Al Unser 1939-2021

Al Unser 1939-2021

We are sad to report that another of America’s racing greats, Al Unser Snr., has passed away at the age of 82 at his home in Chama, New Mexico. He had been bravely battling cancer for the last 17 years. In May last year, his older brother Bobby died at 87. They were both part of what became known as the Unser family racing dynasty. Al’s two uncles, his two brothers and his son, Al Unser Jnr., were all top-level racers. Uncle Joe and eldest brother Jerry were both killed racing.


Bobby won the Indy 500 three times in ’68, ’75 and ’81 and Al Jnr. won in ’92 and ’94. Al however trumped them all. He won the great race four times in 1970, ‘71, ‘78 and ’87. He is one of only four men to have done so, the others being A J Foyt, Rick Mears and Helio Castroneves. He was also PPG Indycar Champion in ’83 and ’85. In his Indycar career he notched up a remarkable 39 wins and 97 podiums. Al was born in Albuquerque on May 29, 1939. Racing was in the family blood. Uncle Louis had been racing at the Pikes Photography: Steve Havelock, IMS Photo and Pikes Peak Hill Climb.


Al Unser 1939-2021

Peak Hillclimb since 1926 and won it a record nine times. Al started dirt track racing in 1957 in a modified stock car built by his father Jerome, who owned an auto repair shop and brother Bobby. In spite of brother Jerry being killed at Indy in ’59 at just 26 years old, Al pushed ahead with his own racing career. His first high profile wins were at Pikes Peak in 1964 and ’65. His first Indy 500 was also in ’65 where he finished a creditable 9th in his Lola after qualifying in 32nd. The race was won by Jim Clark and the following year Al became Clark’s team-mate in the STPLotus car but he crashed out after the car in front blew its engine and spewed oil on to the track. In ’67 he finished second to A J Foyt and in ’68 he retired only to see brother Bobby take the Unser family’s first Indy 500 win. In 1970 Al was in storming form in his striking Johnny Lightning 500 Ford and claimed pole position at 170.22mph and won the race, ahead of Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney. He won again for the same team in ’71.


Al Unser 1939-2021

Front cover of Sports Illustrated in ’78. Al in his ’78 Indy 500 winner at 2009 Goodwood FOS. Third Indy win came in ’78. Al’s fourth and last Indy win in ’87. Al looking serious at ’78 Indy. Al racing Carl Williams in ’70 Indy 500. Pikes Peak winner in ’64 and ’65. Al’s Johnny Lightning ’70 Indy winner.

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