JUNE 30, 2004
Al Unser Jr to retire
Al Unser Jr, one of the biggest stars of the Indycar scene in the last 20 years, is set to announce his retirement later today. The 42-year-old from New Mexico won CART titles in 1990 and 1994, the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 and 1994 and the Daytona 24 Hours in 1986 and 1987. He was the Formula Atlantic Champion of 1981 and won the CanAm title in 1982, making his move into Indycars that same year with fifth place at the Michigan International Speedway. He did a full season of CART in 1983 and in September was offered the job of being Nelson Piquet's team mate at Brabham by team boss Bernie Ecclestone. Unser declined the offer as he wanted to win the Indianapolis 500. Unser Jr. did not test in F1 until the autumn of 1991 when he ran a Williams-Renault at Estoril, alongside Riccardo Patrese and the then test driver Damon Hill. He later had a seat fitting with Benetton in 1992 but never tested for the team.
The retirement of Unser will mean that IRL will lose its second big American name in 14 months as it will follow the decision by Michael Andretti to quit the sport in May 2003.
In recent years Unser has been troubled with alcohol and sought treatment for the problem, missing two races in the summer of 2002.
It is unlikely that we have heard the last of the Unser dynasty (among their many achievements Al Jr's uncle Bobby was an F1 driver) and Al's son Al Unser III, who is 21, is expected to move up to the IRL's development series, the Infiniti Pro Series, having recently completed a rookie test and tested with Keith Duesenberg's team.
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