IRL: Johnny Unser to race at Texas

June 5th, 1997 - Texas Motor Speedway Veteran driver Johnny Unser has been named as IRL point leader Mike Groff's replacement for this weekend's TrueValue 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mike was injured in an accident during practice on ...

June 5th, 1997 - Texas Motor Speedway

Veteran driver Johnny Unser has been named as IRL point leader Mike Groff's replacement for this weekend's TrueValue 500 at Texas Motor Speedway. Mike was injured in an accident during practice on Wednesday, suffering a fracture of his lower left leg. He underwent surgery on Wednesday and is expected to be out for 4-6 weeks.

Johnny was contacted by team owner Jonathan Byrd on Wednesday and agreed to fill in for Mike this weekend in Texas with a possiblity of driving in the Colorado 200 later this month as well. He will be driving the #10 Jonathan Byrd/Cunningham racing car, which is a G-Force chassis powered by an Infiniti motor. This race will continue Johnny's relationship with Clayton Cunningham , who he raced for in 1986 in the IMSA racing series.

Johnny is very excited to be with the series leading Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria/Bryant Heating & Cooling team, and is ready to make a good showing on Saturday night. Because no attempt was made to qualify the car during the Wednesday night qualifying session, Johnny will start from the rear of the field. There will be a final practice session tomorrow evening, and the race will start under the lights at 7:00 pm on Saturday June 7th. ESPN2 will carry the race on a tape delay beginning at 10:30pm EDT.

We have attached the following press release from Jonathan Byrd Racing, and we will have more updates tomorrow after the final practice.

--Johnny Unser Racing

***************************** JOHNNY UNSER NAMED AS REPLACEMENT DRIVER BY JONATHAN BYRD/CUNNINGHAM RACING

FORT WORTH, Texas, June 5, 1997 -- Jonathan Byrd/Cunningham Racing announced today the designation of Johnny Unser as the replacement for team driver Mike Groff, who was injured in an early practice session for Saturday's IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Groff, current IRL points leader, spun in turn four before making contact with the wall, and was treated at Harris Medical Center in Ft. Worth before being transported to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis for successful surgery to repair a fractured left tibia. It is hoped that Groff will return to the driver's seat at Charlotte in late July. The accident left the Jonathan Byrd's Cafeteria/Bryant Heating & Cooling-sponsored team without a driver for this weekend's True Value 500 and the Pikes Peak International Raceway event in late June. After considering several potential drivers, Unser was selected to fill the vacancy for this race with an option for the next event.

"We are happy to have someone of his quality to fill in for Mike," announced Jonathan Byrd, team co-owner. "We will be ready for final practice tomorrow night and we'll start from the back of the field. Our goal is to hold onto the points lead from the owner's side of the equation."

Unser, 38, drove to an 18th place finish at last month*s Indianapolis 500 (his second time at the prestigious event) at the wheel of the Hemelgarn Racing Dallara/Infiniti. His career highlights include a win at the 12 Hours of Sebring in 1989, Rookie of the Year honors in the American IndyCar Series in 1990, where he also finished second in the point standing, and a second place finish in the 24 Hours of LeMans in 1995. Additionally, Unser finished a respectable ninth in his IRL debut at the Dura-Lube 200 at Phoenix in 1996.

"It was an extreme honor to be called by Jonathan Byrd, who has put together so many great race teams over the years." stated Unser. "It is also an honor to fill in for Mike, who I have the greatest respect for as a driver and as an individual."

"I'm very pleased to renew my relationship with Clayton Cunningham, who I had the pleasure of driving for in 1986." Unser continued. "I couldn't be happier than to be with this crew, who has demonstrated their abilities this season by being the points leader." *******************************

-- *********************** Johnny Unser Racing http://www.unser-racing.com **************************

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Johnny Unser