IRL: Al Unser Jr. wins Vegas with Oldsmobile

LAS VEGAS - Al Unser Jr. scored his 32nd career victory in Indy-style racing today in the Vegas Indy 300 and extended Oldsmobile's winning streak in Indy Racing League competition to 32 consecutive races. Unser stood in Victory Lane at Las...

LAS VEGAS - Al Unser Jr. scored his 32nd career victory in Indy-style racing today in the Vegas Indy 300 and extended Oldsmobile's winning streak in Indy Racing League competition to 32 consecutive races. Unser stood in Victory Lane at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his third start in the IRL series with Galles ECR Racing. His last victory with team owner Rick Galles was in 1993, and his last Indy car triumph was in 1995. "I've been stuck on 31 wins for a long time," said Unser. "I finally got that monkey off my back. There are people who have never given up on me, and Rick Galles is one of them. "Life has its funny twists and turns, and every now and then it throws a curve at you - this has just been a really long curve I've been on," Unser laughed. Unser's Tickets.com Oldsmobile G-Force crossed the finish line 12.531 seconds ahead of runner-up Mark Dismore in Kelley Racing's On Star/GM BuyPower Oldsmobile Dallara. "We had the fastest car on the race track," said Dismore, who started on the pole and led 90 of the 208 laps. "If our pit strategy had worked out, we'd have been heroes and won by a lap. I'm happy - we got a lot of points, and we're going into Indy with a lot of momentum." Unser worked hard for his victory on the 1.5-mile superspeedway. After encountering problems in qualifying, the team withdrew its primary car and Unser qualified the back-up machine 21st on the starting grid. "Little Al" lost a lap to the frontrunners before the midpoint of the race, but battled back to take the lead for good on lap 188 from Scott Goodyear. He led a total of 20 laps. "It's been a tough weekend," Unser conceded. The race showcased several rising stars in the IRL. Rookies Sam Hornish Jr. and Jeret Schroeder finished third and fourth respectively, and rookie Airton Dare led 13 laps before dropping out with a broken gearbox. Rookie Sarah Fisher ran as high as second in Walker Racing's Oldsmobile Riley & Scott before she was involved in an accident with Eliseo Salazar. Oldsmobile IRL Aurora V8 engines dominated the final standings, sweeping the top ten finishing positions. Twenty-seven of the 28 starters used Oldsmobile motors. The only Nissan Infiniti Indy in the field finished 11th, seven laps behind the leader. Unser tallied the third victory for the new 3.5-liter version of the IRL Aurora V8, which replaced the 4.0-liter engines used in the three previous seasons. It was the first victory for the smaller, faster-revving 3.5-liter engine on a 1.5-mile superspeedway - and the final warm-up before the Indianapolis 500. "Many of the Oldsmobile teams raced successfully here in Las Vegas with the engine specifications they intend to use at Indianapolis Motor Speedway," said Joe Negri, GM Racing IRL/Road Racing Group manager. "We'll tear down the engines, inspect the components, and make any necessary adjustments for Indy. We will continue to refine the engine package before the year's biggest race." Unser also scored the first victory with an Oldsmobile engine prepared by Franz Weis' VDS Racing shop in Midland, Texas. "Franz is one of the best engine builders in the country," Unser declared. "He built my Indy winner in 1992 and the engines that I won the championship with in 1990. I know that he can get the most horsepower and reliability out of an engine. He's a legend in our industry, and I think it's great that he believed in me. "Now we can go into the month of May with full steam," added Unser, a two-time Indy 500 winner. "The team knows it can win, we know we can win. Our strategy is to go to Indy and sit on the pole, lead every practice session, and win the race - that's our goal." Unser will be racing for his third Indy 500 title and Oldsmobile will be racing for its fourth straight Indy 500 victory on Memorial Day weekend.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Al Unser Jr. , Eliseo Salazar , Airton Daré , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Jeret Schroeder