IRL: IRL weekly notes 2001-03-01

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 1, 2001 - Like everyone in the sports world, Indy Racing Northern Light Series standout Al Unser Jr. was shaken by the death of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt on Feb. 18 in the Daytona...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, March 1, 2001 - Like everyone in the sports world, Indy Racing Northern Light Series standout Al Unser Jr. was shaken by the death of seven-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt on Feb. 18 in the Daytona 500. But two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser has plenty of fond memories of Earnhardt, whom he competed against in Winston Cup Series and True Value IROC races. "Dale was the first one to welcome me into NASCAR and show me how to go fast on the track," Unser said. "But once he showed me how to go fast, he was also one of the ones to take me off the track and go on to win. "He was a great racecar driver and a great person, and he will be sorely missed. We were good friends, although we never spent time together outside of the racetrack."

Unser also said that safety remains a primary concern for all drivers and teams in every racing series.

"He was one of the kings of racing, and his death shows everyone that racing is not prejudiced against anyone," Unser said of Earnhardt. "As drivers and teams, we do the absolute best we can to ensure safety, from fireproofing to the technology that is put into the tires. But things happen, and they can happen to anyone."

*** Toughing it out: Panther Racing crew chief Kevin Blanch showed true grit recently after undergoing surgery on his left shoulder. Surgeons removed bone chips and repaired a muscle tear in Blanch's left shoulder the week of Feb. 19. The day after the surgery, Blanch reported for physical therapy. Therapists and Blanch's doctors indicated that Blanch must wait for a week to 10 days to start the rehabilitation program on his shoulder. Blanch, knowing that the Indy Racing Northern Light Series opener is March 18 at Phoenix, pleaded with doctors to accelerate that schedule. Blanch won. He started physical therapy the next day and worked with Panther driver Sam Hornish Jr. at the Indy Racing Open Test on Feb. 23-24 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, wearing a sling.

*** Pacers host Indy Racing Night: The Indiana Pacers will play host to Indy Racing Night on March 2 at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. Fans can meet Indy Racing drivers Sarah Fisher and Tyce Carlson, who will sign autographs from 5:45-6:45 p.m. A Delta Faucet/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Indy Racing car will be on display, and everyone attending the basketball game will receive a free Indy Racing Northern Light Series schedule magnet. During the halftime entertainment, Fisher and Carlson will serve as honorary referees for the Marsh Kids Club basketball game. Fisher also will serve as the honorary scorekeeper for the NBA game. The Pacers will face the Seattle Sonics in the 7 p.m. (EST) game.

*** TV alert: The March episode of the "Road to Indy" television series will be broadcast at 11 a.m. (EST) March 11 on ESPN2. The show will include highlights of the recent Indy Racing Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a feature story about sophomore standouts expected to emerge during the 2001 Northern Light Series season and more.

*** On the road: Upcoming appearances by Indy Racing drivers and cars:

March 2: Indy Racing drivers Sarah Fisher and Tyce Carlson will sign autographs from 5:45-6:45 p.m. at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis during Indy Racing Night. The autograph session will precede the Indiana Pacers-Seattle Sonics NBA game at the arena. A Delta Faucet/Tae-Bo/Hemelgarn Racing Indy Racing car also will be on display at Conseco Fieldhouse that night.

March 2-3: A Johns Manville Indy Racing car will be on display at the Joliet Expo in Joliet, Ill.

March 7-11: An Excite@Home Indy Racing car will be on display in the Homestead-Miami Speedway booth at the Fort Lauderdale Auto Show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

k-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Sarah Fisher , Al Unser Jr. , Tyce Carlson , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing