Little Al, Luyendyk like future of IndyCars

Aug 28, 2009 - 12:54 AM By RICK GANO AP Sports Writer

CHICAGO(AP) -- Al Unser Jr. and Arie Luyendyk have a few things in common. They're two-time winners of the Indy 500. And if asked, they agree on this much: they think Danica Patrick should stick to IndyCars.

Not that they are in a position or want to be to giving advice on the subject of Patrick's future and whether she might jump to NASCAR.

"I think she should stay," Luyendyk said Thursday during a promotional appearance with Unser Jr. in downtown Chicago.

"There are quite a few examples out there of how hard it is to do (switch). She's going good, she's competitive. If I were her adviser, I'd say, 'Stay where you are."'

During a news conference Thursday in Joliet where she is preparing for Saturday night's race, Patrick wouldn't discuss if she is going to re-up with Andretti Green Racing.

"My personal feeling is that I hope Danica stays with the IRL. Danica is very good for the IRL, and I would hate to see her leave and go to NASCAR," Unser Jr. said.

"Whether she can go there and be successful or not, that is something everybody would have to wait and see. Does she have the talent? Yes. Is she capable? Yes. So was (Dario) Franchitti and so is (Juan Pablo) Montoya."

Franchitti had a brief stint in NASCAR and is back in open-wheel racing this season.

Montoya, a former CART champion, switched from Formula One to NASCAR in late 2006 and needed two-plus seasons to find consistency in stock cars. With two races remaining to set the 12-driver Chase for the championship field, he's ranked ninth in the Sprint Cup Series standings.

"I think driving in NASCAR as far as just driving is not really the problem for the IndyCar drivers, but racing is," Luyendyk said. "Managing the weight with those skinny tires is a very difficult thing to get used to. I think that's what you've seen."

Unser Jr., raced in the 1993 Daytona 500, calling the experience "a blast" but knew his career was in open-wheel. "The Indy 500 was my true love and what I wanted to do," he said.

Now he's a driving coach who assists in race control. He said the merger of the two open-wheel racing series has helped IndyCar from a profile standpoint, but it needs more TV exposure.

"It's going up, and now how steep is that angle?" he said, using his hands to show an incline. "It's not staying level, and it's not going down."

Catching up to NASCAR's popularity is not likely to happen.

"I think NASCAR is really something special that in a sense it's almost like American football, a real American sport," Luyendyk said.

"I think IndyCar just needs to keep plugging along. It's got some drivers like (Helio) Castroneves, who appeals to the public. And Danica, who appeals to the public."

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