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.
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.
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.
The top picture shows just how fit Al Sr. Was at 48 yrs old. I believe the young man onthe far left looking at the photographer is one of Bobby Unser's kids.
This is one of the great stories we tell visitors all the time at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque New Mexico. All the stars were aligned properly for Al's fourth win.
`While it seemed to be Mario's day, it was Roberto Guererro's race to win in the late stages until a costly pit stop where he stalled the car twice cost him the victory. I doubt that anyone there that day thought at the beginning of the day they might be seeing a four time winner crowned. I have not attended the race since, although I am coming this year. If 2011 can have anywhere near the excitement of 1987, it will be one to talk about for years.
It was another disappointment for Mario, had a one lap lead on the entrie field when his engine blew. Was a great race, was a second Indy 500 and I have been to 23 more since than.
One of my favorite 500s! It was Mario's day for sure, but that is why it is a FIVE-hundred mile race, not a 425-mile race.