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Rediscovering the Indy 500
By Al Unser Jr., Special to ABC Sports Online

INDIANAPOLIS -- Opening Day went really well for the Starz Encore Superpak race car. We ended up with a very quick time -- 217.223 mph -- which ended up being the fastest of the day.

Then on Sunday, we were extremely quick again -- 220.686 -- right up until the last five minutes. So right now we are cautiously confident as we continue to prepare the rest of the week for the Indy Time Trials on Saturday (ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET) and Sunday (ABC, 1 p.m. ET).

  Little Al was quite a hit with racing fans at the Brickyard on Opening Day last Saturday.

It has been wonderful to be back at the Speedway and to once again be part of the month of May in Indy. The fans' reception has been really overwhelming. The theme has been "Back Home Again" for me since we haven't been here in four years. To come back and to get that kind of welcome from the fans was really special and I fully appreciate what they did for my spirits on Opening Day.

All of us are practicing throughout this week at the Speedway. All the results you'll eventually see during the Indianapolis 500 come from the work that goes on this week. The biggest challenge right now is to get in the race. Of course, the last time I was here in 1995 I missed "The Show," so the only thing I'm working on and thinking about is qualifying this weekend.

Prior to what transpired in '95, I never thought it was possible that I could ever miss "The Show." But, lo and behold, it happened to my team. So, take it from me, you first have to get in the race before you can win the race. That's something I always keep in my thoughts.

On that note, things have proceeded very well thus far for us.

I have been reacquainting myself the past few days with the Brickyard. There have been a lot of changes around the race track, but the track itself is exactly the same as I remember it. It's a really special race track, especially if you're a rookie here. My best advice to any of the rookies is to take it one day at a time out here and try to learn something every day about the track. Enjoy the excitement, too. Just to get out on that track knowing where you are and why you're here is a great feeling for all of us.

What is always different about coming to the Indy 500 is the air that surrounds the event. The atmosphere surrounding not only the city but the whole state of Indiana is one of just pure excitement. It's a wonderful feeling to be surrounded by such great racing fans and in such a tremendous environment.

So far, it's been a good, safe couple of days for all of us out here at the Speedway. When it comes down to it, that's the most important thing.

Al Unser Jr. is hoping to qualify for his 13th Indy 500. The Indy Racing Northern Light Series rookie is a frequent contributor to ABC Sports Online.
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