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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Penske Racing


Dan Luginbuhl
Al Unser Jr.
December 26, 1993

JIM FUHSE: I'd like to welcome everybody on and especially thank Al for taking the time out to participate. My name is Jim Fuhse. I will be working with Al this season handling a lot of his PR. I'd also like to thank Dan Luginbuhl, vice-president for Marlboro Racing Team Penske Corporation. Please ask any questions.

Q. I want to know - a lot of the success in an auto racing team is team chemistry. I kind of want to get Al's thoughts on that.

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I want to thank -- first off thank everybody for joining us on the phone conference and the team chemistry is vital. It is the whole basis of anybody winning any races. It has got to be a team effort and, you know, no one man is bigger than the team and you know, without the guys, I couldn't go out and do the job I do, for sure.

Q. Al, I want to ask you about, you know, joining with your teammates now, you are with Fittipaldi and a few years ago, 89 at Indy you were in that big final two-lap dash there and now you are teammates, and the irony of it, how you look at Emmo and yourself on the same team?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, Dick, you know, so far with the Marlboro Team Penske all of us have been getting a long really well. As far as me and Emerson in the past at any of the races you know, it is a buried hatchet and all of that, we are now looking for the 94 Indy 500 winnings and the championship and we have to work as a team and all of us are working really well. Emerson and Paul, especially Rick Mears, he has been really wonderful to work with, so you know, so far it has been really good.

Q. Al, how are you feeling after your little spin around into the wall out here the other day?

AL UNSER, Jr.: We feel pretty good, actually. We were making a long run at the end of a test and we cut a tire on the right rear and ended up backing it into the wall and the Penske Car held up real good and you know, we came out of it unscathed so it was unfortunate it happened, but you know, we had had a wonderful test all through the whole five or six days and we learned a lot and it was just a shame.

Q. You don't have any-- you still got some bumps or bruises or anything, sore muscles?

AL UNSER, Jr.: No, not really. I hit my jaw a little bit and really that is about it. I can -- I am back to normal. Dad and I are up in Chama, New Mexico right now. We signed a Hummer deal and we got Hummers out on our bed and breakfast also, so we are riding snowmobiles and all that. It is good.

Q. Could you just detail a little bit more what sort of testing program you had been going through and maybe what you got coming up?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, we are, you know, we are just getting to know the new car really. We got the 94 right about Christmastime and all three drivers, we have all three been in it and at the various players at Phoenix on the oval and the road courses out there and we are just going to keep continuing to test it and prepare for Australia and the upcoming season, you know, with Mansell going as quick as he has been going and Michael going as quick as they are going. It is going to be a tough competitive series, and so we are just working away.

Q. How do your times compare to those two guys?

AL UNSER, Jr.: We are all right with each other. We are hundreds a part actually at both of the places and you know, it is a team effort and we are all working together with the engineering. My new engineer Terry Satchell has been super to work with; along with everybody else and we are just going to try to make it as quick as we can.

Q. Do you know how much the engineers have been able to make up especially with the changes that are going to slow things down a bit; particularly picking up the back wing. Any idea how they have been able to catch up?

AL UNSER, Jr.: We have put a smaller wing on the littler ovals and really because they-- Phoenix, we are actually going quicker right now so the engineers have made up for that little loss already and so you know, we are quick, so--

Q. Over the years you have always been a proponent of a one-driver team. Did that enter into your thoughts when you decided to join Team Penske in three cars?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, really the way that Roger runs the team is to, you know -- it is all the best equipment and everybody gets the same stuff and you know, I didn't have any problem with joining Roger and the Marlboro Team Penske and because of the other teammates, you know, there is as much effort, if not more, going to go into my car than the others, so --

Q. Having your dad and your uncle drive for it too, did that enter into it too?

AL UNSER, Jr.: A little bit. As soon as I told dad that I was talking with Roger, they were all for it. Dad and uncle Bobby, so it is real good.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about what you expect for the season; who are some of the contenders you expect like Nigel; some of these guys besides yourself who are some of the other drivers to beat?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Oh, gosh, well, of course my teammates Emerson and Paul. I think Rahal is going to be tough in the Honda cars. Michael Andretti with the Raynard, you know, Haas, Michael and Mario, they are going to be really tough and so you know, it is going to be the same guys out there running for it and so far, from the testing, so far the cars are quicker and it is going to be a competitive year.

Q. What about Scott Goodyear, he has broke the Phoenix record again, I guess, yesterday in testing. You are going to add him to your list?

AL UNSER, Jr.: For sure. I didn't know that he was out there running, Dick, so, yep.

