IRL: Indy 500: Patrick Racing Pole day report

Patrick Racing Qualifies 17th For 88th Running Of The Indianapolis 500 INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2004 - 88TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 - DAY ...

Patrick Racing Qualifies 17th For 88th Running Of The Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2004 - 88TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 - DAY #7 - POLE DAY - Patrick Racing qualified 17th today for the 88th running of the Indianapolis 500, May 30, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Al Unser Jr., behind the wheel of the #20 Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone car, which has associate sponsorship from STACKER 2, had a strong, very consistent run. His average speed of 217.966 was highlighted by his fastest lap of the week, a 218.010 mph, which came on his fourth and final qualifying lap. Unser Jr. will grid in the middle of Row #6 for the race.

"I really want to thank Mr. Patrick and everybody on the Patrick Racing team," Unser Jr. began. "The entire team has done a fantastic job preparing the car. I also want to welcome our new associate sponsor STACKER 2 to the IRL and the Indianapolis 500. Finally, I want to thank Chevrolet for giving us a powerful and reliable engine, and Firestone for giving us great tires," Unser said.

Unser Jr. went on to say, "The Patrick Racing team gave me a very consistent car for qualifying. We wanted to qualify a little higher, and I think I could have gone a little faster, but with the way things were going (crashes and slow speeds) Patrick Racing just wanted to put the car in the show solid, and we did that."

Morning showers delayed the start of practice and qualifying. The track finally dried and was ready for practice just past noon. Patrick Racing, which was in the second group, went out for practice at 1:10 p.m. After running a few warm-up laps Unser Jr. did two short practice qualifying sets turning in times of 218.272 and 218.051 on the first run and 217.407 and 217.976 on the second. Both practice runs provided a glimpse of how much the Patrick Racing team had improved the car since the track opened for practice last Sunday. It also gave an indication of how strong Unser Jr. would be in qualifying.

Unser Jr. was slotted to be the 26th car to qualify today, but several cars pulled out of line pushing Patrick Racing to the number 18 spot. His first three laps were remarkably similar coming in at 217.931, 217.979 and 217.944. Unser Jr. was the 11th car to actually qualify and originally was eighth on the grid.

"This is the first race of the '04 season for Patrick Racing, so we started way behind most of the teams here," Unser Jr. noted. "The cars have changed from last year to this year with 400 lbs. less downforce, so all the setups I had from last year didn't apply. The Patrick Racing team has been running every day. We have been learning a lot and improved the car and our speed each day. The couple of days of rain put us a little bit behind because we didn't have the track time. So to come up with high 217s and a low 218, I thought was very good. The car ran consistently all four laps, so I am very happy," he explained.

Unser Jr. concluded by saying, "It was good to get the car in the show the first day because now we can go to work on the race setup. We will spend some time practicing tomorrow with full tanks and working on race setups."

Unser Jr., who is participating in his 17th Indianapolis 500 and first race of the 2004 IRL IndyCar season, has posted 10 top-10 finishes in his last 16 Indy 500s 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 making its 24th appearance and 45th start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2004. The team 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) at the Brickyard. They have qualified in the top-10 a total of 26 times with 14 top-five starts and one pole (Johncock -1982).

Unser Jr. hails from one of American's most famous racing families. His father Al is a three-time national champion and a four-time Indy 500 winner, and uncle, Bobby, is a two-time national champion and three-time Indy 500 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). He won national championships in 1990 and 1994.

Patrick Racing, which is owned and led by one of the most respected names in motor sports, U. E. "Pat" Patrick, is one of the most successful teams in American 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

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).


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