Big Troubles For Little Al

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What started as a domestic abuse charge against Al Unser Jr., has escalated into accusations by a former employee that the two-time Indianapolis 500 champion often used drugs.

A report in Friday’s Albuquerque Journal, claims former Unser employee Steven Schweissgut said he occasionally supplied drugs to Unser, 40, in 1998 and 1999, while he was driving for Marlboro Team Penske. Schweissgut said Unser used cocaine and marijuana.

“At times, I did supply it to him,” Schweissgut. “He used more pot than coke. He smoked pot every day.”

Unser finished 21st in the CART Series points standings in 1999, with no finisher than fifth.

The accusations began to mount for Unser after he was arrested Tuesday on misdemeanor charges that he hit girlfriend Jena L. Soto and left on Interstate 495 early Monday morning. However, Soto who has been his girlfriend for the last four years is reluctant to go further with the investigation.

Unser, who is expected to start eighth in Saturday’s True Value IROC Series race at Chicagoland Speedway, has been advised by his lawyers to not speak on the accusations.

“Due to my current circumstances, I can't say anything,” he told the Journal. “Once my situation is resolved, I will answer any question about anything. I'll be happy to answer questions then, but I can't now.”

Unser's uncle, Bobby Unser, told the Albuquerque Journal he does not believe his nephew is taking drugs now.

"From the best I can figure out, he hasn't been doing drugs for quite a while," he said. "When I looked into it, I think it has been two years. I hope this is a wakeup call for him.

“He is going to have to make an effort to help himself. I have tried to talk to him. That doesn't do any good,'' he said. "He's in denial. I think denial is the key word in all this.”

Prosecutors will decide, likely next week, if the case should move forward. A hearing is set July 19.

The Indy Racing League, which Unser now drives in with Kelley Racing has rules against assault or battery, alcohol or substance abuse and improper conduct. The rules state that violations”may be grounds for suspension or other penalties.”

“It is too early to determine if this is a matter that will require the league to take any action,” said Ron Green, director of media relations for the IRL.

Green said Unser had met with Brian Barnhart, the IRL's vice president of operations to discuss the matter.

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