Could Al Unser III be making an open-wheel comeback?

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A few years ago, as Paul Tracy’s driving career in the Verizon IndyCar Series began to wound down, the Canadian champion-turned-NBCSN analyst spent the winter providing a series of cryptic tweets about his plans.

He never let on exactly what they were, but the mystery was such that without a proper farewell tour behind the wheel, we were all intrigued by the process. It even led me to create the now-sparingly, but then-frequently used “#CrypticLikePT” hashtag.

Tracy, you may remember, was longtime teammates with Al Unser Jr. at Team Penske in the 1990s.

And via our third degree in the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, this brings us logically to Al Unser III – a.k.a. “Mini Al” or “Just Al” – who’s been out of competitive racing for nearly a decade but is going full #CrypticLikePT following a return to Twitter after a seven-year hiatus.

On January 13, Al III posted this tweet:

You wouldn’t think too much of it as a one-off, but the fact that several subsequent tweets have followed adds more fuel to the fire.

The reference to Indy clearly indicates a desire – or at the very least, an interest – for Unser to return to the North American open-wheel scene.

Unser, now 33, raced in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires – then known as the Infiniti and later Indy Pro Series – over 21 starts from 2004 to 2008 with limited success. His best finish was third on five occasions. He also made 16 starts in Formula Atlantic from 2004 to 2006, with a best finish of fourth three times.

His most recent starts, in 2008, then featured one of the more bizarre racing stories in recent memory.

I remember this well because 2008 was my first year where I covered more than one IndyCar race on site, and the gap from the Indianapolis 500 to my home race in Milwaukee witnessed what we thought was the end of Unser’s racing career.

Basically, Unser drove for a team called Playa Del Racing in Indy Lights. The team was an Indy 500-only entrant in the pre-mergification years before 2008, when the Verizon IndyCar Series came back together to reunite IndyCar and Champ Car.

Playa Del Racing didn’t really have much going for it, running old Panoz chassis to more or less fill the field prior to 2008. They did at least provide a chance for underrated American driver Phil Giebler to make his Indy 500 debut in 2007, where he won race rookie-of-the-year honors.

A new guy not too many people had heard of called Eric Zimmerman reportedly purchased the assets of PDR’s IndyCar and Indy Lights teams going into the month of May, and rebranded the team as American Dream Motorsports.

Giebler, in the only Panoz entered, tried his damndest to make it into the field for a second year without much of a prayer and crashed hard to write off the chassis. It was the last time a Panoz chassis attempted to qualify for the race, and the Dallara-Honda spec era started then for the next four ‘500s. Unser, meanwhile, finished a forgettable 11th in the Freedom 100, but had advanced from 19th on a 27-car grid (yes, Indy Lights had 20-plus car fields and yes, I wish they could get back to that number as well).

The story got weird after Indy. Via a message board, tracked by Trackside Online and one of racing’s blogging pioneers Jeff Iannucci for the much-lamented My Name is IRL blog, from initial reports out of KVBC (now KSNV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas), Zimmerman reportedly drove the team’s transporter himself from Indy to Milwaukee. Or at least planned to, because he got taken into police custody in Kenosha, Wisconsin on the way alleging from stiffing some kids in Nevada. Again, allegedly.

Unser was at Milwaukee but wasn’t driving, his place due to be taken by Tony Turco out of Cincinnati. But while the car was on site – somehow with the remaining patchwork group of ADM members taking the car and transporter to Milwaukee – it never turned a wheel on track. And then according to one of the ADM crew members, Turco up and left with the transporter after Milwaukee and drove it back to Cincinnati.

This all leads back, somehow, to this series of tweets from Unser III. It would seem right the 100th Indianapolis 500 would have an Unser in the field, even if the chances of Unser’s tweets referring to IndyCar aren’t set in stone. But this is a race where between Al Jr. (2), “Big Al” (4) and Bobby Unser (3), the Unser family has nine wins, and where three other family members (Jerry, Johnny and Robby Unser) have started the race.

In total, the Unser family has 74 starts in the ‘500 (Al 27, Al Jr. 19, Bobby 19, Johnny 5, Robby 3, Jerry 1), with at least one Unser in the field nearly every year from 1958 to 2007.

Will these tweets lead to anything more than a “pipe dream” post about “what if” Al Unser III can make a comeback of his own? It remains to be seen. But it would be a hell of a story if it does.

IndyCar results, points after 107th Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS — With his first victory in the Indy 500, Josef Newgarden became the first repeat winner through six race results of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series season and made a move in the points.

Newgarden, who celebrated with fans in the grandstands, moved from sixth to fourth in the championship standings with his 27th career victory and second this season (he also won at Texas Motor Speedway).

The Team Penske star won his 12th attempt at the Brickyard oval, tying the record for most starts before an Indy 500 victory with Tony Kanaan (2013) and Sam Hanks (1957). Newgarden, whose previous best Indy 500 finish was third with Ed Carpenter Racing in 2016, became the first Tennessee native to win the Greatest Spectacle in Racing and the first American since Alexander Rossi in 2016.

He also delivered the record 19th Indy 500 triumph to Roger Penske, whose team ended a four-year drought on the 2.5-mile oval and won for the first time since he became the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in 2020.

Newgarden, 32, led five laps, the third-lowest total for an Indy 500 winner behind Joe Dawson (two in 1912) and Dan Wheldon (one in 2011).

The race featured 52 lead changes, the third most behind 68 in 2013 and 54 in ’16, among 14 drivers (tied with ’13 for the second highest behind 15 leaders in ’17 and ’18). Newgarden’s 0.0974-second victory over Marcus Ericsson was the fourth-closest in Indy 500 history behind 1992 (0.043 of a second for Al Unser Jr. over Scott Goodyear), 2014 (0.0600 of a second for Ryan Hunter-Reay over Helio Castroneves) and 2006 (0.0635 of a second Sam Hornish Jr. over Marco Andretti.).

It also marked only the third last-lap pass in Indy 500 history — all within the past 17 years (Hornish over Andretti in 2006; Wheldon over J.R. Hildebrand in 2011).

Ericsson’s runner-up finish was the ninth time the defending Indy 500 finished second the next year (most recently four-time winner Helio Castroneves in 2003).

Here are the IndyCar results and points standings after the 107th Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:


Click here for the official box score from the 200-lap race on a 2.5-mile oval in Indianapolis.

Lap leader summary

Full lap chart

Best section times

Full section data

Event summary

Pit stop summary

Here is the finishing order in the Indy 500 with starting position in parentheses, driver, engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):

1. (17) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 200, Running
2. (10) Marcus Ericsson, Honda, 200, Running
3. (4) Santino Ferrucci, Chevrolet, 200, Running
4. (1) Alex Palou, Honda, 200, Running
5. (7) Alexander Rossi, Chevrolet, 200, Running
6. (6) Scott Dixon, Honda, 200, Running
7. (8) Takuma Sato, Honda, 200, Running
8. (16) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 200, Running
9. (21) Colton Herta, Honda, 200, Running
10. (2) Rinus VeeKay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
11. (18) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Chevrolet, 200, Running
12. (27) Callum Ilott, Chevrolet, 200, Running
13. (25) Devlin DeFrancesco, Honda, 200, Running
14. (14) Scott McLaughlin, Chevrolet, 200, Running
15. (20) Helio Castroneves, Honda, 200, Running
16. (9) Tony Kanaan, Chevrolet, 200, Running
17. (24) Marco Andretti, Honda, 200, Running
18. (32) Jack Harvey, Honda, 199, Running
19. (30) Christian Lundgaard, Honda, 198, Running
20. (13) Ed Carpenter, Chevrolet, 197, Contact
21. (11) Benjamin Pedersen, Chevrolet, 196, Contact
22. (33) Graham Rahal, Chevrolet, 195, Running
23. (12) Will Power, Chevrolet, 195, Running
24. (5) Pato O’Ward, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
25. (22) Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 192, Contact
26. (26) Agustin Canapino, Chevrolet, 192, Contact
27. (3) Felix Rosenqvist, Chevrolet, 183, Contact
28. (15) Kyle Kirkwood, Honda, 183, Contact
29. (23) David Malukas, Honda, 160, Contact
30. (19) Romain Grosjean, Honda, 149, Contact
31. (31) Sting Ray Robb, Honda, 90, Contact
32. (28) RC Enerson, Chevrolet, 75, Mechanical
33. (29) Katherine Legge, Honda, 41, Contact

Winner’s average speed: 168.193 mph; Time of Race: 2:58:21.9611; Margin of victory: 0.0974 of a second; Cautions: 5 for 27 laps; Lead changes: 52 among 14 drivers. Lap leaders: Palou 1-2; VeeKay 3; Palou 4-9; VeeKay 10-14; Palou 15-22; VeeKay 23-27; Palou 28-29; VeeKay 30-31; Rosenqvist 32; Rossi 33-34; Palou 35-39; VeeKay 40-47; Palou 48-60; VeeKay 61-63; Rosenqvist 64-65; O’Ward 66; Power 67; Herta 68; Rosenqvist 69; O’Ward 70-78; Rosenqvist 79-81; O’Ward 82-89; Rosenqvist 90-94; Ilott 95-99; Rosenqvist 100-101; O’Ward 102; Rosenqvist 103-107; O’Ward 108-109; Rosenqvist 110-113; O’Ward 114-115; Rosenqvist 116-119; O’Ward 120-122; Rosenqvist 123-124; O’Ward 125-128; Rosenqvist 129-131; Ferrucci 132; Ericsson 133-134; Castroneves 135; Rosenqvist 136; Ericsson 137-156; Newgarden 157; Ericsson 158; Ferrucci 159-168; Ericsson 169-170; Rossi 171-172; Sato 173-174; O’Ward 175-179; Hunter-Reay 180-187;
O’Ward 188-191; Ericsson 192; Newgarden 193-195; Ericsson 196-199; Newgarden 200.


Click here for the points tally in the race.

Here are the points standings after the GMR Grand Prix:



Engine manufacturers

Pit stop performance

Top 10 in points: Palou 219, Ericsson 199, O’Ward 185, Newgarden 182, Dixon 162, McLaughlin 149, Rossi 145, Grosjean 139, Power 131, Herta 130.

Rest of the standings: Lundgaard 122, Kirkwood 113, Rosenqvist 113, Ilott 111, Ferrucci 96, VeeKay 96, Rahal 94, Malukas 84, Armstrong 77, Daly 73, Castroneves 69, Harvey 65, DeFrancesco 63, Canapino 61, Pagenaud 55, Pedersen 51, Robb 47, Sato 37, Carpenter 27, Hunter-Reay 20, Kanaan 18, Andretti 13, Enerson 5, Legge 5.

Next race: The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix, which has moved from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown, will take place June 4 with coverage starting on Peacock at 3 p.m. ET on NBC.