IRL: Indy 500: Al Unser Jr Opening Day summary

Patrick Racing Has Solid First Day Of Practice At Indianapolis Motor Speedway INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2004 -- Day ...

Patrick Racing Has Solid First Day Of Practice At Indianapolis Motor Speedway

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SUNDAY, MAY 9, 2004 -- Day #1 - After almost nine years and eight Indianapolis 500s, Patrick Racing made it first appearance on the fabled Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval with a solid first day of practice today in Indianapolis, Indiana.

On a warm, slightly breezy, but beautiful opening day of the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 two-time Indy 500 champion, Al Unser Jr. piloted the Patrick Racing Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone car to 19th on the speed charts (out of 33 cars) with a fast lap of 41.800 seconds (215.338 mph).

"It was a great opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Unser Jr. began. "It was a beautiful day and it was great to be back at Indianapolis. I also want to wish everybody a Happy Mother's Day," he said.

Practice did not start until 1:00 p.m. due to opening day festivities, however, Patrick Racing still put in a full day's work running 57 laps. The team focused on balancing the car and developing a baseline from which to improve over the coming days in preparation for next Saturday's Pole Day and qualifying.

"The Patrick Racing car was very good today," Unser Jr. said. "The Chevrolet engine ran great and the Firestone tires were consistent all day," he noted. "We spent today's first practice just making sure that the car responded the same way it did when we tested here a couple of weeks ago.and it did, so were are very happy about that. The Patrick Racing team did a great job today. We have a solid baseline and I am looking forward to improving the car each day leading up to qualifying," Unser Jr. concluded.

Patrick Racing, which is in its 32nd year of competition, and first in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, announced its intention to campaign the 2004 IRL season on March 21 of this year. The 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be the team's first event.

"There is a big difference in the cars from last year," Unser noted. "The rule changes have definitely made the cars slower. But, everybody is in the same boat," he explained. "We certainly would have liked to run the first three races of the season, but I don't think we are at a disadvantage coming here to Indy because of all the rule changes. Besides, Indy is like home to me, so what better place to start the season," Unser Jr. concluded.

Patrick Racing will be making its 24th appearance and 45th start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The team last competed at IMS in 1995. Patrick Racing has earned 20 top-10 finishes including 14 in the top-five with three wins (Gordon Johncock - 1973 and1982; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1989) and three second place showings (Mario Andretti - 1982; Kevin Cogan - 1986 and Fittipaldi - 1988). They have qualified in the top-10 a total of 26 times with 14 top-five starts and one pole (Johncock -1982).

Unser Jr. will be contesting his 17th Indy 500 where he has posted 10 top- 10 finishes placing in the top-five seven times including victories in 1992 and 1994. The talented native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has qualified in the top-10 a total of eight times including four top-five starts with one pole (1994).

Patrick Racing is one of the most successful teams in open wheel racing history.

Patrick drivers have started 787 races, won two national championships (Gordon Johncock - 1979; Emerson Fittipaldi - 1989) and taken the checkered flag 45 times, including three at the Indianapolis 500 (Johncock - 1973 and1982; Fittipaldi - 1989). Patrick Racing is owned and led by one of the most respected names in motor sports, U. E. "Pat" Patrick. Patrick is the "father" of the Indy Lights Championship and the co-founder of CART.

Unser Jr. hails from one of America's most famous racing families. His father Al is a three-time national champion and a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and uncle, Bobby, is a two-time national champion and three- time Indy winner. Unser Jr. is in his fifth season with the IRL and 22nd at the premier level of American open wheel competition. He has amassed a total of 34 career wins (31 in CART and three in the IRL) including wins at the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 and 1994 and national championships in 1990 and 1994. The resident of Henderson, Nevada finished an IRL career high sixth in the championship standings last year with 374 points. He finished 15 of the 18 races, more than any other driver, and scored 11 top-10 finishes including a win in June at Texas Motor Speedway.

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)

-pr-

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