Al Unser, Sr. on turning 81, plus tractors and alpacas
Today we’re celebrating Al Unser Sr.’s 81st birthday. The youngest brother in a family of royal speed, Al continued the Unser legacy following in the footsteps of father Jerry, brothers Bobby and Jerry, Jr., and uncles Louis and Joe.
Al represents the golden era of motorsports, when drivers often hopped into any empty racing seat available, and his career shows it. He’s tied with A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears with the most Indy 500 wins, swigging the celebratory milk in the winner’s circle four times. His track record of 39 race wins—in what was then known as Champ Car—showed that his Indy 500 wins weren’t simply flukes, and he would start in over 300 races during his 28-year run in the series. Before the high-banked apex of his career, he also chased the 14,115-foot top of Pikes Peak, winning outright in 1963 and 1964. In those days, the Colorado peak was better known as Unser Mountain among the automotive community, thanks to the Unser family’s penchant for occupying the winner’s circle of America’s infamous hill climb. Sprinkle in a few NASCAR races and a 1978 championship in IROC, and you get a picture of just how diverse Unser, Sr.’s driving talents were.
Tony Parella, President and CEO of the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) recently sat down with Al for a quick interview to talk life and alpacas. It’s a genuinely fun look at the legend’s love affair of speed.