Posted on: February 18, 2011
Gasoline Alley Unplugged
By: Donald Davidson
Indianapolis 500 Winners Centennial Celebration
Tagged as: Al Unser, Al Unser Jr, Bobby Unser, Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, racing
There are 12 comments for this post.
Just a few more interesting notes about the Unsers’ Speedway careers: 1) each of them got one of their wins on May 24th; 2) each had a victory at the direct expense of an Andretti– I have a rather macabre theory about this which I won’t go into now; and 3) by coincidence, each of them scored their last win as a member of Penske’s team.
And, for the record, when Al, Jr. won in 1994, the family had 9 wins in 78 races– that was 11.5% of the total at that time!
I think I heard once (probably from Donald) that when Al Sr. lead lap 200 in “87 he tied AJ Foyt in # of wins at 4 and Ralph De Palma for # of laps lead at 613.
Big Al Unser was the best to ever drive at Indianapolis, the records he holds his unbelievable, led the most laps, top-five finishes, top 10 finishes, tied for most wins, the list goes on and on. I believe the win in 1987 was the most incredible, second week qualifier in a year old car that was setting in a museum a week before the race,given no chance to win. And then drives the car to victory. Big Al was always in a position to win at the end of the race.
What’s forgotten about Al Sr.’s ’87 victory is how close he came to being taken out on the FIRST LAP. On lap #1 in turn #1 Josele Garza and Pancho Carter made contact and Garza spun out. Big Al just barely got through. Sometimes its better to be lucky than good. In ’87 Al was both. Mario Andretti had the entire field covered until the car broke. In victory lane Al said that he felt bad for the injured Danny Ongias because the #25 should have been Danny’s ride. It was a kind thing to say, but I’m not sure Danny would have made it to the end of the race like Al did. Ongias crashed quite a bit.
Mark: Al sr certainly has an empressive record..BUT..the best ever? His record is spread over many many years so when you figure that in……remember some 39% of drivers who competed in the 500 between 1950 and 1959 were killed in racing accidents. Vukovich set his record of leading 75% of the laps he competed in in a short 5 years. He definetly would have been the first and only 4 times in a row winner….IF….When you try to figure out who was number 1 of the top 33…THAT has to be taken into account. Remember…NO DRIVER EVER BACKS INTO VICTORY LANE AT INDIANAPLOIS.. They are great drivers!!!!
Had the honor of meeting Bobby and Al at the pagoda Plaza at a autograph session and it is amazing how outgoing Bobby is compared to Al. Both are great ambassadors for our sport and for IMS and true legends in Motorsports
When choosing your top 33 you should remember things like…TED HORN…He competed in 10 500s, was national driving champion, and out of his 10 years at theSpeedway he was never worse than 4th for NINE years in a row. He was killed at Del Mar in 1948. 9 yrs at Indy1799 ;aps out of a possible 1800 Finishes ..1 second, 4 thirds, and 4 fourths. He has to be one of the greatest on your list…if not..You had best check your knowledge of the Speedway. Just a little history lesson most of you probably already know. But those who dont….should.
I’m very much aware of Ted Horn’s record of consistent high finishes. What it means is that Ted Horn had a running car 9 years in a row and couldn’t CLOSE THE DEAL. It’s about results and how many years a driver is pounding on the door.
A running car is not always a WINNING car, but if anyone thinks a guy like Horn simply couldnt “close” the deal ,they dont have a clue. Today the cars are so equal compared to the years up to about 1985. Today it IS all about the equipment, $$$$ and team. That is not just my opinion but so many drivers and 9 winners from the 60s & 70s. Ted Horns record as a race driver is like one of the who s who of auto racing. I guess so many out there still think the first 500 was in 1988.
You’re right Dennis. I had no idea they raced at Indy prior to 1988. I really didn’t know who AJ Foyt was ‘tll yesterday. Gimme a break
I’ve been lucky enough to meet all three Unsers and they were all EXTREMELY nice to me and my wife…Al Sr is at the Unser Museum in Albuqurque almost any day that he is home. He spent an hour with us visiting……..what a great racing family !! PS… Al Sr’s wife is wonderfull too !!!
This blog is not a place to get into a pissin match . As I have said, its only an “OPINION”, carries no weight at all. Just a very well educated, by some, opinion. I feel strongly about “my” opinion and am really quite well versed in the history of the 500. Been doing it since 1952 and have been around champ car racing and the 500 pretty much since I was 5. Have known personally 25 500 winners representing 50 500 wins including Ray Harroun. So lets use this as a place to simply share opinions and post what you know but leave the high school stuff back at high school. Can I be opinionated?? OH YEAH! But we all simply share one thing..we love racing and especially The Indianapolis 500.
Let me know what you think?
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