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Unser, Fittipaldi Aren't Up to Speed : Indy 500: Penske drivers are expected to have a new look when they try to qualify today.


INDIANAPOLIS — Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi won the last two Indianapolis 500s. They also won the last two Indy car races this season, Unser at Long Beach and Fittipaldi at Nazareth, Pa.

One thing they haven't done yet is qualify for the 79th Indianapolis 500 on May 28, a frustrating circumstance they hope to change today when time trials resume. The two Penske drivers are expected to have a new look, however.

Fittipaldi has been driving Bobby Rahal's backup Lola-Mercedes-Benz, on loan to the Penske team. When Fittipaldi ran 227.814 m.p.h. in the Lola, it was his fastest time of the year.

Unser continued to work with three Penske chassis--the '94 with which he won the 500 last year and his two '95 models. None was able to reach 220 m.p.h. So, there has been speculation that Unser might also drive a Lola, which has been Raul Boesel's backup with the Rahal-Hogan team.

"No decisions will be made until after the morning practice when we see what the weather's like," Penske spokesman Dan Luginbuhl said Friday. "[Boesel's backup car] will be available, unless some crazy circumstance in the morning happens to the Rahal-Hogan cars."

If the two Penske drivers don't make it today, when the eight final positions in the 33-car field will be at stake, they can try again Sunday.


Indy 500 Notes

Bryan Herta, who was knocked temporarily unconscious in an accident last Tuesday, returned to the speedway and said he expected to be back next Thursday for carburetion day testing. Herta said he was ready to drive Friday, but doctors said it could be dangerous if he took a second blow to the head so soon. The badly damaged car was flown to England for repairs at the Reynard factory. If it cannot be repaired in time for Thursday's test, Herta will drive a backup car and start the race from the rear of the field. . . . Indianapolis has one of the world's largest tracks in the 2 1/2-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and one of the smallest in the one-fifth-of-a-mile Speedrome oval. Tony George, president of IMS, runs the big one but races on the little one, competing in a Legends car in the weekly Speedrome program. Last week, he finished second after leading for 19 laps. . . .

Last-minute attempts to reach higher speed put two unqualified rookies into the wall. Michael Greenfield found the first-turn wall, then slid across the track into the grass. Carlos Guerrero looked like a billiard ball, bouncing off the fourth-turn wall into the pit wall and then into the infield wall. Neither driver was hurt. . . . Jeff Ward, former national motocross champion from San Juan Capistrano, tested at 224.562 m.p.h. He has never driven in an Indy car race.

Johnny Parsons Jr., a former Los Angeles policeman, is the oldest driver here. He is 51. . . . Davey Hamilton, the West Coast supermodified driver who broke his ankle in a crash May 10, returned to the track for the first time since the accident. He drove a Reynard furnished by Jim Hayhoe, a Palm Desert real estate developer, who campaigned the car last year with Jimmy Vasser as the driver.

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