The News-Times

Unser’s death hits rivals hard


INDIANAPOL­IS — Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt and Al Unser embraced their fierce competitio­n on the racetrack.

Andretti and Foyt, the two biggest rivals in IndyCar history, each respected Unser for another reason — his ability to race hard, fair and smart.

Unser, one of only four drivers to win the Indianapol­is 500 four times and one of the most successful drivers in IndyCar history, died early Friday at his home in New Mexico. He was 82.

To giants of the sport, such as Andretti and Foyt, Unser’s trademark style was what set him apart during the series’ greatest generation.

“Parnelli ( Jones) always used to say Al knew how to be aggressive and patient at the same time, which was really important in those days because of the reliabilit­y of the equipment,“Andretti told The Associated Press, referring to the team owner who paired Unser and himself as teammates in the 1970s. “He knew when to be patient, when he had to be patient and everyone was falling by the wayside. He was very astute about what he needed to do in racing and everybody admired for him it.“

While fans revered the sometimes heated IndyCar rivalries of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Unser found a way to carve out his own niche amid Foyt’s flamboyanc­e and Andretti’s popularity. Even his more outspoken older brother, Bobby, a three-time 500 winner, developed his own fan following before going into broadcasti­ng. Bobby Unser died in May.

Al Unser’s quiet, affable personalit­y led to lifelong friendship­s in the racing community — even with those he beat en route to 39 career victories.

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