SPARTA, Ky. (AP) -- An overnight stay in an Indianapolis jail convinced Al Unser Jr. to get help for a longtime drinking problem.
"I had hit bottoms before, like in 1999 when I was going through my divorce for the final time ...," the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Thursday at Kentucky Speedway, the site of Sunday's Belterra Casino Indy 300. "I pulled out of that on my own, feeling like I could do it myself. And I did.
"Then I found myself in jail on July 9 doing an insane thing to my girlfriend, a person who I truly love. I seemed to be hurting the ones that were closest to me, and it just kept happening over and over again."
Unser, 40, was arrested last month after his girlfriend, Jena L. Soto, 38, said he hit her in the face while drunk and left her on the side of a roadway.
Prosecutors did not file charges, deciding there was not enough evidence from the initial 911 call, statements and photographs to obtain a conviction.
Unser entered an undisclosed substance-abuse center on July 18. He was released Monday and cleared to drive by Dr. Henry Bock, medical director for the Indy Racing League.
Nearly three weeks in rehab opened his eyes to a lot of things about himself and about alcoholism.
"The last few weeks have been very educational," he said. "What the treatment center gave me was the knowledge and the tools I'll need not to pick up a drink.
"The biggest misconception with alcohol is that it is a disease and that it kills. The tough part for me was admitting I was powerless against that disease and needed help."
Unser appeared to be cautiously optimistic about his sobriety as he answered a barrage of tough, personal questions with Kelley Racing team owner Tom Kelley.
"I am in the very early stages of recovery and still have big challenges in front of me," he said. "But I look forward to meeting those challenges.
Elliott hopes he
can keep winning
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (AP) -- The lean years have given way to a threat of dominance by Bill Elliott, who will try to win for the third week in a row.
That might seem like a bit of a reach, considering his record on NASCAR's road courses -- one career victory in 1983 at defunct Riverside International Raceway. But Elliott can't be faulted for feeling confident regardless of the surroundings.
"I like road courses," he said Thursday as he began preparing to race Sunday at Watkins Glen International.
Team sponsor fines driver for outburst
ATLANTA (AP) -- Tony Stewart, who said NASCAR's $10,000 fine and season-long probation over his most recent outburst was too light, was hit even harder by his own team sponsor on Thursday.
The Winston Cup star, who punched a photographer following last Sunday's Brickyard 400, was fined $50,000 and placed on team probation for the remainder of the 2002 season by The Home Depot, his sponsor.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.