For the week of June 30, 1999  thru July 6, 1999  

IRL driver Unser climbs Pep Boys ladder

13th at Colorado Springs Sunday

Hailey’s Johnny Unser, 40, hindered by cars with engine and mechanical problems since 1996, has quietly put together the best three-race stretch of his four-year Indy Racing League career.

Unser completed 194 of 200 laps and finished 13th in Sunday’s IRL Radisson 200 event at Pikes Peak International Raceway in Colorado Springs. He won $17,600 after starting 16th—best start of his career.

Team Menard’s Greg Ray (average speed 134.11 mph) earned $146,300 for winning his first Pep Boys/IRL race Sunday. But the 6-1, 175-pound Unser also finished running, which is a good sign.

"Everything feels good," said Unser in training before Sunday’s race. "This is my first time back at Pikes Peak in a couple of years. Hemelgarn has given me a good car and I’m excited. I love Colorado and the mountains."

Competing this year for Hemelgarn Racing, Unser also finished 200 laps and placed 15th overall for a $16,000 payday at the Longhorn 500 on the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth June 12.

IRL tour leader Scott Goodyear (164 points) won in Texas. Unser is 26th overall on the Pep Boys tour with 33 points gained in the recent stretch of three races in 28 days.

Unser, also sponsored by Tae-Bo and Delta Faucet, collected $161,000 for placing 32nd in the 83rd Indianapolis 500 May 30.

Better known around his Indian Creek home as the father of 20-month-old Loni Joy, Unser was recently honored by President Bill Clinton in Detroit as "representative of the American winning spirit."

Clinton singled out Johnny for carrying on the Unser family tradition at the Indy 500 which was started by his late father Jerry Unser.

Johnny Unser has now earned $827,253 in his 12-race IRL career, most of the earnings coming in his four Indy 500 rides. He has never led a lap of the 1,469 laps he has completed, and never finished higher than ninth.

But, having achieved back-to-back running finishes for the first time, Unser is on the right track with five IRL races left this season—starting July 17 at Atlanta, Ga. and ending in October at Fort Worth.


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