BOBBY, AL & AL JR.
Was there ever a chance of any of you
guys doing anything with your careers
other than racing?
BOBBY UNSER Chase girls, drink whisky
and race cars…what else was there?
AL UNSER JR. For me, no. I was six years
old when Uncle Bobby won the Indy 500
for the first time and eight when Dad won
it the first time. From that point on, the
Indy 500 was the only thing on my mind.
AL UNSER I don’t think anything except
racing was on our minds. Just in case
something happened to me while racing, I
did operate a business, but if you’re talking
true ambition, then it was only ever racing.
BOBBY Same with me. I started when I was
15, won my first championship when I was
16 and figured, “Why go to school and race
cars?” So I quit school. Not very smart. I
had a garage here in town and I made just
enough money to raise a couple of kids, but
racing was the thing.
How soon did you notice that the Bobby
and Al racing styles were very different?
AL I never paid attention to it at the time,
but sure, my style was very different. Bobby
was like Mario [Andretti] – wanted to lead
every lap. I only had to lead one, the last
one. No one remembers who led lap one, or
25, or 50, or whatever. The crowd loved
Bobby, because he’d just unscrew his brain
and go after it from the green flag.
BOBBY But when Al had a good car, he’d put
that sucker on pole and win from the front.
He was very fast when things were right.
AL JR. For example, 1970…
On that note, Bobby, from 1971 through
’ 74, you had “most laps led” each season,
but only in ’ 74 did it translate to a series
title. Did something change in your driving,
or was it the Eagle becoming more reliable?
BOBBY The Eagle became more reliable
when Gurney cut the boost, but I carried on
running as hard as ever. The most important
thing for a driver to do to turn from a pay
driver to a paid driver is practice fast, qualify
fast, lead the race. Then everyone takes
notice – media, team owners, sponsors. So
even if he never wins, that driver will always
have a job. That was always my theory and I
always had a job for the following season. I
was never without a racecar lined up.
AL Yeah, he always had a team owner lined
up, supposedly. No prize money, but
another team owner…
BOBBY Yes I did, believe me. I think if
drivers race like that, they don’t need to
worry about sponsor deals.
But for both of you, the back and forth
from front- to rear-engined cars, dirt to
paved ovals, ovals to road courses – that
BOBBY It was super-super-easy for us. Some
drivers were never gonna be road racers –
Gordon Johncock and Johnny Rutherford,
for example – because they didn’t like it. But
to Unsers, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones or Mario,
it didn’t make any difference whether we
ran go-karts or golf-carts; we adapted. Some
people said the Unsers weren’t road racers
like the Formula 1 guys, but what on earth
did they think Pikes Peak was? 160 turns,
and if they all went left, you’d be out there
in a mountain ravine somewhere. You learn
to turn to the right, to slide the car, control
the cars and change gears smoothly.
Made 19 starts at
Indy, winning in
1968, ’ 75 and ’ 81
(his final one). He
made 258 Indy car
starts, winning the
in ’ 68 and ’ 74. Won
35 races, which
puts him fifth in
took 49 poles.
INDY 500 DEBUT
The ’ 75 Indy 500 was
stopped early for rain.
Bobby, who scored Eagle’s
first Indy win in ’ 68, thus
gave Gurney’s works AAR
Eagle team its sole “500.”
“Some said the Unsers
weren’t good road racers.
What on earth did they
think Pikes Peak was?”