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Marlboro Team Penske Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Penske Racing

Marlboro Team Penske Media Conference

Al Unser Jr.
September 13, 1994

Q. Congratulations. Is Al there?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yes.

Q. Tell me something about how your testing schedule has helped this year. You tested more than any other year. What is the real reason for this tremendous success?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, we have tested quite a bit more than I have in the past. And really the whole thing is how hard the Marlboro Team Penske, how hard help work. They work extremely hard at really preparing the cars and developing the cars to be the strongest competitor out there. And along with that goes all the testing and all of that and it's just been a great season for the whole team.

Q. Basically, you were in a situation now where you are probably in the first year what would be a very long term and fruitful relationship with Roger Penske similar to the type of situation that Rick Mears had. Just discuss that a little bit. You are probably the happiest now you have ever been in your career and just talk a little bit how long you can possible be with this team and the numbers you guys might be able to rack up?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yeah, Bruce, I hope it's a very long-term relationship between myself and Marlboro Team Penske and it's been a wonderful start. And you know, I've told Roger, you know, we are still babies; we're still getting to know each other and me, even with the engineers, and all that and, you know, as we grow up and grow older hopefully we'll get better and better as we get down the line and so, you know, it's definitely the best team that I've ever been ever associated with and, you know, the results are proof of it so...

Q. Recently you have been with two teams with different styles, Gallus and now Roger. How has your approach to racing cnanged two part or in car prepartion and in race weekend because you one -- the first part you one more poles this year than you did the rest of your career?

AL UNSER, Jr.: I guess it's kind of hard to really compare the two teams because they were so so different. You know, Rick went out and Rick Gallus and Gallus Racing and you know, did the best that they can do with what we had at that time and which was, you know, cars that we went and purchased from Lola or whatever and Roger has a different philosophy in the aspect of building his own car and he has for a quite a number of years and you know, I feel Penske racing is definitely an older team. They've been around since the early '70's or early 60's when Roger Penske first owned a car at Indianapolis, so it's definitely two different styles of teams or so on. And you know, the qualifying and all that was -- I really feel due to the preparation that we did prior to the races, you know, the amount of winter testing that we did and just the guys really making sure that every detail on the race car was was at its finest before it left the shop and in readiness, so with all of those adding up together puts us very competitive when we get to the racetrack.

Q. Has your race style changed at all; if it has at all?

AL UNSER, Jr.: No, my racing style hasn't changed at all. When I first started testing with Marlboro Team Penske out of Phoenix, I wasn't really coming up with the lap times that, you know, I wanted to have to be No. 1 because I don't like anybody outrunning us. But, you know, I talked with Roger and Roger says I don't want you to change a thing; you just stay exactly where you are and have been, and we'll do great. And so with that confidence that Roger showed me right then, we're not going to change anything; we're just going to go out and do the best job we can do and everything will take care of itself and so far it has.

Q. Al congratulations. On the podium at Road America you were standing next to a young man who had won a race and he was ten years younger than you are. You were always the youngster in the series and one of the guys coming up. Did that give you a strange feeling?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yes, it did a little bit, Roger, yes. I've always been little Al on the circuit and to me that means I'm young and so hopefully they will be calling me little Al in the future to come and to see the wonderful job that Bill Newjock did at Road America; what that told me and what that reminded me of was there are great race car drivers out there and young ones coming up and we definitely need to keep working harder and harder. The older we get, we need to rely more on our experience to set that race car up to go out and outrun these guys that may take a little bit more chances than myself or whatever and go from there.

Q. It seems to me; maybe it's just my image, but you seemed more relaxed and seemed to be enjoying yourself a lot more this year. Would you say that's true?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yeah, I would say that. It's something that -- this is what the team has allowed me to do is, you know, not worry so much of if there is anything on the car that I really need to be paying attention to, or something on the team that just quite ain't working just right. I've been able with this team to really focus in on my driving and not making any mistakes and really work on the development of the race car and not anything else. You know, I don't have to worry about about making certain dinners or whatever, You know, to help support the race team. It's there and in full force force and I can think about my driving and development.

