IRL: Unser to begin treatment at substance-abuse center

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 18, 2002 -- Indy Racing League driver Al Unser Jr. announced July 18 that he will enter a treatment center immediately for treatment of a substance-abuse problem. Unser, driver of the No. 7 Corteco/Bryant ...

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, July 18, 2002 -- Indy Racing League driver Al Unser Jr. announced July 18 that he will enter a treatment center immediately for treatment of a substance-abuse problem.

Unser, driver of the No. 7 Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone fielded by Kelley Racing, made the announcement at a news conference at Indianapolis. Corteco CEO Gregory W. Gyllstrom and Kelley Racing owner Tom Kelley accompanied Unser.

"I have a problem with alcohol abuse," Unser said at the news conference. "Nearly every poor choice I've made in my life occurred under the influence of alcohol. I don't understand why I have the problem, but I know I have to straighten it out. And, I now am ready to do so."

Tony Renna, test driver for Kelley Racing, will drive the No. 7 Corteco car until Unser returns from treatment sometime in August.

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser made the decision to seek treatment, and Corteco made arrangements for him to enter a nationally recognized substance-abuse center. He will be a resident at the facility. The center's name or location or the type of treatment Unser will receive will not be disclosed.

"Al has been a key member of the Corteco family since joining us earlier this year," Gyllstrom said. "When anyone in our company faces a difficult problem, we want to do everything we can to help. He has done a great job for us on and off the track, and we enjoy working with him. The plan is for him to successfully complete his treatment at the facility and to return to the team sometime in August."

Unser was arrested July 9 following an incident in Indianapolis. Earlier today, the Marion County, Ind. prosecutor announced that the matter would be dropped.

"I am embarrassed and sorry for any behavior of mine that has hurt others in the past," Unser said. "I know I have a problem that needs to be addressed, and I now have a plan to straighten it out. I am ready to enter a substance-abuse center and I look forward to the help that I know I need.

"I am personally touched by the support and actions of Corteco and Kelley Racing, and I will be forever grateful to them for that. And, I'd like to thank each of you in advance for respecting the confidentiality of the treatment that I'll receive as I move forward."

Unser will not race in the Firestone Indy 200 on July 19-20 at Nashville Superspeedway or the Michigan Indy 400 on July 26-28 at Michigan International Speedway. Depending on his treatment, he will return in the Corteco/Bryant car sometime in August.

"Al has done a tremendous job for us this year, and we love working with him," Kelley said. "Although we were disappointed by his actions and are strongly against substance abuse of any kind, we give him a lot of credit for dealing with his problem. We support him completely and look forward to him rejoining the team next month."

Unser, 40, from Albuquerque, N.M., is one of the most popular drivers in the Indy Racing League. He is sixth in the series point standings this season, which includes second place in the closest finish in IRL history at the Boomtown 500 in June at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Tony George statement

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Tony Renna , Tony George