Racecar legend Al Unser, a four-time winner of the Indy 500, died Thursday at the age of 82 at his home in Chama, New Mexico, after a 17-year battle with cancer, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Friday.
Unser, who was the oldest person to win the Indy 500, is survived by his wife, Susan, who was with him when he died, and his son, Al Unser Jr., who won the Indy 500 twice. He is the only driver in history to have both a sibling and son win Indianapolis's most famous race.
“My heart is so saddened. My father passed away last night,” his son tweeted. “He was a Great man and even a Greater Father. Rest In Peace Dad!”
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Unser was the youngest of four brothers, all of whom raced professionally. His oldest brother, Jerry, was the first to qualify for the Indy 500 in 1958 before he died during a practice in 1959. His father and two uncles were also drivers.
Unser is the third person in the famous racing family to die this year. His older brother Bobby died in May at the age of 87, and Bobby's son Bobby Unser Jr. died six weeks later at the age of 65 from blood clots following hip surgery, according to the Albuquerque Journal.
Unser is one of only four men to win the Indy 500 four times, a feat accomplished by A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and, most recently, Helio Castroneves, who won his fourth Indy 500 in May. Castroneves said Unser was at the race in May to welcome him to the club.
“I will always remember Big Al welcoming me to the speedway,” Castroneves said, according to the Associated Press. “He and Johnny Rutherford were the two helping me with my rookie orientation. He will be missed.”
Unser won the Indy 500 in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987. Unser has also thrice won the Indy Car national championship and International Race of Champions. Unser was supposed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his first Indy 500 last year. However, it was postponed due to the pandemic.
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Unser won his final Indy 500 racing for Roger Penske, a former race car driver and entrepreneur who owns Team Penske.
Penske commented on the loss of Unser, calling him one of the greatest drivers to race in Indianapolis.
“Al was the quiet leader of the Unser family, a tremendous competitor and one of the greatest drivers to ever race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Penske said. “We were honored to help Al earn a place in history with his fourth Indy victory ... and he will always be a big part of our team. Our thoughts are with the Unser family as they mourn the loss of a man that was beloved across the racing world and beyond.”
Unser's trophies and cars are on display at the Unser Racing Museum in Albuquerque.