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  • Writer's pictureDean Hempel

Honoring a great racing family...

Godspeed Bobby and Al Unser. With word of Big Al's passing, it brought back some really fond memories of my time at Indy time trials. My father's cousin was the Pennzoil distributor for southern Indiana. Although we couldn't get prime tickets for the big event, we made our way from St. Louis to Evansville and then to Indy for one of those weekends for the time trials. In a typical year, we were in the pit area close to one of the many Pennzoil sponsored cars.

Having the name Dean, I was especially attracted to the Dean Van Lines -- Dean Special. Keeping in mind that maybe one person in a family would have a camera and film was expensive, not too many pictures were taken. Thankfully, we have great memories of our experiences at those Indy events.

The Unser family was definitely one of the great racing families. With Jerry and Bobby Unser setting the pace. Younger brother Al was well trained for driving the Indy cars as well as the racing throughout the Southwest. Al took the checkered flag at the big race in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987. He's joined by A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Helio Castroneves as 4-time winners. Al's brother Bobby, who also died in 2021, was a 3-time Indy 500 winner ('68, '75, '81).

The Unser racing tradition continued to the next generation with Johnny and Robby Unser and Al Jr. Each of these cousins have made their own names as competitive drivers. So, in 2021 we've lost two of the legends of this racing family, The Unsers.

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