Unser Jr takes first IRL win

Al Unser Jr ended a five-year losing streak by taking his first Indy Racing League victory at Las Vegas last night

Unser Jr takes first IRL win

The CART veteran switched to Rick Galles' IRL operation this season after being dropped by Penske.

His last victory in a single-seater came at Vancouver in 1995, although he has won events in the IROC stock car series since then.

Unser, who started from 21st in his back-up car after problems in practice, was crying in pit lane as he celebrated his breakthrough victory.

Polesitter Mark Dismore led the early going from Eliseo Salazar and Eddie Cheever. A full course yellow on lap 28 (caused by Donnie Beechler spinning into the turn four wall) saw all the leaders dive into the pits.

Reigning champion Greg Ray stayed out and led for 30 laps until making his stop, allowing Dismore back in front. Cheever then put the leader under pressure until an electrical problem forced him into the pits for an ECU change.

Dismore then found his car developing an understeer problem towards the end of the stint. He dropped to third behind the flying Robby McGehee and Airton Dare until a yellow for Jeff Ward's brush with the wall on lap 87 brought everyone into the pits.

At the green it was Eliseo Salazar who had emerged out front ahead of Dismore and Scott Goodyear. Dismore was soon back in front and Salazar would exit the race after colliding with Walker Racing's impressive rookie Sarah Fisher.

Dare, Sam Hornish Jr and Unser Jr had all lost a lap by pitting out of sequence during the middle of the race, but were able to catch up with the leaders when Doug Didero ground to a halt on the front straight and brought the pace car out again.

In the closing stages Dismore found himself narrowly leading Scott Goodyear, Airton Dare, Jason Leffler and Al Unser Jr. Dismore dropped out of contention by pitting just before a caution caused by Leffler crashing in turn two.

Dare also disappeared from the action during the pit stops. He had confidently assumed the lead when Dismore headed for pit road, but his gearbox failed as he tried to rejoin the race following his stop.

That left Goodyear leaving Unser, the two ex-CART stars looking closely matched until smoke from the rear of Goodyear's car signalled a broken oil pump on lap 186. Unser Jr swept past and shortly afterwards his Canadian rival was black-flagged.

Dismore managed to take second behind Unser, with no-one else on the same lap. Sam Hornish Jr, Jeret Schroeder and Robbie Buhl completed the top five.

Results from Las Vegas:

1 Al Unser Jr G Force-Oldsmobile 2h16m57.0s
2 Mark Dismore Dallara-Oldsmobile + 12.5s
3 S Hornish Jr G Force-Oldsmobile + 1 lap
4 J Schroeder Dallara-Oldsmobile + 1 lap
5 R Buhl G Force-Oldsmobile + 1 lap
6 R McGehee G Force-Oldsmobile + 2 laps
7 B Boat Dallara-Oldsmobile + 2 laps
8 T Carlson Dallara-Oldsmobile + 3 laps
9 G Ray Dallara-Oldsmobile + 4 laps
10 J Lazier G Force-Oldsmobile + 6 laps
11 E Cheever Dallara-Infiniti + 7 laps
12 S Goodyear Dallara-Oldsmobile (DNF- oil pump)
13 R Johncox G Force-Oldsmobile + 20 laps
14 A Dare G Force-Oldsmobile (DNF- gearbox)
15 J Leffler G Force-Oldsmobile (DNF- accident)
16 J Kite G Force-Oldsmobile + 61 laps

Non-finishers:

S Fisher R&S-Oldsmobile accident
E Salazar G Force-Oldsmobile accident
D Didero Dallara-Oldsmobile engine
D Hamilton Dallara-Oldsmobile suspension
J Ward G Force-Oldsmobile accident
B Lazier R&S-Oldsmobile fuel pump
S Harrington Dallara-Oldsmobile electrical
J Miller Dallara-Oldsmobile not classified
B Calkins Dallara-Oldsmobile fuel pressure
D Beechler Dallara-Oldsmobile accident
S Sharp Dallara-Oldsmobile engine
S Gregoire G Force-Oldsmobile accident

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