Al Unser Jr., the three-time Indianapolis 500 champion and race-car driver who famously had to endure a long, hot bath in the cockpit of his racer in the 1970s to simulate a rear-end crash, died on Thursday. He was 82.
Al Unser Jr. always stuck to business. pic.twitter.com/yXxGMOA3Uo — IndyCar (@IndyCar) February 16, 2018
According to news reports, Unser Jr. had recently suffered a pulmonary embolism, for which he was treated at a hospital in Houston. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2014.
Unser Jr. first started racing as a teenager and is the father of racer-driver Paul Unser. In 1969, he became the first driver from a U.S. team to win the Indy 500; the victory was followed by a second win in 1970. The victory in 1975 made him only the second driver to win the Indy 500 in back-to-back years; he was also the first American to win the race, though he was forced to end his second victory in 1952 due to funding issues.
He went on to drive for Team Penske from 1977 until his retirement in 1982. During his career, he finished in the top eight of the Indy 500 a total of 21 times, and the year he finished seventh in 1979, he broke the record for consecutive starts at the race (53) — and the world championship (3).
Last month, Al Unser Jr. and his sister Janet teamed up to announce that their father’s car, the 1978 Chevrolet Malibu L, is about to be restored and used again.
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Al Unser, Jr. won the Indianapolis 500 once in 1988. He had actually won the race in 1978.
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