Al Unser Sr.
Joins Penske Racing In 1983
In 1983, Unser joined Penske Racing. That year he posted ten finishes in the top five and claimed his second PPG championship. Two years later, he was pitted in a razor-thin race against his son, Al Jr., for the PPG Cup. In the end, father edged son by a single point, 151-150, to win the 1985 PPG Cup, earning for Al Sr. his second title in three years. Unser Sr. had only one victory and one pole, but his consistency saw him through, as it had in 1983. In his other thirteen starts, he placed in the top five nine times. However, he still needed a strong final run to take the cup. He closed the season with a runner-up finish at Laguna Seca, a victory from the pole at Phoenix, and a fourth-place showing at Phoenix. In the same three races, Al Jr. finished third, second, and third, respectively.
In 1987, at the age of 47, Unser won his fourth and final Indy 500 in a race he only got into at the last minute when Danny Ongais crashed during a practice run and wasn't healthy enough to race. He raced to victory 4.496 seconds ahead of runner-up Roberto Guerrero with an average speed of 162.175 miles per hour. Son Al Jr., who finished fourth, told ESPN: "It means everything to Dad. They called him retired and washed up and all that. He's far from that. I've got goose bumps. I'm ecstatic for Dad."
Unser retired to Albuquerque in 1994 but has not strayed far from racing. Unser, along with Johnny Rutherford, who also retired in 1994, offers his expertise to aspiring race car drivers as a staff member of the Indy Racing League as coach and consultant. Some of the new drivers see him as a dinosaur who couldn't possibly help them, Unser told Hank Kurz Jr. of the Associated Press. But "I tell them in 1992 and 1993, I was still running 230 miles an hour around the speedway. That wakes them up." Another passion of Unser's is shared with son, Al Jr. The two have committed $1.5 million of their own money to building an auto museum on family land in Albuquerque. Father and son have set up a non-profit foundation to raise more money for the planned 50,000-square-foot center on a twelve-acre site.
One of the greatest auto racers of all time, Unser stands as an inspiration for aspiring racers everywhere and especially for other members of the Unser clan who remain active in racing. This latter group includes his son, Al Jr., and nephews, Johnny and Robby Unser. Only Unser Sr., Foyt, and Rick Mears have managed to take four checkered flags at Indy, an incredible feat for a racer of any age, but made all the remarkable for Unser, who posted his final win at the Brickyard at the age of 47. Unser, who was active in racing across four decades, has been enshrined in both the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (1991) and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame (1998) in honor of his unique contributions to the sport.
- Al Unser Sr. - Chronology
- Al Unser Sr. - Finishes Second In Indy 500 Of 1967
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