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Auto Racing – 1987 – Indy 500 – Historic Al Unser Sr Run To The Finish While Capturing His 4th Indy

In 1987, Roger Penske’s slate of drivers included Rick Mears, Danny Sullivan and Danny Ongais….as Al Unser Sr. was dropped from the team and entered the month of May without a ride….when during the first week of practice….Al Sr. spent much of the week shopping for a ride…..and a few offers were made by owners…..which Al Sr. refused….as he insisted on landing a ride in a competitive, well-funded car only…..when he planned on staying through the week…..and if he did not have a ride by the end of the first week of time trials…..then he was planning to return home……however, coincidentally, his son Al Unser Jr. was having difficulty with his Shierson Racing car’s handling…..when Al Jr. had not qualified by the end of the first weekend of time trials….so, Al Sr. agreed to stay through the week in order to help his son get his car up to speed.

Danny Ongais crashed into the wall during the first week of practice…..while suffering a serious concussion….and was declared unfit to drive.  Meanwhile, the Penske team’s new Penske PC-16 chassis had been uncompetitive during practice…..so, by the end of the first week of practice….Penske parked the PC-16s and elected to qualify back-up cars for the race…..as Mears and Sullivan were provided 1986 March-Ilmor Chevrolet machines…..with a third car, a 1986 March-Cosworth, was planned for third driver.

Midway through the second week of practice, Roger Penske consummated a deal with Al Sr. to drive the third car…..while promising Unser a well-funded effort….and a brand new Cosworth engine….which was the same chassis/engine combination that had won the previous four Indy 500’s.  The year-old March was removed from a Penske Racing display at a Sheraton hotel in the team’s hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania…..as it was hurriedly prepared for a return to active competition…..when Unser easily qualified for the field on the third day of time trials.

At the start Al Unser Sr. was in the 20th position….and on a day with heavy attrition felled most of the field’s front-runners…..including the overwhelmingly dominant Newman-Haas entry of Mario Andretti…. when Unser worked his way steadily forward and took the lead on the 183rd lap….after Roberto Guerrero’s car stalled on his final pit stop from Hell….while averaging 162.175 mph (260.995 km/h)….Unser Sr. bested a charging Guerrero by 4.5 seconds to win his fourth Indy 500….just five days before his 48th birthday….thus tying A J Foyt as the Indy 500 driver with the most wins…..while breaking brother Bobby’s record as the oldest Indy winner…..in truly a historic auto racing last 20 laps at the I987 Indy 500.

 

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