Two-time Honda Indy Toronto winner Al Unser Jr. was back at the Exhibition Place temporary street course yesterday wearing a smile as wide as Lake Shore Blvd., as he watched IndyCars return after a two-year absence.
Unser won here in 1989 and 1990, but it was his first win that he remembers best.
“I was telling a friend of mine just the other day that I thought the ’89 race in Toronto in the rain was the best road course race I ever ran,” the Albequerque, N.M., native said.
“It was just pouring and I was behind Michael (Andretti) on the final few laps. I noticed he was lifting early in Turn 3 so I dove under him and got by him.”
Unser said the race took its toll.
“I don’t think I had ever to that point or at any race after felt so mentally and physically drained,” he said. “It took a long time to recover.”
Not real rookies
A quirk in the IndyCar rules that allows rookies and teams not in the top 10 in points to get an extra half-hour practice at each race caught fans by surprise yesterday.
While watching newcomers like Mike Conway and Raphael Matos on the track along came defending Toronto winner Will Power and right behind him was two-time winner Paul Tracy and veteran Canadian Alex Tagliani.
The trio got their head start due to the fact all of them are running only a part-time schedule this season and are well down in the championship points.
The feud between IRL founder Tony George and his mother Mari Hulman George and three sisters appears to be cooling. The four ladies had ganged up on George and effectively ousted him from his CEO post at the family’s Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) conglomerate.
There was concern about how that move would affect the IRL — a wholly owned-subsidiary of IMS.
Yesterday, George issued a statement clarifying his position and the position of the IRL in the Hulman George hierarchy.
“There have been many questions raised in the industry and in the media about whether any of these recent changes reflect a reduction in the commitment of our family or the IMS to the IRL or the sport of IndyCar,” he said.
“I have been assured by my mother that no such reduction of support or commitment is intended or anticipated. I can assure teams, sponsors, media and fans that our family is sincere in its commitment to the Indianapolis 500, the League and the sport.”