Al Unser Jr. enjoys being in Indianapolis in May, but perhaps never as much as he will this year.
The longtime Henderson resident is getting a chance to win his third Indy 500 title after signing Wednesday to drive for A.J. Foyt in the May 27 race.
Unser must feel relieved just to get out of the Las Vegas Valley and back in a race car.
The unexpected deal with Foyt came one week after Unser’s attorney, Andrew Leavitt, entered a not guilty plea on Unser’s behalf to charges that include driving under the influence in a January 25 accident on the Las Vegas Beltway near Stephanie Street. A trial date was scheduled for July 11.
Unser said Wednesday he can’t comment on the incident or pending court case. Leavitt told The Associated Press after the brief court hearing April 25 that the case could be resolved before the trial date.
Unser, 45, was to compete in the Historic Grand Prix race, which was part of the April 6 to 8 Vegas Grand Prix, but withdrew shortly after his arrest.
“I’ve been working out a lot and just taking it one day at a time,” an upbeat Unser said in a telephone interview Wednesday from Indianapolis. “We’re doing what we need to do.”
Unser said Foyt called him about a month ago to see if he was interested in driving his No. 50 entry, commemorating Foyt’s 50th anniversary in IndyCar racing.
“Al Jr. is a really talented driver whose experience will bring a lot of good things to our team this month,” said Foyt, who also will field a car for full-time driver Darren Manning.
“This is our best chance at Indy since we won it in ’99.”
Unser, who won the prestigious race in 1992 and 1994, came out of a brief 2004 retirement to drive in the race last year, finishing 24th. This will be his 19th start at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Unser, a two-time champion of the Champ Car World Series (formerly CART), has won 37 open-wheel races, including the 2000 Indy Racing League event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
• BANNED AT LVMS — The 14 spectators arrested Sunday and banned from Talladega Superspeedway for throwing debris onto the track after the Nextel Cup race also have been banned from attending events at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The ban is indefinite, LVMS general manager Chris Powell said.
• NASCAR — NASCAR fined Kevin Harvick and Jamie McMurray $25,000 each Wednesday for making contact during a caution in Sunday’s Cup race. They also were placed on probation for five months.
NASCAR officials determined through the use of videotape that they were bumping each other under caution on the final lap of overtime. …
John Andretti and Chad McCumbee will replace Kyle Petty in the No. 45 Dodge for five Cup races this summer when Petty works as an analyst on TNT race telecasts.