David Reininger - motorsport.com Las Vegas, NV (April 22, 2000) - AL Unser Jr won today's Vegas 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, capturing his 32nd career Indy car victory. Unser gives Rick Galles his first Indy Racing Northern Light...
David Reininger - motorsport.com
Las Vegas, NV (April 22, 2000) - AL Unser Jr won today's Vegas 300 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, capturing his 32nd career Indy car victory. Unser gives Rick Galles his first Indy Racing Northern Light Series win after making just three starts for the Albuquerque NM based team..
Unser lost a lap to the leaders by the mid-point of the race, but a combination of attrition and hard driving put him in position to inherit the lead when Scott Goodyear's engine faded with twenty laps to go.
"We never gave up," said the two-time Indy 500 champion. "We fought really hard and got our lap back."
When Goodyear dropped out of the lead, Unser enjoyed nearly a full lap lead over second place finisher Mark Dismore. Dismore, who had the fastest car late in the race, trimmed Unser's margin of victory to 12.531 seconds in the last twenty laps of the race.
"I had my head down all the way to the checkered flag," Unser said. "So many things happen. I've been so close so many times. The last time I was in the lead on the last lap, the car didn't make it around. That was at Elkhart Lake in 1996. The thing broke on me before I got back around. White flags don't mean nothing. It's the checkered and that's when the fat lady starts singing. You don't do anything prior to that."
"I can't tell you how I feel," said Rick Galles whose team qualified the backup car without running it in practice. "I think I've gone the gauntlet of emotions from yesterday when we ran 191 mph in qualifying to winning the race today."
"I have to compliment our guys for not giving up. They pulled out the backup car and it had not had a mile put on it this weekend. Al did a great job." Second place finisher Mark Dismore complimented Unser too. "Today was great. I'm happy for Little Al. He's been going to a gunfight with a knife, and now he has a gun again. It's good to see. He deserved this. Don't get me wrong, I deserve it too. It just didn't happen today, if it happens at the next race that would be okay too.
Dismore led the most laps, leading the race four times for a total of 92 laps.
Rookie driver Sam Hornish finished third today, piloting a year old G Force chassis. "We actually came out here to just try and stay in the top ten. It was a great day. I never expected any of this."
"We knew running the '99 car we would have trouble qualifying," said Hornish, who started 18th, "but we knew we could make up some ground in the race."
Hornish's best previous finish was 17th at Phoenix.
Despite Hornish's third place finish, Jeret Schroeder continues to lead the rookie of the year standings after posting a fourth place finish today. "Overall I'm very happy we could get the car to a top-five finish today. I feel it was capable of a podium finish and with a little bit of luck we would have been there. Fourth is our best finish ever and this is my first race ever at Las Vegas, so I have to be pleased." Schroeder also benefited from the high attrition rate today as he struggled with an ill handling car for most of the race. "We struggled with a push all day. We got a bad set of tires after the first pit stop that actually lost stagger. We kept going backwards at that point and we had a couple of close calls there when I got caught out high, out in the marbles. But we kept it together and worked our way back up to fourth."
Schroeder leads Sam Hornish in the rookie of the year standings by three points.
Robbie Buhl drove from the 23rd starting position to finish fifth today. "We were really good yesterday morning, but the car kind of got away from us during qualifications," said Buhl. "We didn't have what we thought we were going to have. I didn't like what we had in the full tank session. We've got to find that little bit to get up there to the front."
Buhl and Billy Boat are the only two drivers to have finished in the top ten in all three events this season.
Seven different drivers led today's race, including rookie driver Airton Dare. Dare led once for 13 laps before pitting and relinquishing the lead to Goodyear. Unfortunately, Dare's race ended in the pits. "I went for first gear and the gearbox broke. I didn't have any gears. The car was so good. I wasn't pushing the car as hard as I could."
Dare was credited with a 14th place finish.
Indy Racing Northern Light Series teams head to Indianapolis for the 84th running of the Indy 500. Opening day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is Saturday, May 13, 2000.
NOTES: Target Chip Ganassi team owner, Chip Ganassi was in Las Vegas as an interested spectator today. Tom Anderson, Ganassi's team manager, was also in attendance
Sam Schmidt was at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway yesterday for a brief visit. Schmidt gave the command to start the engines via telephone today.