After a lengthy illness, Al Unser, who was one of four Indianapolis 500 winners, passed away Thursday. Al Unser was 82.

Inchasca Motor Speedway reported that Unser passed away in Chama, New Mexico at the home of his wife Susan. Since 1997, he was fighting cancer.

Al Unser won his fourth Indy 500 win in 1987.
George Tiedemann via Getty Images

“My heart is so saddened. My father passed away last night,” son Al Unser Jr., himself a two-time Indy 500 winner, posted on social media. “He was a Great man and even a Greater Father. Rest In Peace Dad!”

Unser is the third member of one of America’s most famed racing families to die in 2021. Bobby Unser Jr. died six weeks later than his father.

Known as “Big Al” once his own son made a name for himself in racing, Unser is part of an elite club of four-time winners of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Unser won the Indy 500 in 1970, 1971, 1978 and 1987, and is the only driver in history to have both a sibling and a child also win one of the biggest races in the world.

At 47, his last victory made him the oldest Indy 500 winner. Indy’s first win, in 1970, was his most successful. He began from the pole position and led every lap except 10. By 32 seconds, Unser defeated Mark Donohue, the runner-up that year.

Indy 500 victory winner Unser led nearly half of all laps. Indy’s total laps (644) is the most ever recorded in race history. Indy 500: He started 27 times, which is third in history. Also, he qualified on the pole once and on the front row five times.

Unser has won three Indy car national championships in his career. He also holds the record for most victories (39), which is sixth all-time.

Al Jr. and he were the father-son pair at Indianapolis for the first time. In 1985, they fought it out for the CART title. A pass in the closing laps of the race gave Unser a fourth-place finish in the season finale at Miami’s Tamiami Park road course, and it was enough for him to beat Al Jr. for the championship by a single point. He fought back tears while describing the “empty feeling” of defeating his son.

In his NASCAR career, he also competed in five races. He finished fourth in the 1968 Daytona 500. In NASCAR, he finished in the top 10 three times. The International Race of Champions was an all-star competition that pitted drivers of various disciplines against each another. He won three times.

Unser won the Indy car “Triple Crown” by winning all three of of the 500-mile races on the 1978 schedule, which included stops at Pocono Raceway and in Ontario, California. He’s the only driver in history to win all three of those races in the same season.

The Unser family combined for a record nine wins in the Indy 500; Al Jr. won the Indy 500 twice — in 1992 and 1994. Al Unser Jr., Bobby Unser and Al Unser Jr. won the Indy 500s for Roger Penske. Helio Castroneves won the Indy 500s for Penske’s first three times.


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