Al Unser, Jr.
2018, Houston, Texas
Al Unser, Jr. was born into a legendary racing family and carries on the tradition and legacy of success that comes with the Unser name. He is the son of Al Unser and the nephew of Bobby Unser, who both won the Indianapolis 500 themselves. Together the Unser family has won the Indy 500 nine times. By the age of 11, Al, Jr. was racing sprint cars. After high school, he was already in the World of Outlaws series of sprint car racing. He soon moved into road racing, winning the Super Vee title in 1981 and the Can Am title in 1982.
In 1982, Unser made his debut on the CART circuit, finishing fifth at the California 500. A year later, he competed in his first Indianapolis 500, finishing tenth. Unser continued racing on the CART circuit, becoming one of the series’ rising stars. He finished second in the CART championship point standings in 1985, losing to his father by just one point. He began competing in the IROC championship in 1986, winning that championship with two victories in four races. At the age of 24, Unser was the youngest IROC champion ever. Unser won the 1986 and 1988 IROC championships. Unser won the 24 hours of Daytona, also at the young age of 24.
Unser continued to improve on the CART circuit, finishing fourth in the points standings in 1986, third in 1987, second in 1988 and finally winning the series for the first time in 1990. In 1989, Unser was on the verge of winning his first Indianapolis 500, but while battling with Emerson Fittipaldi for the lead, the two touched wheels and Unser spun out, hitting the wall and ending his chances. Unser would have his day at Indy in 1992, however, defeating Scott Goodyear by 0.043 of a second, one of the closest finishes in Indianapolis 500 history.
In 1994, Unser again won at Indy, this time with Penske Racing. His teammate was Emerson Fittipaldi, the man whom he battled with five years before. Unser turned in a dominant season-long performance, winning eight of 16 races on his way to his second CART championship, as well as being named ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year that year. He finishes second to Jacques Villeneuve in CART championship points in 1995 and fourth in 1996. Unser would continue to be a dominant force in CART, winning a total of 31 races during his 17 seasons in CART.
In 2000, Unser joined the budding Indy Racing League and won his first IRL race that same season at Las Vegas. Unser would go on to win a total of three races in his IRL career. In 2004, Unser signed with Patrick Racing three races into the season, and later announced his retirement from racing on June 30, 2004. Unser continued to remain involved in racing, however, outside of a driving capacity. He served as an adviser for Patrick Racing and worked as a mentor for his son, Alfred Unser, who was climbing the ranks in the lower levels of open wheel racing. Al, Jr. now serves as a driving coach for the Indy Racing League.
In 2006 Unser announced that he would come back to racing again and he would run the 2006 Indianapolis 500, teamed with fellow former winner Buddy Lazier for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. This came just days after Michael Andretti also came out of retirement to run the 500.
Al Unser, Jr. has a history of success in the Indianapolis 500. In an astounding 19 starts, Unser has stood atop the podium twice, finished in the top-five seven times, finished in the top-ten ten times, and has earned over $5 million from this single event.
In 2007, Al, Jr., was honored to be chosen by the legendary A.J. Foyt to drive A.J.’s #50 entry in the 2007 Indianapolis 500, commemorating A.J.’s 50th visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500.
One of the sport’s most versatile champion drivers, Al, Jr., is currently executive consultant and driver coach for Harding Racing competing in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
General Scientific Session I
Sunday, October 7, 6:00–6:30 pm
A Conversation with Al Unser, Jr.