Not too many motor sport autobiographies begin with the protagonist pointing a gun at his own head with the genuine intention of pulling the trigger. Nothing about A Checkered Past is normal, especially in the context of straight-up and serious racing books.
Then again, the same can be said of Al Unser Jr. Born into one of the great American motor sport families, ‘Little Al’ followed in the best traditions of his namesake father and uncle Bobby to become an IndyCar legend. But he also created a few less illustrious traditions all of his own, in a double life that was dominated and almost destroyed by drug addiction and alcoholism.
Inside the IndyCar paddock, it was an open secret from early in his stunningly successful racing career that Unser Jr liked to “party”, as the Americans so quaintly put it. But it was only in the past 20 years that the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner’s life spiralled out of control and spilled into the public glare. Arrests for drink driving and domestic violence lifted the veil and shocked an IndyCar fanbase that places its heroes on high pedestals, as the life and career of an increasingly puffy-looking Junior dwindled into sad, sponsor-less obscurity.