IRL: Robby Unser NHIS Preview

ROBBY UNSER SERIOUS ABOUT SUCCESS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE INDIANAPOLIS, June 11, 1998 - Robby Unser, seventh in the famed Albuquerque, N.M., racing family to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, is coming to New Hampshire International...


INDIANAPOLIS, June 11, 1998 - Robby Unser, seventh in the famed Albuquerque, N.M., racing family to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, is coming to New Hampshire International Speedway for real late this month. The Pep Boys Indy Racing League New England 200 on June 28 will be the third Indy-style race of his late-starting career. But Unser, 30, has driven laps around the 1.058-mile oval at NHIS in the past. "I've been on the track there in some other things, actually just screwing around," said Unser, the son of three-time Indy winner Bobby Unser. Robby's connection with NHIS has been through close friend Rocco DeSimone, who lives in Providence, R.I. They have been involved in business ventures together, and DeSimone has helped Unser build his racing career. "So through the years we'd go up there and play," Unser said. "Oh, gosh, I drove an AIS car around there once, Ferraris and stuff like that. No racing, just playing. "I'm looking forward to it. I think it is going to be a good track to race on." Unser, driving for Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr., brought home his Team Cheever/Rachel's G Force/Aurora/Goodyear fifth on May 24 at Indy in his first career Pep Boys IRL start. He followed with a ninth in the True Value 500 on June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway. In the two races, he completed 402 of 408 laps and was running at the finish both times. To put Robby's achievement into perspective, look at his father's early accomplishments at Indy. Bobby Unser completed only three laps in his first two 500's combined and just 72 in his first three combined. It wasn't until his sixth race, which he won in 1968, that he ran more than Robby's 198 laps. It took Robby's uncle Al Unser, a four-time Indy champion, three races to record a 198-lap race and five to win for the first time. Cousin Al Unser Jr., a two-time winner, needed four starts to edge above 198 and 10 to win for the first time. Cousin Johnny Unser has completed 256 laps in three races, while Robby's late uncle Jerry Unser was not credited with a lap in his only race in 1958. In almost any other year, Robby probably would have claimed the coveted Bank One Rookie of the Year Award. But Steve Knapp led a talented cast of rookies by finishing third in the race and won the award. The youngest racing Unser takes little credit for his early success, instead passing kudos to his team and car owner Cheever. "Indy made me feel real good," Unser said. "It's definitely been a positive thing in my life, a good experience, I enjoyed it. Most of all, I've got a good relationship with this team now. "Dane (Harte), my crew chief, is incredible, and all the guys working on my car are really good. They're becoming close friends with me. And that's probably the biggest thing I took away from it was the relationship." He also took away a $209,000 purse and a ride for the rest of the season. Cheever has no agenda where he gets the No. 1 car and the second team machine is considered No. 2, Unser said. "I'll tell you, driving for Eddie probably for me is the happiest I've ever been in a race car," he said. "They treat me like I've been here forever, and they've opened their hearts and all their stuff to me. "Eddie doesn't give me a 'quote' second car. He gives me what I think is a first car. He runs both cars like they're first-car teams. He acts quite a lot like a driver. He's an excellent driver, great feedback, and I think we complement each other." Unser's route to an Indy car was long and tedious. He started in go-karts, then drove stock cars, sprint cars, old Indy-style cars in the American Indy Series, Indy Lights and helped build engines for Johnny Unser's AIS car. Of course, he drove about everything on four wheels up Pikes Peak and won eight titles as he added to the family tradition at the famed race to the sky. "Pikes Peak is a neat race, and I enjoy racing it a lot," he said, "but it's not really a comparison to this deal. This deal's supercompetitive, very nice facilities that we race on, very fast. They're good, safe cars. And it's different. It's quite a lot different." Robby was so young when he made his first trip up Pikes Peak that he doesn't even remember the occasion. During the years before he could drive, he rode up with brother Bobby Jr., Little Al and others, and knew the course perfectly. He says that racing up the mountain never scared him. Neither does his new career in the big leagues of open-wheel racing. "I think at Pikes Peak you've got to keep your head about you, be smooth, not make mistakes and have a good clean run," he said. "You've got to have that to race here, too, but you've got to race guys a lot. There's strategy involved, how to pass 'em, how to work 'em, how to go." And that's how Robby hopes to race at NHIS as he goes for a third straight top-10 finish and the Pep Boys IRL Rookie of the Year Award presented at season's end. For him, racing Indy-type cars is just another mountain to scale.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Eddie Cheever , Al Unser Sr. , Bobby Unser , Steve Knapp , Johnny Unser , Robby Unser