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Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Penske Racing


Interview with Al Unser Jr. & Dan Luginbuhl
October 7, 1993

SUSAN BRADSHAW: Hi, everyone. This is Susan Bradshaw from Marlboro Team Penske. I am sure you have received our release this morning announcing our driver line for 1994. Al Unser, Jr. who is on the phone. If you haven't received a release, Al will be joining Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy with Marlboro Team Penske for the 94 season. Dan Luginbuhl is also on the phone speaking on behalf of Roger Penske who is out-of-town on business. I am going to start it in the normal fashion. Gordon, I am going to ask you to ask the first question. All I ask is that you identify yourself before you ask the question.

Q. Congratulations to Al. I wonder if you could tell us a little bit, Al, about how this came about; obviously it is a fairly important move in your career. Could you tell us if there are any other major options and you know, what the particular interest in joining Marlboro Team Penske was.

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, first off I'd like to thank everybody for joining us today and I guess it all started, gosh, probably about mid-season I was talking to several different car owners and Roger Penske has pretty much set the standard for Indy car owners and so on, throughout my racing career, anyway, and so as soon as I had a chance to join his team, we did it and so I was in between contracts this year and so we were able to get connected with Marlboro Team Penske.

Q. Al, this is Ned from IndyCar. Did you talk to your dad about your signing and what was his reaction to this.

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, Ned, you know, of course dad and Uncle Bobby have both driven for Roger. As soon as I told them that I was talking with Roger, he just said, really really good and really that was about it. He was very happy once we did sign with him and all that kind of stuff. So dad thinks that, along with myself, that it is the best team out there. So he was very happy.

Q. This is Tim from On Track. How long ago did you sign with them because there was a lot of speculation that you had signed with him as early as Michigan.

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, we actually got it signed right before Laguna Seca, believe it or not. It was at the end of the year before we signed.

Q. Robin Miller. Roger is not on the tour as high pair. Obviously Rick Galles you and he had a long association. Is this a pay cut and a step forward in your career would you judge it like that.

AL UNSER, JR.: I am definitely getting a raise. I really feel that the race car is a little bit better and all of that kind of stuff. So just thinking about it in that fashion you know, I hope to be running up front a lot more and so that is a good enough raise as if anybody was to ask or whatever, so you know, it was -- as far as salary or whatever, I am getting paid the same.

Q. Alan, You had run for Rick for so long. Was it hard for you getting out of the car for the last time and greeting him. I noticed you two guys were sitting on the wall after the race. Was that tough?

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, it was very emotional, you know, Rick and I are very, very good friends and so you know, we have been together for a long time. Rick is the one that took me to Indianapolis and so on back in 1983, so it was pretty emotional. I really enjoyed the last six years with the Galles racing team and you know, all of my guys, I really think that they are the best out there, so it was emotional and it was tough, so --

Q. Last few years; last year in particular you weren't able to do a lot of winter testing. I gather that will probably be a little bit different this winter. Can you tell us a little bit about your test program, when it should get underway and if you have any idea how much testing you should do this winter?

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, I don't exactly know how much total winter testing we are going to be doing, but our first test is scheduled for October 12 which is next week out in Phoenix and so that is the first time I have ever started testing that soon, so it is going to be pretty busy and I am very excited about it.

Q. Al, you have always had the reputation of being a little of a Lone Ranger on your teams. How do you feel it will be running on a three car team?

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, it shouldn't be much different than you know, the last few years with the teammates that I have had with Bobby Rahal and Danny and so you know, I feel that it wouldn't change much at all. We will get in there and start working right with Emerson and Paul Tracy and you know, because they have been there for the last couple of years. I need to talk to them and find out what is going on and all that kind of stuff, so you know, we will jump in there right away.

Q. Robin Miller again. Would Allen Mertens-- you guys communicated pretty well. I know you think pretty highly of them. Any chance he might go with you?

AL UNSER, JR.: No, Al will stay with Galles racing.

Q. Dan, obviously you have done it before with a three-car effort, but what prompted the decision to go to three cars this year? Was it the availability of Al?

