The Greatest Day on the Racing Calendar: A look back at Indianapolis 500

Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Race executive chairman International Speedway Corporation (ISC)

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, who oversaw the Speedway for four decades before his death, will be remembered for securing the legendary Speedway as a nexus of racing.

Unser, a four-time winner of the iconic race at Indianapolis, died on Wednesday aged 82, having gone to a hospice facility recently.

The Brazilian-born driver originally came to prominence on US roads, winning four of the first five Formula 1 championships.

His ties to the US’s road racing movement were something of a story all of his own – ‘Fernet’, as he was known, explained himself at his first home race in Fort Myers in 1965, when he went on to say: “I wouldn’t live in Brazil if I could make more money on the track.”

Just a week later Unser won his first Indy 500, aided by a cold that hampered the rest of the field, and in 1965 he passed Michael Andretti and Barber Knepper to become the youngest race winner in Indianapolis history.

Three years later, on the way to becoming the oldest driver to win the race, Unser became the only driver to break around two hours, and the only driver to cross the finish line first in all three years that it was held on Indianapolis’ streets.

His Indianapolis wins would be followed up by three at the Indy 500. Unser won the race in 1970, 1973 and 1978.

Indy 500 Champion Winners 17 (1959, 1963, 1969, 1972, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1982, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1981, 1982, 1982, 1992, 1996, 1998, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2014)

Prior to that he won the Corkscrew at Monmouth Raceway, known to F1 insiders as the ‘ex-Ayrton Senna Special’.

However, it was more than on-track achievements that saw Unser one of the greatest icons in American racing history.

He held both the NASCAR Hall of Fame and Hall of Fame of Motorsport leadership posts, and in 1984 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame, becoming the oldest person to be to inducted.

In the 1980s he helped bring several world-class touring car races to the Speedway, including the Canadian Grand Prix.

In 1988, at the age of 61, he entered the record books again when he became the first driver – male or female – to win all three Indy 500 races in one year.

Meanwhile, his work at the Speedway – which was also responsible for the Izod IndyCar Series – continued to this day, with chief executive International Speedway Corporation (ISC) overseeing the history-making relocation of the Brickyard 400 – a major Formula 1 event – from Michigan to the Speedway itself in 2013.

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