Al Unser, Open Wheel, Class of 1991
Family tradition in American racing means the Unsers of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Al, the youngest of the second generation Unser racing brothers, has enjoyed a career spanning five decades.
Racing modified roadsters at 18, he has since driven Midgets, Sprints, Stock Cars, Sports Cars, Formula 5000, Championship Dirt Cars and a long line of ground hugging rockets at Indianapolis.
Al Unser's statistics at the Indianapolis 500 are of the highest order, ranking first in points earned, second in miles driven and total money won, tied for second in total number of 500 starts and fourth in money earned leading the race. He won his fourth Indy 500 in 1987 tying A. J. Foyt's record, after not having a ride until the second week of May and starting from 20th position. The next year he surpassed Ralph DePalma's Ruthian record for most laps led at the 500 and established the new standard of 625 for future generations to pursue.
In one of the greatest seasons ever completed by an Indy Car driver, Al combined a record 10 wins on ovals, road courses and dirt tracks to capture the national championship in 1970. His victory that year in the Indianapolis 500 duplicated his brother Bobby's feat of 1968, making the Unsers the only brothers to win at the Brickyard. His second and third Indianapolis victories occurred in 1971, making him one of four back-to-back winners, and in 1978 which, when added to victories in the Pocono and California 500's, made him the first driver to earn a "Triple Crown" sweep.
A dirt car ace, Al won the prestigious "Hoosier Hundred" four years in a row. He also played his part in the Unser family dominance of the Pikes Peak Hill Climb by taking consecutive victories in 1964 and 1965.
Al achieved his second national championship in 1983. In what he describes as "the most special season of my career", Al edged out his son Al, Ir., by one point in the last race of the 1985 season to earn a third national championship, becoming the oldest Indy Car champion at age 46.
To many younger drivers, the intensely competitive world class sport of modern Indy Car racing will seem as imposing as the mountain regularly assaulted by the Unsers. In their pursuit of excellence, the youngsters will set their sites on the accomplishments of Al Unser, standing in the rarefied air of the summit.