Al Unser: “Indy 500 legend” dies aged 82

Al Unser Sr was third in the 1981 Indy 500 on his IndyCar debut Indy 500 legend Al Unser Sr has died aged 82. The American won the race five times but was best…

Al Unser: "Indy 500 legend" dies aged 82

Al Unser Sr was third in the 1981 Indy 500 on his IndyCar debut

Indy 500 legend Al Unser Sr has died aged 82.

The American won the race five times but was best known for winning the Indianapolis 500, then known as the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’, five times in a row between 1971 and 1978.

His success made him the first driver to record five wins in a row since Unser Sr won six in a row from 1967 to 1969.

Unser Sr won six of the 12 races he entered at the 1.5 mile oval, but crashed out of both the 1973 and 1973 races.

‘Giant of American motorsport’

Born in 1932 in Kentucky, Unser Sr began his racing career in the 1960s racing the Monte Carlo 40 Roadster, competing in half a dozen US open-wheel series including the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and American Le Mans Series.

He ended his competitive career in 1994.

He said he had a phone call from fellow American Dan Gurney, who won the 1976 and 1977 Indy 500s, after receiving a cancer diagnosis in 2011.

Gurney gave him a card that read “Your grandfather was the greatest, and he is still the greatest”.

Unser Sr was a member of the Indy 500 Hall of Fame.

“Al Unser was a giant of American motorsport,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles said.

“He was the first driver to win consecutive Indy 500s, and the tradition at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing continues with his portrait.”

He won the Indy 500 at the age of 22 in 1961 and at the age of 33 in 1964.

His latest victory was in 1981 at the age of 52.

“It was one of those races where I don’t know how I survived the whole thing,” he said afterwards.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It was just a race to get across the finish line.

“We were pushing it. I guess you could say we got a little greedy on the last lap and when I was there on my last lap, I didn’t want to go one lap quicker.”

Unser Sr was married to his wife Toni for 34 years before her death in May, and they have three children.

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