to 10 below zero. The cold dropped fuel pressure too low to keep the engine running. The aborted run was part of a Simon Racing promotion in Chicago to attract more corporate partners. The team also wanted to expose more Chicago-area residents to Indy Racing before the inaugural Northern Light Series event at Chicagoland Speedway on Sept. 2, 2001.
Out and about: A number of Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers will make appearances and sign autographs this weekend. The schedule: *Greg Ray, Jimmy Kite and Sam Hornish Jr. will sign autographs from 10-11:30 a.m. (EST) Dec. 9 in the Indy Racing area of Tomorrowland at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. They also will serve as grand marshals in the daily Disney World parade at 3 p.m. *Mark Dismore will sign autographs from 6-8 p.m. (EST) Dec. 8 at the inaugural Washington D.C. Motorsports Expo at the Capital Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. Sarah Fisher will sign from 1-3 p.m. Dec. 9 at the Expo. A Pennzoil Indy Racing car will be on display during the entire event Dec. 8-10.