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Six-time race winner famed for driving impossible 200mph No-1 car that took off in 1958, dies after lengthy battle with cancer
Al Unser Sr, an eight-time Indianapolis 500 winner nicknamed “Al the Thrill” for his wheel-spinning speed, has died aged 82.
Unser, a six-time race winner and the father of Indy 500 winner and four-time champion Al Unser Jr, died in a Santa Fe hospital where he had been receiving treatment for a long battle with cancer, the family said.
Unser was a legendary figure in the racing world, having challenged Jack Brabham and A.J. Foyt for the Indy 500 championship during the late 60s and early 70s and becoming a pioneer on the track.
His famous No-1 driven by Brendan Gilliland and driven in every Indy 500 since 1968, is considered one of the fastest engines in the world.
Unser won the Indy 500 in 1973, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1979 and 1980.
During that time he raced for Branford Brimhall and then started his own series, Performance Racing, in 1975.
Over his racing career he also won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500 twin 250cc races, the Alabama 250, the Santa Monica 300, the Toyota Sports 500 and was crowned the Formula C champion on several occasions.
“We lost a legend, a true hero, a true NASCAR family member,” said Kyle Larson, the leader of this weekend’s Camping World Truck Series at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Nobody had a more incredible motor than Al Unser Sr. He was an Indy 500 winner, a Daytona 500 winner, an Indianapolis 500 winner and had racing’s most iconic race car ever built in his No-1 chassis. He brought excitement to the sport and we’re going to miss him a lot.”
A spokesman for Mike Helton, president of the USGA, said that the golf body would mourn the passing of Unser.
“We’re extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Al Unser,” he said. “Al was a three-time champion of the USGA, including the 1947 Open Championship. We appreciate his many contributions to the Open as he participated in the call for the trophy in 1948.
“He was an iconic sportsman in NASCAR and left his mark on the car, homebuilding industry and sportswriting. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time.”