after ’89, al knew Indy glory was possible…but
couldn’t have guessed his first 500 win would come
in the unfancied Galmer chassis of ’92. (BeLOW)
at Penske, Unser initially found himself paired with
Fittipaldi. The captain employed al for six years.
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IZOD IndyCar Series midseason
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LITTLE AL’S BIG ACHIEVEMENTS
before turning in; I was trying to go
around his right front and cracked the
throttle wide open again. That’s what I
think knocked him sideways – I was so
hard on the gas that when my left rear hit
his right front, it was a big hit. It lifted up
my car and spun it around into the wall.
I came to a halt, got out of the car, and
I was pissed! I started to walk out to the
track and one of the safety crew stopped
me and said, “Where are you going?” I said,
“I’m going to the track.” He said, “You
wanna flip him off?” I said, “Uh, yeah!”
He stepped aside and said, “Go ahead!”
So I went out there, and there was a
moment of clarity as I waited for Emerson
to come around. It’s like standing in the
middle of a football field, with these
huge grandstands, packed with people,
totally surrounding you. I looked up and
thought, “Everyone’s expecting me to flip
him off, and y’know, I just tried to steal
the 500 away from Emerson Fittipaldi.”
These were the thoughts that came to
me as I stood there, and so when he
came past, I gave him the thumbs-up,
applauded him and congratulated him
on doing the best slide job I’d ever had
After impressive start in karts (aged 9) and sprint cars, Al
wins 1981 Super Vee title at age 19, and ’ 82 Can-Am title.
Makes IndyCar debut in a one-off race for Forsythe Racing
at Riverside in ’ 82 – starts 10th and finishes fifth!
Joins Galles Racing full-time in ’83; scores first win in ’84.
Switches to Shierson Racing: pipped to title by Dad in ’85.
Wins first IROC title and first Daytona 24 Hours in ’86 (BELOW)
sharing a Porsche 962 with Derek Bell and Al Holbert.
Second Daytona 24 Hour victory in ’87, again in a Porsche
with Holbert, Bell and Chip Robinson.
Back to Galles for 1988 and finishes as runner-up in title
race again, with four wins. Those include his first of six
victories at Long Beach. Also wins IROC title for second year.
Clinches first IndyCar championship in 1990, with six wins,
including glorious summer run of four consecutive victories.
For 1992, Galles switches from Lola to self-designed
Galmer chassis. Not a great car, but Al wins the Indy 500,
heading off Scott Goodyear by 0.043sec.
Switches to Penske in 1994, winning second Indy 500, and
seven other victories to head a Penske 1-2-3 championship
sweep with teammates Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy.
Scores four wins in ’95, but Team Penske’s amazing DNQ at
Indy probably costs him the championship.
Four more years at Penske, but post-’96, the magic’s gone.
Switches to the Indy Racing League in 2000 and, over the
next three years, takes two wins for Galles and one for
Kelley Racing. Retires from full-time racing mid-’04.
Final Indy 500 in 2007.
Al Unser Jr.’s racing career ends with 34 wins (sixth in
all-time list) from his 329 IndyCar starts.
done to me. And, man, I screamed that
out at the top of my lungs!
Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images
I got in the ambulance and that’s when
my emotions did get to me, and I broke
down. I got to the track hospital, and my
dad came in, and his first words after
“Are you OK?” were, “You can have this if
you want it. He was under the white line
when he was coming past.” That year
USAC had said you cannot improve your
position or pass anyone under the white
line. I said, “Dad, he’s the one in Victory
Lane drinking the milk right now. I’m
not going to get that back. Yeah, he was
wrong in what he did, but I don’t want to
win it like this.”
Then my PR person kept coming in,
saying, “ABC’s outside, they want a word
and they need it now,” so I started to
truly think about what had transpired
this day. I had put in the greatest drive of
my life, it hadn’t turned out the way I
wanted, but I was in contention to win
the Indy 500 and the reason we’d lost it
wasn’t my mistake, wasn’t my crew’s
mistake, wasn’t my team’s mistake and
it wasn’t Emerson’s mistake. It was racing
and that’s what we do. If there’s something
you want that bad, you can be sure you’re
not the only one that wants it! And I
knew Emmo as a person and knew he
wouldn’t harm anyone on purpose. He
genuinely cared about his fellow drivers.
So I came out of the hospital and said
words to that effect – that there are times
when we’re all racing and nothing
matters except the trophy. Not your life,
not someone else’s life, and certainly not
money: Winning is the only thing that
matters. And the only thing that mattered
for Emerson and I going into Turn 3 was
winning – and there was only going to be
one car that came out of there.