IMS Photo Recalls: Al Unser Sr. Official Indy 500 Photographer

Published On April 25, 2011 » 2613 Views» By admin » Blogs, IMS Photo Digitization Project

Early in the month on May 7, 1987 while shooting photos in the pits, I ran into Al Unser Sr. I asked him if he had any prospects  for the month and he said he did not and he needed a job…would I hire him. We laughed and as I walked off, I had an idea.  I went back to my office, grabbed a small plastic consumer camera and made him a name tag that stated he was now an “Official Indy 500 Photographer” and set out to find him again.

As he stood in the pits with a group of drivers and officials, I gave him his “Official Photographer” nametag and his new camera and assignments.  I think I remember Al Jr getting the biggest laugh out of the whole situation.

Al Unser and Ron McQueeney in 1987

Ron McQueeny and Al Unser Sr. together in 1987

That same day, shortly after Danny Ongais’ crash in practice, Al’s career as an “official Photographer” came to an end as Roger Penske called on him to replace the injured Ongais in the #25 PC 16.  While the car that Ongais crashed was too bad to run, the team had to get an ’86 March that was being used by the team as a show car in a lobby of a commercial establishment and bring it to the track.

Unser in action in 1987

Unser contesting the 1987 Indianapolis 500

The car was entered but not at the track until that point. Al qualified the car 20th and on the start, was just in front of a spinning Josele Garza who came within a fraction of an inch taking out Al in the process.  Al drove his typical smart race and won and became the only “Official Photographer” to win the race.

Unser on the podium

Unser wins!


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