Q. Yesterday he posted (inaudible) --

AL UNSER, Jr.: Definitely, the surface out there in Phoenix is awfully quick right now. If you can catch a cool day out there, you are going to go quick, so --

Q. You are with a team now that you know, puts a lot of credence in winning poles and races, you have never been one to really go after the poles. Is your Philosophy going to change a little bit now?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I went after a lot of them. I didn't get them, but I went after a lot of them. No, my Philosophy is going to stay the same. Every time we are in the car, we are going to put 110 percent in it and try to win everyday and the most important day is race day and you know, that is not going to change, so --

Q. How does the Penske Car compare to what you had last year? Last year, everybody seemed to say the Penske seemed to be the best car. Why is that and where do you see the advantages in that thing now that you have been in it?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, the advantages really comes from the whole team, the team effort, you know, the engineering staff on this team is incredible and they have produced a great car in 1993 and now in 1994, I really feel that they have enhanced it and made it better and so you know, we just need to get a little bit more out of the Ilmor V8D;then it will-- we will definitely have the edge.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about you know, two years ago or so, you win Indy with the Galless team. Now the Galless team has shrunk down to one rookie driver. Is that kind of-- I know you left, but is it kind of disappointing to see what has happened to Rick?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, it is a little bit, you know, and I have kind of thought about what I was going to say and it is just -- I guess it is just a shame that Rick -- the situation that has evolved the way it has and I do know one thing, that Rick does love auto racing and he loves the CART circuit, so if he is going to be a part of it, if he can at all, he will be, so --

Q. Al, considering the Galless team and what have you, did you foresee any of this, the problems that Rick is having, did you perceive that when you made your decision to go to Penske? I know that the rumors have been around for a long time, but you know, you were looking or you were wanting to leave there, but did any of that have any role to play in your leaving the Galless team?

AL UNSER, Jr.: No. Not at all. You know, I think, you know, Rick has definitely got a strong rate team and he will have a strong one in 94 and it was strong in 90 when I won the championship and all of that, so you know, it didn't have anything to do with me leaving or going to Penske or anything, no, I was just -- I wanted to develop race cars and the Marlboro Team Penske developed race cars better than any team out there and I am very proud to be a member of it.

Q. I want to switch away from the Indy car just for a second. Do you have anything lined up for the Brickyard 400?

AL UNSER, Jr.: No. Not right now. Will be going for the championship on the PPG Indy Car World Series, so -- if we are doing good and looking good for that series then I wouldn't want to do anything to disrupt that.

Q. Al, you talked right at the beginning about how Rick Mears, you know, you found him here as a retired consultant or whatever you call him, how does he fit in with the team in his new role, have you found?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, Rick is just, you know, he has been a great help to me personally. There has been a lot of questions over the last ten years that I have been wanting to ask Rick Mears and I finally got the opportunity to the other day when I was testing and he actually made me go quicker. There were things we talked about and Rick's role is, you know, he is enjoying it and the team is definitely benefiting from it and it looks like Rick is too. I mean, he is enjoying himself. He went and bought himself a Harley Davidson and it showed up while we were testing and he is enjoying it.

Q. What could Rick Mears tell you, Al, to make you go faster, could you be a little bit specific about that? Obviously you are no slouch of this game; been around a long time, just what would Rick Mears be able to tell you to make you go faster?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, Rick Mears is older than me, so he has been around a bit longer than I have, and I don't know, we just are talking about the car and the way it reacts and the way you react to the car and all of that stuff. It was just -- I don't know how to get into the details of it.

Q. Al, the speeds are going at Phoenix now, you are down to 19 seconds, is that getting too fast?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I was doing mid-twenties and something happened and I backed it in the fence and the car held up good and so the crashability of the car was extremely well, what I call extremely good and so, no, it is not going too fast yet. The cars are definitely safe and you know, with the aerodynamics package we have on it, the car is controllable. You can feel stuff happening and so as long as you can do that you know -- sure, there are going to be times that you go over your head and so on, but no, it is not too fast.

Q. What about when you come to Indy, Al, the three of you, when does the real competition begin when you are at Indy between the three of you, without eliminating the others?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Nigel. That is when the real competition starts.

Q. Do you envision a race again where you would be racing your own teammate Emmo and the same kind of situation you had in 89?

AL UNSER, Jr.: I don't know, Dick. You know, I can tell you that if we got a 1, 2, 3 finish at the Indy 500 this year would be super and that could be the best thing that I could hope for, for sure, and you know, the Marlboro Team Penske just dominates the whole place, that is what I'd enjoy seeing.