DAN LUGINBUHL: For the first part of the question, we have run three cars on 12 different occasions at the Indianapolis 500. Most recently we ran a full three-car team in 1990 and, of course, in 92 with Rick Emerson and Paul, you know, we ran what amounted to almost a full three-car team. So that is correct. The primary reason is the fact that we had anticipated - and I am speaking for Roger - we anticipate that the 94 season is probably going to be the most competitive we have ever seen in Indy car racing. It is going to be tough to top 93, but we think that it is going to be very close; certainly you know who all the other players are, the return of Michael and we are preparing to meet this challenge with an extensive development program involving all three drivers - Al, Paul and Emerson. We have a new car coming, the new 94 Marlboro Penske chassis. We are going to be running the next generation of the Ilmor V-8 engine and somewhere -- the situation in 91 when Paul came on board with us, we had to do extensive testing. So that was a key factor in the decision.

Q. I wonder there being a lot of rumors flying around about McDonalds and Marlboro Lights and so forth, I wonder if you could tell us specifically who the sponsor of Al's car will be and if there is any news on specifically who will engineer his car and chief mechanics, that kind of thing?

DAN LUGINBUHL: The entire team will operate under the Marlboro Team Penske banner this year. There will be no announcement on specific livery at this time. We hope to be able to make that announcement sometime prior to the first race. As far as other sponsors are concerned, the rest of the Penske racing sponsor family will continue. You know who those are Mobile one, Goodyear, Delco, etcetera, we are not adding any other major or major associate sponsors at this time. There is space available for major associate.

Q. Dan any decisions on, again, chief mechanics or engineers specifically on Al's car at this stage of the game?

DAN LUGINBUHL: Personnel side, we have not had our annual meeting yet with our personnel so that has not been determined. As you know, we are fortunate at Penske Racing to have what I call a pretty good depth chart and by that I mean we have people like Richard Buck who has been a chief mechanic in the past. We have several candidates for the engineering spot and within our organization, so it is a matter of meeting with those people and working out the line newspaper. Again, we will announce that as soon as we have determined it and traditionally those assignments are made sometime around the first part of December.

Q. How big a disappointment was the failure of the galmer chassis to really make it?

AL UNSER, JR.: I guess the galmer chassis, the only failure that it really had was that it was -- the life span of it was too short. I feel that the car for the first year out, it did pretty good and so, you know, the only problem with it is that it just ended too soon.

Q. Al, throughout your career, people always said if Al Unser Jr. ever got the best on the factory team or had the best equipment - you always had good equipment - This seems like your real break through as far as having the elite equipment. Do you feel that way at all?

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, I feel that the team is definitely first class and you know, like I said earlier, they set the standard and so you know, if -- I believe it is really really tough out there and it is very, very competitive and so you know, I feel that where Penske Racing has an advantage over like my old team was the amount of testing that they do and so you know, I feel that that is the edge and so, you know, as much testing as we can get in, we are going to and be prepared for Australia at the beginning of the year.

Q. Al, how frustrateing was it not to be able to run right at the very front?

AL UNSER, JR.: Well, you know, it was pretty frustrating, but you know, I have been in that situation before. I felt that in 1987 in the Dominos car we had the Cosworth engine and Chevy Ilmor with the top of the line men so, you know, it is tough when you don't have the engine to put you up front and so you know -- but you do have to realize your limitations and then make the best out of what you got and I feel that that is what we did.

Q. Gordon, question for Dan. I wonder if you could comment, Dan, on the length of Al's contract?

DAN LUGINBUHL: We don't disclose those specifics, Gordon, as you know, however, certainly spirit of the agreement is ongoing and multi-year.

Q. Robin Miller. Any indication at all that this could be Emerson's last year? There has been talk about he would like to come back as defending Indy Car Champion; maybe this is his last year?

DAN LUGINBUHL: Absolutely no discussion or thought of that. Robin, Emerson of course wants to come back and defend his Indy win this year as you know, go for a third, and he is planning a full season for 94. We are focusing on that season at this time; same thing for Paul Tracy. So we think we are going to have a pretty strong three-car effort for Marlboro team Penske.

SUSAN BRADSHAW: Thank you all for being on. If in fact any of you did not receive the release, you can give me a call. I am out at Jerry Diamond's office. The number is 415-673-2016. We will get you a copy of the release. Thank you.

Source: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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