#TBT: Indianapolis 500 Fathers and Sons

Published On September 18, 2014 » 2077 Views» By John Schwarb » #TBT, Blogs, IMS History, Indy 500

We heard that Arie Luyendyk Jr., former Indianapolis 500 driver and son of 1990 champion Arie Luyendyk, turns 33 today. That spurred an office discussion about fathers and sons competing at the Indianapolis 500.

Did you know there are 16 families in the race’s history which had father(s) and one or more sons competing? (And we mean actually in the “500”, more on that later.)

First and foremost to many fans is Al Unser and Al Unser Jr., the only father/son pairing with wins on both sides. Big Al had four, of course, and “Little Al” had two. And the Unser family had three father/son sets in all, with a remarkable nine total wins when you add “Uncle” Bobby Unser’s three.

Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. each won one Indianapolis 500 pole. But Al owns more wins, of course.

Al Unser and Al Unser Jr. each won one Indianapolis 500 pole. But Al owns more wins, of course.

The Andrettis are the best-known family – though not the only one – with a father and multiple sons to have raced. Mario, the 1969 champion, begat racers Michael and Jeff and all three raced together for the first time in 1991, along with Mario’s nephew John. (Marco, Michael’s son and Mario’s grandson, arrived on the grid in 2006.)

Four members of the Andretti family -- Jeff, John, Michael, Mario -- raced in 1991.

Four members of the Andretti family — Jeff, John, Michael, Mario — raced in 1991.

In addition to Marco Andretti, carrying the torch today for family participation is Graham Rahal, who has made seven starts so far in an effort to match his dad, Bobby, who won in 1986.

Graham Rahal was born three years after his dad's 1986 Indianapolis 500 victory.

Graham Rahal was born three years after his dad’s 1986 Indianapolis 500 victory.

Here’s the complete list of fathers and sons, with years competed:

  • Mario Andretti (1965-78, 80-94), Michael Andretti (1984-92, 94-95, 01-03, 06-07), Jeff Andretti (1991-93), Marco Andretti (2006-14)
  • Tony Bettenhausen (1946-48, 50-60), Gary Bettenhausen (1968-78, 80-82, 86-87, 89-93), Tony Lee Bettenhausen (1981-88, 90-91, 93)
  • Jack Brabham (1961, 64, 69-70), Geoff Brabham (1981-87, 90-91, 93)
  • Ronnie Bucknum (1968-70), Jeff Bucknum (2005-06)
  • Duane Carter (1948-55, 59-60, 63), Pancho Carter (1974-87, 89-91)
  • Earl DeVore (1925, 27-28), Billy DeVore (1937-41, 46, 48)
  • A.J. Foyt Jr. (1958-92), Larry Foyt (2004-06)
  • Thane Houser (1926), Norm Hauser (1949)
  • Parnelli Jones (1961-67), PJ Jones (2004, 06)
  • Bob Lazier (1981), Buddy Lazier (1991-92, 95-08, 13-14), Jaques Lazier (2000-01, 03, 04 (relief driver), 05-07)
  • Arie Luyendyk (1985-99, 2001-02), Arie Luyendyk Jr. (2006)
  • Johnnie Parsons (1949-58), Johnny Parsons (1974-80, 82-83, 85-86, 96)
  • Bobby Rahal (1982-92, 94-95), Graham Rahal (2008-14)
  • Joe Russo (1931-34), Eddie Russo (1955, 57, 60)
  • Jerry Unser (1958), Johnny Unser (1996-00); Bobby Unser (1963-81), Robby Unser (1998-99); Al Unser (1965-68, 70-90, 92-93), Al Unser Jr. (1983-94, 2000-04, 06-07)
  • Bill Vukovich (1951-55), Bill Vukovich II (1968-77, 79-80)

A few men could have made this list but fell short. Merle Bettenhausen passed his drivers test in 1972 but did not race – if he had, he would have been the second son of Tony Bettenhausen to race, instead it was Tony Lee Bettenhausen.

Dana Carter, another son of Duane Carter, was bumped from the field in 1979. James McElreath failed to make the grid in 1977, or else he would have joined his father Jim McElreath as another father/son combination.

Casey Mears, son of former “500” driver Roger Mears, has driven at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the Brickyard 400 but not in The Greatest Spectacle In Racing. Casey passed his drivers test in 2001 but did not race.

And that’s the history of fathers and sons at the Indianapolis 500. Happy birthday, Arie Jr.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. raced in 2006, four years after his father's last start.

Arie Luyendyk Jr. raced in 2006, four years after his father’s last start.

 

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About The Author

John Schwarb

I joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway communications team in July 2014 and love sharing stories from the World Capital of Racing, particularly its rich history. Most of my professional career has been in racing or golf, so if I'm not in the IMS media center, the office at 16th and Georgetown or milling around Gasoline Alley, maybe I'll be standing over a birdie putt at Brickyard Crossing. Follow us at @IMS or drop me a line at @JohnSchwarb and come back to the blog often for more stories.
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