IRL: Indy 500: Patrick Racing race report

Patrick Racing Finishes 17th at 88th Running of The Indianapolis 500 INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SUNDAY, MAY 30, 2004 - 88TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 - RACE DAY - Patrick Racing finished 17th today in the rain shortened 88th running of the Indianapolis 500...

Patrick Racing Finishes 17th at 88th Running of The Indianapolis 500

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - SUNDAY, MAY 30, 2004 - 88TH INDIANAPOLIS 500 - RACE DAY - Patrick Racing finished 17th today in the rain shortened 88th running of the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Al Unser Jr., who drives the #20 Chevrolet/Dallara/Firestone car, with primary sponsorship from Subway and associate sponsorship from Stacker 2, qualified 17th. He started from the middle of Row #6, which was exactly in the middle of the 33-car field. Unser Jr. had a solid start to the race and was in 16th place by lap four. On lap 10 the first yellow flag of the day came out. When the pits were opened, on lap 13, all but two cars pitted. The Patrick Racing crew performed flawlessly getting Unser back out in 16th place, however, he dropped to 18th because of the two cars that did not pit. Five laps later Unser Jr. made a pass and move into 17th place. On lap 22 the track went yellow this time because of moisture. The rains increased and on lap 29 the field was red flagged.

One hour and 47 minutes later the race resumed. Restarting in 17th place, Unser Jr. immediately passed to move into 16th place. He got another car on the next lap to take over 15th place. As the segment progressed he started to experience an understeering problem and fell as low as 19th. Another crash brought out a yellow flag and four laps into the yellow Patrick Racing pitted for the second time. The crew, once again, did a great job and Unser Jr. rejoined the competition in 17th place. Following a penalty to another car he was 16th, then on the restart he pickup up another sport and moved into 15th place. One lap later a two car crash pushed Unser Jr. into 13th place. He stayed in 13th for the next 25 laps, but then fell back to 16th place. During the fourth yellow flag of the race the team pitted for the third time, on lap 97, and for the second time the crew was able to pick up two spots in the pits. Unser Jr. moved into 13th place when another car pitted a few laps later and then grabbed hold of a race high 12th place spot when he passed on the restart. Unser Jr. dropped back to 14th place when two cars drafted by him, then the fifth yellow flag came out. He moved back into 12th place as other competitors pitted, but lost one spot on the restart. Unser stayed in 13th place from lap 117 to 127, but then his handling problems began to reappear. He was sitting in 15th place when the track again went yellow on lap 132. The team pitted for the fourth time when the pits opened two laps later. Unser came back out in 16th place, but fell back to lap 140. He started to work his way back up the field, taking advantage of passing opportunities and cars pitting that were out of sequence. When the team pitted for the fifth time on lap 168 he was in 14th place. Following the pit stop Unser came back out in 17th position ready to do battle, but six laps later the track went yellow for the second time due to moisture. Seven laps after that, on lap 180 of the 200 scheduled, Speedway officials called the race due to rain.

"Well, we finished where we started," Unser deadpanned. "I didn't loose any ground and, unfortunately, I didn't gain any ground," he noted. "I want to thank my sponsors, Subway and Stacker 2 for coming on board with us for the 500. I would also like to thank Mr. Patrick and the Patrick Racing crew. They did a fantastic job. The car didn't stutter one bit the whole month. I want to thank Chevrolet. They gave me great power," Unser said. "I just wish the car would have handled a little better. Every time I got in traffic I just couldn't do anything with anybody, so I ended up losing ground," he explained.

Unser concluded by saying, "I also want to congratulate Buddy Rice, Bobby Rahal, David Letterman and the entire Rahal/Letterman Racing team. They did a fantastic job today and really deserved the win."

Unser Jr., 22nd year at the premier level of American open wheel competition, fifth IRL season and first with Patrick Racing, made his 17th Indy 500 start today. It was also the 71st for the Unser family, which is a Indy 500 record. He has earned 10 top-10 finishes placing in the top-five seven times including victories in 1992 and 1994 and one pole (1994). The talented native of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 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 in its 32nd year of open-wheel competition and first in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series, made its 24th appearance and 45th start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. The team returned to the Speedway following an absence of almost nine years and eight races. The team has now 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).

Next up for Patrick Racing is a test at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday, June 3. Their next race will be at Texas Motor Speedway, where Unser Jr. is the defending champion, on June 12.

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