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DATE News (chronologically)
07/15/09
irl
Al Unser Jr. assesses IRL season so far
Q. We are 10 races into the IndyCar Series season, you've seen most of the races. How would you assess the championship to this point?

AL UNSER, JR.: I think it's very competitive. We've had some great races this season. We've had some not-so-good races this season. Quite honestly, I feel the most recent ones with Dale Coyne winning his first race at the Glen is something very, very special, and a real feel-good win that he had for his team. He's been trying for 25 years, so it's great that he finally got his.

Up in Toronto, we've entered into a new market up there. There was a lot of passing for the lead. Everybody's just very super close. You had some high drama with Tomas Scheckter throwing his gloves at Alex Tagliani. It reminded me of the good old days with our racing that we had up there in the '80s and '90s. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season.

Q.  Who have been some of your big surprises of the year?

AL UNSER, JR.: I guess one of the biggest surprises this year is, of course, Dale Coyne Racing winning with Justin Wilson driving. They've gotten great performance out of their car. Another one of the big surprises that's not such a good surprise is seeing where Andretti Green Racing is. They've been struggling most of the season. You've been seeing them qualifying, kind of in the back half of the field, which is very, very surprising for AGR.

It just shows you how competitive the racing has gotten. These cars are super close. If you're off just a tiny bit, then you're going to start at the back of the pack. The cars are definitely equal.

Again, that's also kind of been one of the causes for our not-so-good races on some of our ovals, is that they're so close that they're hard to pass. What the IndyCar Series is really looking to do, and they're working with the teams and the drivers, and everybody is working together vigorously to return back to the side-by-side racing that the IndyCar Series is so well-known for. They're making changes immediately. So when we get to Kentucky, I feel that we're going to be back to side-by-side racing.

Al's Assessment: The Top 10

Dario Franchitti: Dario's had a very good season, coming back from NASCAR racing. He was at the top of his game when he left as the 2007 IndyCar Series champ. He went to NASCAR for 2008. He's come back in 2009 and he's leading the points for Chip Ganassi. He's doing a super job.

Scott Dixon: Last year's champ is showing that Target Chip Ganassi Racing is on the top of their game. They're on a roll. They could, in fact, be a two-in-a-row championship team.

Ryan Briscoe: Ryan is doing a great job for Team Penske. They've got a little bit to gain to get the Target cars, and I'm sure they're working very, very hard to make up that gap.

Helio Castroneves: Helio is just a special story in itself. At the beginning of the season, he had his problems with the IRS. He got out of that and is very fortunate to be racing. That's a Cinderella story, to be fighting the government one day and then a few months later be the Indy 500 champion is truly God blessing Helio and his family.

Danica Patrick: Danica is doing a great job. She comes out of the Andretti Green stable. She is a very good race car driver, she's got Michael (Andretti) calling the race for her. Strategy has played an important part in her finishing in the top five consistently. That's what's put her where she is.

Dan Wheldon: Dan is with Panther Racing, a top team from a few years ago that is just missing that little bit that you need to be in the top five. But his team is very deep with talent, so he's got every potential of winning a race coming up soon.

Marco Andretti: Marco is one of the ones coming out of AGR's stable. Quite honestly, I think they're searching. They're looking for more. Marco definitely has the talent to get more. Really, things out of his control has kept him out of the top five.

Tony Kanaan: TK is suffering from things out of his control. Running a great race at the Indy 500 this year, and had a mechanical failure down the backstretch. He had a horrendous accident. It just seems things out of his control that is keeping him out of the top five.

Justin Wilson: Justin, I think is another Cinderella story. We're going see more wins out of Dale Coyne Racing. Justin is really making the most of everything he has and with Dale Coyne, it's great to see them win races.

Graham Rahal: Graham and Newman/Haas Lanigan are getting a lot out of their cars, but I feel that they're lacking just a little bit. I don't think it's anything that they're doing wrong. It's just some hit and misses there. That goes to how competitive the series is. I see lots of talent with Graham, and it's just going mature as the years go on. Graham has a championship and a chance to be an Indy 500 winner in the future.

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