Al Unser Sr.
Finishes Second In Indy 500 Of 1967
In 1967 Unser finished second to A.J. Foyt at the Indy 500. He also claimed his first pole at Langhorne. In addition to his Indy car racing, he also raced U.S. Auto Club (USAC) stock cars and was named Rookie of the Year in 1967. The following year, he really established himself, winning five races in a row and grabbing five poles.
Unser's big breakthrough at Indianapolis came in 1970 when he won, beating brother Bobby. For the year as a whole, he won ten races and a total of eight poles, including the pole at the Indy 500. For his impressive performance in 1970, which included wins on ovals, road courses, and dirt tracks, Unser was named Driver of the Year. He made it back-to-back wins at the Indy 500 when he took the checkered flag once again in 1971. After the glory days of the early 1970s, Unser went through a dry spell of about four years, during which time his only win was at Texas in 1973. He came back with a vengeance, however, in the late 1970s. In 1977, Unser won at Pocono, Milwaukee, and Phoenix, moving him to second place in Indy-car points and moving him into eighth place in the International Race of Champions (IROC) competition. That same year, Unser married Karen Barnes, his second wife. The following year he swept the Indy car events of Pocono, Ontario, and the Indy 500, his third win at the Brickyard, to become the first driver in history to win an "Indy Car Triple Crown." He also won the IROC championship for 1978.
Throughout the early years of his racing career, finding a free-spending sponsor was one of the major challenges faced by Unser. He told Indy 500.com that it was critical to find an owner who was willing to spend money because in a "nickel-and-dime" operation, some small part was almost certain to break. Particularly ironic is the alliance Unser built in the early 1970s with mechanic George Bignotti, with whom he had clashed in 1965 over the use of Foyt's back-up car. Forgetting their earlier differences, Bignotti and Unser forged one of auto racing's toughest teams ever. Unser, Bignotti, and the Johnny Lightning Special were the terrors of the Indy 500 in both 1970 and 1971. Unser won the race both years and in 1971 set a speed record of 157.735 miles per hour. In 1970 Unser won from the pole; in 1971 he won from fifth position.
- Al Unser Sr. - Joins Penske Racing In 1983
- Al Unser Sr. - Born In Albuquerque, New Mexico
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