Four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 race Al Unser has died at the age of 82

Al Unser, one of four drivers who set a record four times in the Indianapolis 500, died on Thursday after a long illness. He was 82 years old.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway said Unser died Friday morning at his home in Chama, New Mexico, along with his wife, Susan. She has been battling cancer for 17 years.

Unser is the third member of one of America’s most famous racing families to die in 2021. His older brother, Bobby Unser, a three-time Indy 500 winner, died in May, and younger Bobbi Unser died six weeks after his father.

Unser, known as the Big Al after his son won the race, is part of an elite club of four-time winners of The Race’s Best Show. Unser is the only driver to have won the Indy 500 in 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987, and in history both his brother and son won one of the biggest races in the world.

His recent victory at the age of 47 made him the oldest winner in Indy 500 history. He started his first win at Indy in 1970 from the pole, leading all but 10 of the 200 rounds. Unser was 32 seconds behind second-placed Mark Donohu ​​that year.

“Al was the category of the industry,” said rival Johnny Rutherford.

The Unser Indy has led more than half of the 500 victories, and the 644 total lap in Indianapolis is the longest in racing history. He led Ralph DePalma’s 75-year-old record in the final stage of the 1987 race – 612 laps – and Unser completed 31 more laps in his last five starts.

He made 27 starts in the Indy 500 race, finishing third in history and qualifying once at the pole and five times in the front row.

Unser has won three Indy car national championships in his career and 39 wins – sixth on the all-time list.

She and her son Al Jr were the first parent-son couple in Indianapolis and in 1985 they competed for the CART championship.

An extension given in the final rounds of the race put Unser in fourth place in the season finale at the Tamiami Park road course in Miami, and it was enough to beat Al Jr. by one point for the championship. She struggled with tears, describing the “empty feeling” of beating her son.

Unser also ran five NASCAR races in his career, finishing fourth in the 1968 Daytona 500. He finished in the top ten at NASCAR. He has also won the International Champions Race in the All-Star Series, which pits the best drivers in different directions against each other.

Unser won three of the 1978 500-mile races on the 1978 schedule, including stops at Pocono Raceway and Ontario (California), and the Indy won the Triple Crown. He is the only driver in history to have won all three races in one season.

The Unser family has won a record nine wins in the Indy 500; Al Jr. won the Indy 500 twice – 1992 and 1994. Coincidentally, Al Unser, junior Al Unser and Bobbi Unser won the Indy 500 while driving for Roger Penske.

Unser was at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year to welcome Helio Castroneves as the newest member of the four-time winners club. Unser achieved this success after AJ Foyt, and Rick Mers won in 1991 for the fourth time. Kastroneves won in May, becoming the first new member in 30 years.

“Some days the race track makes you smile and some days you understand it differently,” Unser said on the July holiday. “You don’t always think you can win because your chances are so low. There are 32 other guys like you who want it. ”

Unser received his Baby Borg – an 18-inch copy of the Indy 500 winner’s Borg-Warner Cup, which he lives in the Accelerated Museum – during a holiday with family and friends in May. He was supposed to be awarded in 2020 on the 50th anniversary of his 1970 victory in Indianapolis, but the celebration was postponed due to a pandemic.

Both Kastroneves and Takuma Sato, a two-time winner of the Indy 500, praised Unser, while Sato called Unser’s speech at the May winner’s ceremony “very funny and very charming”.

“I will always remember Big Al meeting me on the highway,” Kastroneves told the Associated Press on Friday. “He and Johnny Rutherford helped me guide new players. He will miss her. ”

Unser, the youngest of four racing brothers, was born in 1939 in Albuquerque to a family of hard-working racers. His father, Jerry Unser, and two uncles, Louis and Joe, were also drivers. Beginning in 1926, the family began participating in the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb race in Colorado.

Al’s eldest brother, Jerry, was the first Unser to win the right to compete in the 1958 Indianapolis 500 race; he crashed during training the following year.

Unser started racing in 1957 at the age of 18, but mostly competed in sprint cars. He drove Indy in a car belonging to Foyt in 1965, and the Indy 500 was part of a new class of players with future winners Mario Andretti (1969) and Gordon Joncock (1973, 1982).

“Al was one of the smartest drivers to race with me,” Andretti said. “I often said I wanted to have his patience.”

The Unser family started their 73-year career at the Indy 500 – more than 76 times that number by the Andretti family. Unser participation Al (27 races), Bobbi (19) and Al Jr. (19) also includes Johnny (five), Robbie (two) and Jerry (one).

Unser was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1986 and the International Motor Sport Hall of Fame in 1998. His collection of prizes and cars is housed in the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque.

Unser’s wife, Susan, and son, Al Jr. He was preceded in death by his daughters Mary and Deborah.

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Other AP racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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