IRL: Indy 500: Al Unser Jr day three summary

Patrick Racing Has Productive Third Day of Practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004 -- Day ...

Patrick Racing Has Productive Third Day of Practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - TUESDAY, MAY 11, 2004 -- Day #3 - Patrick Racing had a productive day during the third day of practice in preparation for Saturday's qualifying for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.

The Patrick Racing engineering staff, which had spent the last two days figuring out what the Patrick Racing Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone liked, made some changes today and improved the balance and handling of the car.

Patrick Racing driver, Al Unser Jr. posted his best time since practice began three days ago, turning a quick lap of 41.6341 seconds (216.169 mph). However, in addition to the improvement to the car the fact that the team is coming together has everyone optimistic.

"The Patrick Racing team definitely made progress today," Unser Jr. said. "We learned a bunch of things about the car and had a productive day. Most important, the engineers took a step forward today working together and with me. That is going to be a key to our success as we move forward," he explained. "We still have a long way to go, but like I have been saying, it is a process. Overall, it was a pretty good day for the Patrick Racing team," Unser Jr. noted.

Unser went on to say, "I also want to take this opportunity to compliment the Patrick Racing crew. They have been working very hard and doing a great job. We have also been getting great support from the folks at Chevrolet and Firestone. The Chevy Indy V8 engine has performed very reliably and the Firestone tires have been extremely consistent from set to set."

Patrick Racing took to the track for the first time today at 12:30 p.m. (the track officially opened for practice at 11:00 a.m.) The weather cooperated by not producing the anticipated rain, instead however, it was the hottest and most humid since practice began on Sunday. After reconfirming yesterday's baseline the engineering staff began working through their program and it immediately showed positive results. With a more solid platform to drive and some additional changes to improve the handling, Unser Jr. ran his fastest practice time (until the second session in the late afternoon) toward the end of the 45-lap first practice. His quick time in the first practice session clocked in at 41.69 seconds (215.906 mph).

The quick lap in the early afternoon proved to be a stepping stone for the late afternoon practice. After returning to the garage to analysis the first session's data the team returned to the track at about 4:30 p.m. They ran an additional 38 laps notching their fast time on the 71st lap of the day (they ran a total of 82). The remainder of the session was spent experimenting with some changes to get a head start on tomorrow's practice.

Patrick Racing, which is in its 32nd year of competition, and first in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, is making its 24th appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team, which will be making its and 45th start at the IMS, has earned 20 top-10 finishes including 14 in the top- five with three victories (Gordon Johncock - 1973 and1982; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1989) and three second place showings (Mario Andretti - 1982; Kevin Cogan - 1986 and Fittipaldi - 1988) at Indy. They have qualified in the top-10 a total of 26 times with 14 top-five starts and one pole (Johncock -1982). Patrick Racing is one of the most successful teams in the history of American open wheel racing with 45 victories and two national championships. The team, which is making its first IRL start at the 2004 Indianapolis 500, last competed at IMS in 1995.

Unser Jr., who is in his 22nd season at the premier level of American open wheel competition and fifth in the IRL, will be contesting his 17th Indy 500. The 42-year-old native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who earned 34 career wins (31 in CART and three in the IRL) and captured two national championships (1990 and 1994) during his career, has posted 10 top-10 finishes placing in the top-five seven times including victories in 1992 and 1994 at the Brickyard. Unser Jr. has qualified in the top-10 a total of eight times including four top-five starts with one pole (1994).

The Indianapolis 500 will be run on Sunday, May 30. It will be televised live on ABC at 12:00 p.m. (EDT). The pre-race show ill begin at 11:00 a.m. (EDT). Pole Day (qualifying) will be on Saturday, May 15. ESPN will begin broadcasting Pole Day at 12:00 p.m. (EDT) with ABC picking up the coverage beginning at 1:00 p.m. (EDT). ESPN will come back with coverage beginning at 5:00 p.m. (EDT)


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Mario Andretti , Al Unser Sr. , Gordon Johncock , Kevin Cogan