Q. Al, you were talking the other day about how you don't compare yourself to your father because he's a legend as far as you are concerned and he is always going to be above you; yet you're 32 years old; you've got a chance to pretty much beat all of his records. How does that make you feel and how do you look at that?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I said earlier that, you know, I'm very, very proud to be son of four time Indy winner Al Unser and if I was to remain that than, you know, that's great. You know, one thing that my dad taught me was just to go out and try my best and if I do that that everything else will take care of itself and so I guess one of my biggest lessons that I learned from that was to try your best and not worry about the other things and so, you know, that's what I've been doing; that's what I plan on doing in the future and you know, if I beat dad than -- than I guess it's going to reflect on dad that he done a great job racing me so...

Q. On a lighter note, is there any kind of professional jealousy back in Albuquerque- talking about your dad with four wins and your uncle with three and other championships; I heard maybe the first time that's one, that is two, is there any informal score card kept back in Albuquerque?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, I guess the only one is whose got the quickest snow mobile because that's the real serious stuff at home. And dad usually has the quickest one and me and uncle Bobby have been trying quite a long time, I think uncle Bobby's beat him a couple years, but dad has pretty much been the ruler of the snow mobile.

Q. The last two races coming up you still have the chance to either tie or beat Michael Andretti's record. Do you feel like going to those races the pressure is off a little bit it might even be a little more fun than it's been up to this point?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Well, we're just going to attack these races the way we've been attacking the whole season and now the championship is ours. There is a little bit of pressure off of me to absolutely finish, you know, and so, you know, we go out and maybe run the car a little bit harder. If the temps start getting up a little bit, we're going to stay in it and try and get that victory, you know, because we've tied with them right now and we've got a shot at being -- winning the most CART races in one season and if we can do that, than it will be great, so we're definitely going to go after that record and try very hard to beat him.

Q. Al, with all of the questions regarding what is going to happen to your team, Paul Tracy for next year, and the political thing going back and forth between the new IRL and whatever, has that distracted you in any way and if it has, how have you dealt with that?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Not at all. We haven't gotten distracted at all about anything. Our goals were to win the Indy 500 and win the PPG Cup and we never got away from that. You know, IRL and all the other things are something that, you know, we can think about and worry about a little bit later and really it's up to the bosses on what's going to happen on that front. I'm wanting to drive Roger Penske's race car and wherever and whenever he tells me to drive it, that's where I'm going.

Q. Could you comment a little bit on the relationship you've got with your engineer, Terry, and just how you and him have been able to work together this year. He's seems to be a guy that's got a lot of innovating ideas?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yeah, Terry does a wonderful job as far as engineering the car and, you know, on that front, it's really been a team effort. You know, Emerson, Paul Tracy myself, Tom Brown, Nigel Bennett, the chief designer, Grant Newberry, Nigel Berrister (Phonetic), all of the engineers have really put in a 110 percent effort in this team and it's definitely not a one-man show. You know, we've gone out and we've worked very hard to have a good race today setup and, you know, I think it's showed by the top three finishes that we've had in the races and more importantly, you know, the qualifying that we've had the top three qaulifying shows that the car is a great race car and so it's definitely been a team effort and Terry individually has done a wonderful job for Marlboro Team Penske and, you know, we'll see what happens in the future.

Q. Isn't he also kind of coming into this with a fresh ideas because his background was more working for General Motors with the NASCAR Team he was -- Rusty Wallace (Phonetic) gave him a lot of credit for helping him set up the car, to learn the radial tires and all that and maybe sometimes bringing in a guy with a fresh approach can really pay off?

AL UNSER, Jr.: Yes. Terry has definitely done that and he has done a great job. You know, everybody has fresh ideas with this race team and, you know, a lot of it is because of what Roger wants out of everybody. You know, he wants the best out of everybody and he allows us to do that and Terry does a great job.

Q. When you were running the Galles and you guys struggled last year, you know, you only had one race, did you get the feeling people forgot you a little bit, and this season was kind of a nice retribution as far as, hey, don't forget; you won a lot of races when you guys had at least equal equipment; do you feel that you had something maybe to prove this year?

AL UNSER, Jr.: A little bit, you know, I was a little bit disappointed when one time Roger, we were talking in our negotiations and he said that in the past he had always, always worried about me in a race car during the race and that last year they really didn't talk about me very much and so, you know, it was a bit like that that I wanted to go out and, you know, just to drive a race car very, very competitive and have everything going for us and that's what I was asking for and that's what I really needed. And so it was very gratifying to go out and be able to do what we did this year.

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