Al Unser Sr. Dies: Four-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner & Prominent Member Of Racing Dynasty Was 82

Al Unser, Sr. with car he drove to victory in the 1971 Indy 500 (2005) AP Photo/Jake Schoellkopf

Al Unser Sr., a four-time winner of the Indianapolis 500 and member of one of racing’s most prominent dynasties, died of cancer yesterday at his home in Chama, N.M. He was 82.

His death was announced by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his son, Al Unser Jr.

“My heart is so saddened,” tweeted Unser Jr. this morning. “My father passed away last night. He was a Great man and even a Greater Father. Rest In Peace Dad!”

One of only four Indy 500 winners to claim the victory four times, Unser won the race inΒ 1970, 1971, 1978 and, in a victory that made him, at 47, the oldest winner, 1987.

Unser’s brother Bobby – a three-time Indy winner – died earlier this year. In addition to Al Jr., other racing members of the Unser family include Al and Bobby’s brother Jerry, Bobby’s son Robby and Jerry’s son Johnny.

Over the years, Unser became a familiar emissary from the world of racing to the general public, appearing on many talk shows throughout the 1960s and ’70s (he even appeared on the first TV special of The Carpenters in 1976), and in the 1980s and ’90s occasionally visited the late night shows of racing enthusiast David Letterman. In 1997, he appeared as himself on the Tim Allen sitcom Home Improvement.

Al Unser Jr. and Al Unser Sr. (2003) AP Photo/Tom Strattman

Born in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Alfred Unser started racing at age 18 in 1957, entering the Indianapolis 500 for the first time in 1965. He retired from racing in 1994, his place in racing’s history books assured.

Today, some of auto racing’s biggest names paid tribute to Unser. “I feel loss & sadness at the passing of Al Unser,” tweeted Mario Andretti. “One of the top 5 racers who has ever lived – and the kindest, calmest, smartest, toughest, most fun, well-liked guy ever. Our most fun was on dirt; here he and I battled and laughed at DuQuoin Illinois- and then had a beer. RIP”

“RIP Al Unser,” tweeted Jeff Gordon.

Tweeted the Indianapolis Motor Speedway organization, “An icon and hero to racing fans around the world. A history-making and beloved member of the #IMS family. 4-time #Indy500 winner Al Unser has passed away at age 82. Godspeed, racer.”

In addition to Al Jr., Unser is survived by wife Susan. He was predeceased by daughters Mary and Deborah.

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