Q. Al, have you dropped your thoughts about going overseas?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Pretty much. Yeah, I kind of reserved myself a little bit, but then working with this team has -- it really is a pleasure and a thrill and we are having a great time and a lot of fun and so, yeah, pretty much, I have gotten rid of all of my thoughts about that.

Q. You didn't make it any secret that you were really interested in going to F1 racing. What happened to Michael or-- in the-- and the way he was treated and the way he drove and the promise he had over there, did that have any bearing on what you are saying now?

AL UNSER, Jr.: No, not at all. I didn't go there because I couldn't get a ride over there and if I had gotten a ride was capable of winning races, I would have been over there. What happened with Michael or whatever, I don't know, you know, I do know that Michael Andretti stands on the gas and he is a tough competitor, but the team and the car have a lot to do with how well you do, and so you know, I had no idea what Michael went through or anything, so all I know he is a tough competitor.

Q. And he is back.

AL UNSER, Jr.: So, no biggy.

Q. How about you got another chance to race with your dad at Indy. He has got a ride; probably the earliest he has had one in several years now. How do you look at that again?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I am happy for my dad. He definitely is happy around the ranch up here and when he is happy up here, then everything is good, so you know, yeah, I am happy for him. It sounds like he is going to have a good shot at doing well on race day with Lola Board or whatever. But I know that he has got three cars that he is going to have to go through to get there, so --

Q. What about Foyt retired last year; Mario announced this is his last year. How much longer do you see your dad still pursuing this endeavor?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Gosh, I don't know. I know that he is still capable of winning the Indy 500 and so I have been trying to talk him into retirement for a long time and it ain't workin yet, so you know, I don't know how far, Dick.

Q. Dan, could you please tell everyone the official name of the car this year and also who is going to be working with Al?

DAN LUGINBUHL: The new car for 94 will be called 94 Marlboro Penske Ilmor Indy V8 and that covers the complete package, the sponsor, the chassis and of course, the Ilmor engine which is the fourth generation of their Indy car engine. In addition, we have got some personnel assignments that I wanted to review quickly. Some familiar names and couple of new titles. Continuing as general manager of Marlboro Team Penske will be Carl Kahinhoffer who many of you know and Carl also heads up our engine building and development program in Reading, Pennsylvania. Chuck Sprague continues as team manager as mentioned before. Rick Mears is the team advisor. Nigel Bennett is our chief designer and Grant Newbury who many of you will recall is Emerson's race engineer, has now moved into our new position newly created position of chief engineer for the team. Cliff Howell has the responsibility for preparing the cars ultimately, so we have tabbed him chief mechanic for the team and Tim Lombardi is the team coordinator now for each driver. Al's race engineer will be Terry Satchell, and his crew chief will be Richard Buck who worked with Rick for a number of years as his crew chief. Terry has over 25 years of racing experience; many in the stock car area, but wanted to get involved and apply some of that experience to Indy cars; been with us now for two years and we are looking for big things from the combination of Terry and Richard working together with Al. Emerson's race engineer will be Tom Brown. Tom has been with Penske cars and most recently worked on loan from Penske cars with Tony Bettenhausen's team and Stefen Johansson. His crew chief will continue to be Rick Rinaman who has been with Emerson now since he joined the team and was the, of course, crew chief on the Indianapolis 500 winner last year. Paul Tracy race engineer will be Nigel Bersford continuing again this year, and his crew chief will be John Jon Bouslog. Jon has been a mechanic with our team for several years and has moved up to the crew chief position replacing Tim Bumps who has left. So that gives you the Lineup of personnel. We think we have a very good depth chart in terms of the personnel needed to run a three-car team competitively. So we are excited about the opportunity in 94.

JIM FUHSE: Any final questions for either Al or Dan.

Q. Dan, would you spell Tracy's's last chief again.

DAN LUGINBUHL: I am sure you will recognize him when you see him at the races Bouslog. He has been with us, I believe he is going on his sixth year and done an excellent job and we are fortunate to have young people to join our organization and gain the experience working together with the other fellows so that when an opportunity comes up we can promote from within. We don't have to go out in the open market. So again, we are very comfortable with this lineup of personnel.

Q. What about Bumps?

AL UNSER, Jr.: I don't know that he has announced his future plans, Dick.

Q. I know he is from Indianapolis that is why I was kind of interested.

AL UNSER, Jr.: Right.

Q. I'd like to thank all the reporters. I'd like to thank Al for taking the time to be with us and Dan, I wish Al good luck for the season.

AL UNSER, Jr.: You bet, thank you for everybody calling in.

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