IRL: Texas: Unser Jr., Dare press conference

Boomtown 500 Press Conference Al Unser Jr., Airton Dare Moderator: Ever so close in the Boomtown. Al Unser Jr., second place, and Airton Dare. Go ahead from your end. Talk about that final lap and what you were trying to accomplish. Airton...

Boomtown 500 Press Conference Al Unser Jr., Airton Dare

Moderator: Ever so close in the Boomtown. Al Unser Jr., second place, and Airton Dare. Go ahead from your end. Talk about that final lap and what you were trying to accomplish.

Airton Dare: Well, my car was really handling really good. I got a little splash of fuel and just I had the run, I was coming out of Turn 4 faster than those two guys and had nowhere to go. I thought about going through the grass, but I didn't think that was a good idea.

Moderator: Walk us through it. You were leading up to the end.

Al Unser Jr.: I just protected my left side, protected the inside. Just the shortest way around the track. And if Wardy was going to do me, he was going to have to do me on the outside. He stayed out there. He got the run, I think in the middle of (Turns) 1 and 2 and then just let it drift out next to the wall. And then we went into (Turn) 3, and there he came. And I knew he was there and all that kind of stuff, and I thought, 'Maybe if I just keep it real pinched down on the exit, it would be all right.' And he just came up and beat me by a little bit. So congratulations to Wardy, he drove a great race. I never got to race against him at all during the day, and so I didn't know how fast he was, I didn't know anything about Wardy, because him and I never did mix it up during the day. And so I thought maybe I had enough for him coming off of Turn 4, but we didn't. And so we had a great time. Texas Motor Speedway is the place to race. I have a fun time; I have a great time every time I'm here. And so, another night, Saturday night, it was great. We had a great time. And, but we came up short. Second place, we're the first ones to lose. It wasn't all that fun, but we got some points for the championship, and so now we will be off to Pikes Peak.

Moderator: Unofficially it is the closest one-two-three finish again in Indy Racing history. .011 unofficially, they are checking that. Airton, early in the race you weren't right up at the front. Just go through some of the early laps and how you got yourself back up right up in the lead pack during that last charge.

Dare: Well, we had a little bit of problems until the beginning of the race. I wasn't able to run a high line, so I couldn't really pass anybody. So it looks like all the guys are running low to protect their lines, and I wasn't able to go outside. So I had to sit out there, and if somebody goes on the outside, there was my chance to pass. But we kept making changes on the pit stop and making the car better, and on the last two runs my car was really, really good. I was able to go right behind Al, all those laps, and in fact that was one of the things I had in the race is you don't want to pass the guy in front of you because you want to be in his draft to see if you can pass him on the last lap. And at the same time, you want to try to keep the guys behind you. So that's kind of crazy, but overall they did a great job on the pit stops. Except for one pit stop we did a little slower. They did a great job in getting the car ready, making the right changes to improve the car during the race.

Moderator: Al, you rededicated yourself this year, worked really hard in the offseason and all, having a good run like this you, just being with the time it is, does this really juice you up for the rest of the season? You got a pretty heavy stretch of races here.

Unser: It would have juiced me up if we would have won. But the hard work is paying off for myself, for the crew, I just, I can't thank Kelley Racing enough. The car was fast coming off the trailer, it was fast all month long at Indy, and they gave me a -- and I personally want to thank my crew chief (and) (owner) Tom Kelley, they gave me my best qualifying spot that I've in the IRL, which was third. And we almost got a win today. So we're knocking on the door real hard, and we will go from there.

Moderator: Go ahead and open it up for questions. Once again let me repeat the question.

Q: At what point did your heart sink, Al?

Unser: At the checkered flag, at the line. That's when he got the nose on me was right at the line. So even when we went through the first change, I thought maybe we could still do it. And he had a little burst.

Q: Did you know right at the checkered?

Unser: I knew, yeah, he got me.

Q: Talk about the last pit stop. Focus on the pit stop or where everybody else was in relation to you or what?

Unser: Yeah, I was focused on the Marlboro car. I was calling in, 'Has he pitted, has he pitted?' And they said, 'Yeah,' and you know, you got to go around him. So then I started concentrating on him and we were able to -- we had a great car. The car was just hauling the mail. It was really a pleasure to drive it.

Q: Any regrets about the last lap taking the inside line?

Unser: No, no regrets. I was committed to the inside lane. As Airton will tell you, I was committed to the inside line most of the race. And so I didn't do anything different than what I had been doing, and we just came up that much short.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Unser: This ain't the first time I've lost like that. I lost to Scott (Pruett) in the Michigan 500 in the close finish. He drafted me off the board just a lot like Wardy did. So what can I say? I mean, you just got to go back to the whole race. And I thank my crew for doing a great job, and they put me in position to win this thing. And we did everything we could to win it, and we came up that much short. So I have been here before, and second sucks.

Dare: Well, third even more.

Unser: Third even more. Yeah.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Dare: I think I'm happy not only because of third place but we finally, we struggled a lot during the entire season. And we finally had a car to win a race. Probably if we did something different or wait a little more. We could have done it. I had the car to do it. I just happy because I know, now I know that we work together with the team, and we're at a point that we can, I know we can win a race. That's what you work for.

Q: Best car of the season?

Dare: Oh, yeah, for sure. It was really good. It surprised me. I didn't expect to run that good. And back in Phoenix we got a little problems. We went to Fontana, we got a bit of problems there, too. Indy, we struggle to qualify on the second week. And we didn't have the chance to run the car as fast as we could during the race, and now everything is going in place. I know all the mechanics better. We had a rough season with them because I just, I didn't have any chance to practice in the offseason with them. But now we're working to the getting along with everybody and understanding the way that they work.

Q: Talk about the win for Jeff Ward. This is Jeff's first win in the Indy Racing League.

Unser: Well, for Wardy to win like that, I mean in that close of a finish and outrunning me, is a big thing. And so he should be very, very proud of his performance. He should be very proud of his team. He, like myself, are veteran drivers that didn't have a ride this winter. And I was vying for that Chip Ganassi ride, along with Wardy. And so there was some lean times during this winter. And I'm sure he's going to get up and in a few minutes and talk about that. And really the word around the garages, you know, is that no one could figure out why Jeff hasn't won yet. Because he's knocking on the door so hard for so many years, and he's come up a little bit short every time. And so tonight he has got to be ecstatic. He's got that monkey off of his back, and I'm sure that you're going to see a lot more race wins out of Jeff Ward in the future. And so he should be very proud of what he accomplished tonight.

Q: (Inaudible.)

Unser: It wasn't too bad because I was in front of him most of the way. I saw a lot of his, a lot of stuff going on behind me, and it must have been exciting for those boys. But for myself, no, I was just running around there trying to just keep the car as free as I could and stay in front of him.

Q: Airton, talk about diving for driving for A.J. Foyt?

Dare: There's no pressure, no, I mean you have your obligations like you have in any other team. And he, it's just the pressure is a plus to have him around when you have some problems, and we got somebody that knows what he is doing to trust. And I don't even have to think a lot about the stuff with the car -- he does all of that. So it's easy.

Moderator: No more questions, we will go ahead and let Al and Airton go. Congratulations.

Unser: Thank you very much, and thanks for coming out and enjoying the show.

Moderator: They will be available here real quick. If anybody needs them for one-on-one.

-irl-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Jeff Ward , Airton Daré , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt