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Al Unser

Al Unser.jpg
Al Unser
Nationality: American
Years: 1979 - 1993
Team(s): Longhorn, Penske, Granatelli, Porsche, A. J. Foyt, Menard, King
Races: 114
Championships: 2 (1983, 1985)
Wins: 4
Podiums: 27
Poles: 4
First race: 1979 Arizona Republic Jimmy/Bryan 150 (Phoenix)
First win: 1979 Miller High Life (Phoenix)
Last win: 1987 Indianapolis 500
Last race: 1993 Indianapolis 500

Alfred Unser (born May 29, 1939 in Albuquerque, New Mexico) is a former American automobile racing driver, the younger brother of Bobby Unser and father of Al Unser, Jr.. He is the second of three men to have won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race four times, the fourth of five to have won the race in consecutive years, and is the only person to have both a sibling (Bobby) and child (Al Jr.) as fellow winners. Al's brother Jerry and nephews Johnny and Robby have also competed in the 500.


His father Jerry Unser and two uncles, Louis and Joe, were also drivers. Beginning in 1926 they competed in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, an annual road race held in Colorado.

Joe Unser became the first member of the Unser clan to lose his life to the sport, killed while test-driving a FWD Coleman Special on the Denver highway in 1929.

Al's oldest brother Jerry became the first Unser to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, qualifying 23rd and finishing 31st in the 1958 Indianapolis 500. However, tragedy struck the next year when he was killed from injuries sustained in a fiery crash during a practice session.

Middle brother Bobby drove in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963, becoming in 1968 the first member of the family to win, and in 1983 son Al Unser Jr. drove in his first.

While driving the Johnny Lightning Special and winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1970 and 1971 for Vel's Parnelli Racing, a team owned by Vel Melatich and Parnelli Jones, he had Mario Andretti and Joe Leonard as his team mates.

Racing career and Indianapolis 500

He began racing in 1957, at age 18, initially competing primarily in modified roadsters, sprint cars and midgets. In 1965 he raced in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time and finished ninth.

He won the Indy 500 in 1970, two years after his brother, Bobby. During the race, he led for all but 10 of the 200 laps and averaged 155.749 miles per hour. His quick pit stops were a factor in the victory. That season he won a record 10 times on oval, road and dirt tracks to capture the United States Auto Club national championship.

In 1971 he won the Indy 500 again, starting from the fifth position with an average speed of 157.735 mph.

Unser's bid to become the first three-time consecutive Indy 500 champion was thwarted when he finished second to Mark Donohue in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

Starting 1978 Indianapolis 500 from 5th position in an FNCTC Chaparral Lola, he was considered a long shot. He took the lead on lap 75 and won following the fortuitous engine failure of challenger Danny Ongais, averaging 161.363 mph.

Fourth Indy 500 victory

In 1987, Penske's slate of drivers included Mears, Ongais and Danny Sullivan. Unser was dropped.

Ongais crashed into the wall during the first week of practice at Indy and was unable to drive. Penske asked Unser to fill in. Both the new Penske PC16 race car and its new Chevy-Ilmor engine had been unreliable throughout testing, practice and qualifying. Penske elected to race the backup car, a 1986 March-Cosworth, the same combination of chassis and engine makes that had won the previous four Indy 500s. The year-old March was removed from a Penske Racing display at a Sheraton hotel in the team's hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania.

At start Unser was in the 20th position. After working his way steadily through the field, he took the lead on the 183rd lap. Averaging 162.175 mph, Unser bested a charging Roberto Guerrero by 4.5 seconds to win his fourth Indy 500, only five days before his 48th birthday. In doing so he tied Foyt as the winningest Indy 500 driver and broke brother Bobby's record as the oldest Indy winner.


In the 1992 Indianapolis 500, he finished 3rd at age 52. Unser announced his retirement on May 17, 1994, one day after struggling to qualify for his 28th Indy 500.

Career highlights

As of 2006, Unser has led the most laps of any driver in the history of the Indianapolis 500, at 646.

Unser holds the record of being the oldest driver to ever win the 500 at 47 years old (1987), breaking the previous record set by his brother Bobby.

Unser also won the Champcar championship in 1970, 1983, and 1985.

Unser was the 1978 IROC champion. He also competed in the 1968 Daytona 500 and four other NASCAR Winston Cup & Grand National races, all held on road courses with a best finish of fourth (twice).


CART career results

Year Team Wins Points Championship Finish
1979 Chaparral Racing 1 2085 5th
1980 Longhorn Racing 0 1153 8th
1981 Longhorn Racing 0 90 10th
1982 Longhorn Racing 0 125 7th
1983 Penske Racing 1 151 1st
1984 Penske Racing 0 76 9th
1985 Penske Racing 1 151 1st
1986 Penske Racing 0 0
1987 Penske/Porsche/Granatelli 1 39 13th
1988 Penske/Granatelli 0 22 19th
1989 Penske Racing 0 14 16th
1990 Patrick Racing 0 0
1991 Foyt Racing 0 0
1992 Penske/Menard 0 16 15th
1993 King Motorsports 0 1 32nd
1994 Arizona Motorsports 0 0

2 championships, 4 victories.

Indianapolis 500 results

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish Reason Out
1965 Lola Ford 32nd 9th
1966 Lotus Ford 32nd 12th Crash
1967 Lola Ford 9th 2nd
1968 Lola Ford 6th 26th Crash
1969 Lola Ford Withdrew
1970 Colt Ford 1st 1st
1971 Colt Ford 5th 1st
1972 Parnelli Offy 19th 2nd
1973 Parnelli Offy 8th 20th Broken Piston
1974 Eagle Offy 26th 18th Dropped Valve
1975 Eagle Offy 11th 16th Broken Connecting Rod
1976 Parnelli Cosworth 4th 7th
1977 Parnelli Cosworth 3rd 3rd
1978 Lola Cosworth 5th 1st
1979 Chaparral Cosworth 3rd 22nd Blown Transmission
1980 Longhorn Cosworth 9th 27th Dropped Cylinder
1981 Longhorn Cosworth 9th 17th
1982 Longhorn Cosworth 16th 5th
1983 Penske Cosworth 7th 2nd
1984 March Cosworth 10th 3rd
1985 March Cosworth 7th 4th
1986 Penske Chevrolet 5th 22nd Handling
1987 March Cosworth 20th 1st
1988 Penske Chevrolet 3rd 3rd
1989 Penske Chevrolet 2nd 24th Clutch Failure
1990 March Alfa Romeo 30th 13th
1992 Lola Buick 22nd 3rd
1993 Lola Chevrolet 23rd 12th
1994 Lola Ford-Cosworth Retired before Qual.

4 Wins, 1 Pole

24 Hours of Daytona winners
Five-time Hurley Haywood
Four-time Peter GreggTemplate:· Pedro RodríguezTemplate:·Rolf StommelenTemplate:· Bob Wollek
Three-time Derek BellTemplate:· Butch LeitzingerTemplate:· Scott PruettTemplate:· Brian RedmanTemplate:·Andy Wallace
Two-time Mauro BaldiTemplate:·

Elliott Forbes-RobinsonTemplate:· A. J. FoytTemplate:· Al HolbertTemplate:· Jan LammersTemplate:· Ken MilesTemplate:· Juan Pablo MontoyaTemplate:· John Paul, Jr.Template:· Lloyd RubyTemplate:· Wayne TaylorTemplate:· Didier TheysTemplate:· Al Unser, Jr.

One-time AmonTemplate:·

J. AndrettiTemplate:· M. AndrettiTemplate:· AngelelliTemplate:· Ballot-LénaTemplate:· BandiniTemplate:· BarberTemplate:· BerettaTemplate:· BergmeisterTemplate:· BernhardTemplate:· BoeselTemplate:· BorchellerTemplate:· BouchutTemplate:· BoutsenTemplate:· BrundleTemplate:· CollardTemplate:· DismoreTemplate:· DixonTemplate:· DonohueTemplate:· DupuyTemplate:· DuránTemplate:· DuxburyTemplate:· DysonTemplate:· ElfordTemplate:· FellowsTemplate:· FieldTemplate:· FittipaldiTemplate:· FitzpatrickTemplate:· FranchittiTemplate:· FréonTemplate:· GarretsonTemplate:· GentilozziTemplate:· GravesTemplate:· GurneyTemplate:· HasemiTemplate:· HelmickTemplate:· HennTemplate:· HerrmannTemplate:· HezemansTemplate:· HillTemplate:· HoshinoTemplate:· IckxTemplate:· JelinskiTemplate:· JoestTemplate:· D. JonesTemplate:· P. JonesTemplate:· KinnunenTemplate:· KneifelTemplate:· KragesTemplate:· LässigTemplate:· LavaggiTemplate:· LienhardTemplate:· LuyendykTemplate:· MartinTemplate:· MearsTemplate:· MerlTemplate:· MillenTemplate:· MoranTemplate:· MorettiTemplate:· NeerpaschTemplate:· NielsenTemplate:· O'ConnellTemplate:· OliverTemplate:· OngaisTemplate:· PaceTemplate:· PapisTemplate:· ParsonsTemplate:· Paul, Sr.Template:· PescaroloTemplate:· PilgrimTemplate:· RahalTemplate:· RobinsonTemplate:· RojasTemplate:· SchneiderTemplate:· SchromTemplate:· SharpTemplate:· SiffertTemplate:· SuzukiTemplate:· Unser, Sr.Template:· van der MerweTemplate:· WeaverTemplate:· WendlingerTemplate:· WernerTemplate:· Wheldon

Indianapolis 500 Winners
Four-time winners

A. J. FoytAl Unser, Sr.Rick Mears

Three-time winners

MeyerShawRoseRutherfordB. Unser

Two-time winners

MiltonVukovichWardJohncockFittipaldiLuyendykUnser, Jr.Castroneves

One win

HarrounDawsonGouxThomasDePalmaRestaWilcoxChevroletMurphyCorumBoyerDePaoloLockhartSoudersKeechArnoldSchneiderFrameCummingsPetilloRobertsDavisRobsonHollandParsonsWallardRuttmanSweikertFlahertyHanksBryanRathmannJonesClarkHillAndrettiDonohueSnevaSullivanRahalVilleneuveLazierCheeverBrackMontoyade FerranRiceWheldonHornish