Racing fans were heartbroken last week to learn that the oldest person ever to win the Indianapolis 500 had passed away.
The Washington Examiner reports that Al Unser died at his home in Chama, New Mexico, on Thursday following a 17-year battle with cancer. He was 82.
Part of a racing dynasty
Unser was was 47 when he won his fourth and last Indy 500. He is survived by his wife Susan along with his son, who is himself a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, the Examiner reported.
According to a statement put out by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, “Unser followed his three older brothers and the generation of Unser brothers before them into auto racing.”
The statement added that Unser was only the second person in racing history to take home four victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with the first win coming in 1970. What’s more, he was the only driver ever to have both a son and a sibling also win the Indy 500.
His son, Al Unser, Jr., released an emotional tweet following his father’s death. “My heart is so saddened. My father passed away last night. He was a Great man and even a Greater Father,” he said. “Rest In Peace Dad!”
Racers pay tribute
Fellow racer Helio Castroneves also shared fond memories of Unser Sr., telling the Associated Press, “I will always remember Big Al welcoming me to the speedway.”
“He and Johnny Rutherford were the two helping me with my rookie orientation,” Castroneves recalled.
According to the AP, motorsport legend Mario Andretti characterized the elder Unser as “one of the smartest drivers I ever raced against.”
“I often said that I wished I could have had some of his patience,” Andretti said. Meanwhile, racing team owner Roger Penske told the AP that the star racer “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.”
“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,” Penske said of the late champion.
“Our thoughts are with the Unser family as they mourn the loss of a man that was beloved across the racing world and beyond,” he added.