FORT WORTH, Texas — Al Unser Sr., an iconic racer who enjoyed a Hall of Fame career and celebrated a 25-year marriage to wife Linda, died at his home in Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday. He was 82.
It was unclear what caused his death, but the Indianapolis 500 will become especially sad at race time this year when Unser Sr. was unable to be in his hometown. The two were married in 1974.
In his racing career, Unser drove the first two Indy 500s — and the first of his two top-three finishes. He was second in 1972.
Unser is the son of sprint car champion Al Unser, who won Indy in 1968.
“Al was the father I never had,” Danny Sullivan said Thursday.
Sullivan, who won the Indy 500 in 1986 and 1990, remembered meeting Unser for the first time.
“He made me nervous,” Sullivan said, recalling how nervous he was in his race car as he met Unser. “I wouldn’t have got the ride I got if Al hadn’t been hot. He was like a magnet.”
Unser spoke of his idol at the 2006 Indy 500.
“Car racing, just like in football and basketball, is a great team sport,” Unser said. “Not just individuals, but it’s true. Our teammates had to understand that if I have a bad start, they have to come with me. It’s a team sport. Our top organizations are very much like any team.”
Unser raced American-made Beech Brougham, Plymouth Fury and Ryan-Lambretta. He won 46 U.S. open-wheel races, with 42 of those wins coming with the team-owned Beech Brougham.