IRL: Phoenix: Kelley Racing preview

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 18, 2003)-- Kelley Racing is looking forward to the second event of the IndyCar Series season this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) after posting finishes of fifth (Sharp) and 13th (Unser Jr.) at the season ...

INDIANAPOLIS, IN (March 18, 2003)-- Kelley Racing is looking forward to the second event of the IndyCar Series season this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) after posting finishes of fifth (Sharp) and 13th (Unser Jr.) at the season opener in Homestead, Florida. "We had a reasonably good start to our season in Homestead," said Steve Newey, vice president of racing operations. "Scott was very competitive and Al overcame a couple of problems to finish 13th. In Phoenix, we need to take everything to the next level and improve our performance and I think we will be in a position to challenge for a podium finish."

Al Unser Jr., driver of the No. 31 Corteco/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entry feels a little added pressure at PIR since for all intents and purposes, it's his hometown event. For Unser Jr., who hails from Albuquerque, New Mexico, the Phoenix event is the closest race to his true hometown and one he looks forward to each season. "The Phoenix race is always a good event," said Unser Jr. "I'm hoping that this year I change the fact that I have never had a victory at PIR and that we're able to capitalize on our testing results, which I think have been pretty competitive, and finally finish at the top of the podium."

For Scott Sharp, driver of the No. 8 Delphi/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone entry, it will be nice to return to Phoenix and try to capitalize on the momentum from his fifth place finish at the season opener in Homestead, Florida. "I'm really looking forward to Phoenix," said Sharp. "We had a good test there at Test in the West and despite our accident at our last test in Phoenix, I still think the Delphi team will be very competitive this weekend."

Kelley Racing will begin the first practice session for the Purex Dial Indy 200 on Friday morning at 11:00 a.m. M.T. with a second practice session set to begin at 2:30 p.m. Practice will continue on Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. with qualifying set to begin at 12:00 p.m. On Sunday, the 200 lap Purex Dial Indy 200 race will be shown live on ABC beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.

Kelley Racing Fast Facts and Quotes

Kelley Racing

--This will be the sixth season of IRL competition for Kelley Racing.

--Kelley Racing drivers have made 122 starts, scored seven victories and eight poles in IRL career competition.

Al Unser Jr.-- No. 31 Corteco/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

Fast Facts

--This will be Unser Jr.'s 310th career start, his 37th IRL start and his second season with Kelley Racing.

--Unser Jr. is currently in 13th place in the point standings with 17 points.

--Unser Jr. finished seventh in last year's championship.

--Unser Jr. has made three starts in an IRL entry at Phoenix International Raceway. In 2002, driving a Kelley Racing entry, he started 18th and finished fifth. In his 16 total starts at PIR, Unser Jr. has nine top-ten; six top-five and three second place finishes.

--Unser Jr. has won two Indianapolis 500's (1992, 1994) and two open-wheel championships (1990, 1994).

"I'm looking forward to a good weekend in Phoenix. The Corteco team hasn't been the fastest in testing but I feel that we have a good racecar. I hope that we do well there because Phoenix is a track that I've never had a win at, and I definitely would like to get a win at what I consider my hometown track. I'm hoping that we're more competitive at Phoenix than we were in Homestead and that we're able to bring home a podium finish for the Corteco team. This is a big weekend for me and for our partners on the Corteco team because not only is it my hometown event but I'm also hosting my annual golf tournament for the Al Unser Jr. Children's Charitable Foundation on Thursday, March 20th. I'm hoping this year that we surpass the $100,000 mark in funds raised from the tournament and auction. Kelley Racing and our partners have been really involved and it's just awesome. I owe a big thank you to Corteco, who is not only my primary partner on the racecar but who are the primary partner for the golf tournament as well. Everyone's involvement means a great deal to me and I hope that we have a great day on Thursday and raise a lot of money for charity and then I hope the Corteco team goes out and has a great weekend at PIR."

Scott Sharp-- No.8 Delphi/Dallara/Toyota/Firestone

Fast Facts

--This will be Sharp's 68th IRL start and his sixth season with Kelley Racing.

--Sharp is currently fifth in the IndyCar Series point standings, with 30 points.

--Sharp finished sixth in last year's championship.

--Sharp has one victory in Phoenix, 1998 and a second place finish in 1996. In 2002, he started 15th and finished 16th after an accident. In 2001, he started 10th and finished fourth.

--Sharp was the 1996 IndyCar Series co-champion and the 2001 Indianapolis 500 MBNA Pole winner.

"Phoenix International Raceway is a very historic and legendary short track. At Phoenix, we always have such passionate and avid race fans and the racing is always action-packed. Phoenix is a fast one-mile track, but it races like a ¾ mile track. I think most people look at it as a one-groove track but with our IndyCar Series cars, sometimes we go three-wide. The Delphi team tested well at Phoenix during Test in the West and we're anxious to get back there and have a good race weekend. What will be interesting is that at Phoenix your car has to be really "hooked-up" to get in the top seven in qualifying so I think it will quickly be apparent how the deep the field is if your car isn't handling well."

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp