Al Unser jr

Full Name:
Alfred Unser jr
Born:
19th April 1962 (Age 56)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Nationality:
American
Most recent race (in database):
Biography

The battle between Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr was a classic era for the Champ Car World Series. Once touted as America’s next Formula 1 star, Unser enjoyed periods of outstanding success in his career but also of great despair. However, this third-generation racing driver remains an example of the offspring living up to the hype.

Family background and early racing career

The son of four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Sr, there was little doubt which career “Little Al” would choose. He raced sprint cars when only 11 years old and World of Outlaws on leaving school. After landing the 1981 Super Vee title driving Rick Galles’ Ralt RT5, he drove the team’s Frissbee GR3-Chevrolet to win the 1982 Can-Am Challenge.

That success led to his Champ Car debut in the 1982 Aircal 500Kms at Riverside with Gerry Forsythe’s March 82C-Cosworth. Fifth that day, he rejoined Galles (a Phoenix car dealer and long-standing family business associate) for a full Champ Car season in 1983 initially with a new Eagle-Cosworth. Second at Elkhart Lake, he repeated that result having switched to a March 83C for the next race at Pocono.

Champ Car success with Galles and Shierson

A winner for the first time at Portland in 1984, he all-but won the following year’s title having switched to Doug Shierson’s Domino’s Pizza Lola T900-Cosworth. He scored back-to-back victories at the Meadowlands and Cleveland and was only beaten by his father at the final round by a single point.

Unser won the Daytona 24 Hours in 1986 and 1987 driving Al Holbert’s Porsche 962 and he was fourth in the 1987 Indianapolis 500 with Shierson’s March 87C-Cosworth as his father won the race for the fourth time. The youngster also won the all-star IROC title on two occasions during the 1980s.

Return to Galles and title success

Unser returned to Galles Racing in 1988 and finished as championship runner-up with a Valvoline March 88C-Chevrolet as Penske’s Danny Sullivan prevailed. He almost won the 1989 Indy 500 only to be knocked into the Turn 3 wall by eventual winner Emerson Fittipaldi with two laps to go.

Classified second that day, he finally won the Champ Car World Series in 1990 after his Lola T90/00-Chevy outpaced Michael Andretti as the new generation emerged from the shadows of their famous fathers.

Formula 1 and first Indianapolis win

Reportedly offered a Brabham F1 drive in 1983, Unser tested a Williams FW14-Renault at Estoril in late 1991 but he failed to impress when compared with the Grand Prix stars of the time. Unser and Galles gambled on building its own Alan Mertens-designed Galmer G92 chassis for 1992. There was only one win in an otherwise inconsistent year but what a win. Unser beat Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds in the closest Indy 500 finish in history.

Penske Racing and Indycar switch

He joined the Penske "Super Team" in 1994 and dominated the series and the Indy 500 – winning both for a second time in what was his most competitive campaign. He remained in the Marlboro-backed team for five seasons, scoring four wins in 1995 but those were his last in the category.

When Penske then looked for new blood at the end of the decade, Unser returned to Galles in the rival Indy Racing League. Victory in the third race of 2000 was promising but despite two more in the category, Unser was a troubled man. Rumours of personal difficulties and an alcohol problem emerged.

These came to a head in the early hours of July 9 2002 when he was arrested on charges of domestic battery. A contrite Unser did race again but his reputation had been tarnished. Further drink-driving charges in 2007 and 2011 showed his continued battle with his demons. He raced for a last time in the 2007 Indianapolis 500.

Championship seasons

Season Name Starts Poles Podiums Wins Position Points
2007 IRL IndyCar Series
AJ Foyt Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
32nd 10
2006 IRL IndyCar Series
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
35th 12
2004 IRL IndyCar Series
Patrick Racing
3 0 0 0
0% win rate
25th 44
2003 IRL IndyCar Series
Kelley Racing
16 0 1 1
7% win rate
6th 374
2002 Indy Racing League
Kelley Racing
13 0 2 0
0% win rate
7th 311
2001 Indy Racing Northern Light Series
Galles Racing
13 0 2 1
8% win rate
7th 287
2000 Indy Racing Northern Light Series
Galles Racing
9 0 3 1
12% win rate
9th 188
1999 FedEx Championship Series
Marlboro Team Penske
17 (1) 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 26
1998 FedEx Championship Series
Marlboro Team Penske
19 0 2 0
0% win rate
11th 72
1997 PPG CART World Series
Marlboro Team Penske
17 0 1 0
0% win rate
13th 67
1996 PPG Indycar World Series
Marlboro Team Penske
16 0 4 0
0% win rate
4th 125
1995 PPG Indycar World Series
Marlboro Team Penske
16 (1) 0 7 4
25% win rate
2nd 161
1994 PPG Indycar World Series
Marlboro Team Penske
16 4 11 8
50% win rate
1st 225
1993 PPG Indycar World Series
Galles Racing
16 0 1 1
7% win rate
7th 100
1993 Winston Cup 81st 55
1992 PPG Indycar World Series
Galles-Kraco Racing
16 1 6 1
7% win rate
3rd 169
1991 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles-Kraco Racing
17 0 7 2
12% win rate
3rd 197
1990 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles-Kraco Racing
16 1 10 6
38% win rate
1st 210
1989 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles Racing
15 1 5 1
7% win rate
5th 136
1988 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles Racing
15 0 5 4
27% win rate
2nd 149
1988 International Race Of Champions 1st -
1987 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Holbert Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1987 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Shierson Racing
15 0 4 0
0% win rate
3rd 107
1986 International Race Of Champions 1st -
1986 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Holbert Racing
2 0 2 2 0
1986 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Shierson Racing
17 0 4 1
6% win rate
4th 136
1985 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Shierson Racing
15 0 8 2
14% win rate
2nd 150
1985 IMSA Camel GT Championship
Holbert Racing
1 0 1 1 0
1984 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles Racing
16 0 3 1
7% win rate
6th 103
1983 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Galles Racing
13 0 2 0
0% win rate
7th 89
1982 CART/PPG Indycar World Series
Forsythe Racing
1 0 0 0
0% win rate
21st 30
1982 SCCA Budweiser 7/11 Can-Am Challenge
Galles Racing
4 0 4 4 1st 0
1981 North American Super Vee Championship 1st -
1981 World Endurance Championship 3 0 0 0 219th 12