Shelley Unser (center, in white) pictured with her four children

Shelley Unser remembered for work with CUFSF foundation and her time in the media

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Shelley Unser, the former wife of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., passed away last Wednesday in New Mexico reportedly due to complications from COPD (per a report from the Albuquerque Journal).

Tributes began pouring in for Unser, and though her exploits may not have garnered as much attention as those of her famous former husband, she was no less influential.

Long-time open wheel fans might recognize Shelley Unser from her media work from such pieces as Inside CART, where she offered behind-the-scenes glimpses into the sport. Notable clips include a look at Team Penske and profiles of CART driver Greg Moore and NHRA drag racer Cristen Powell.

However, some of her most notable work came with the Cody Unser First Step Foundation (CUFSF). Founded in 1999 after daughter Cody suffered paralysis due to an autoimmune condition called Transverse Myeliti, Unser worked tirelessly to raise awareness and research funds to help those impacted by the disease.

Further, Unser and CUFSF were able to form a partnership with Johns Hopkins to help provide care and therapy for disabled veterans through scuba diving – Unser was an avid scuba diver in her own right.

Shelley Unser. Photo courtesy of the Albuquerque Journal

Making further use of her enthusiasm for scuba diving, Unser also founded Cody’s Great Scuba Adventure, which uses scuba diving as a therapeutic method to help people suffering from various forms of paralysis.

Her son Al Unser III fondly remembered his mother’s love for the water.

“My mom would always hum when she was diving,” he said in the aforementioned Albuquerque Journal story. “You would think there was a whale coming, the way sound travels under water. It’s one of those memories that makes me laugh a little bit.”

On behalf of the Unser family, Cody Unser has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations be submitted to CUFSF.

“Thank you all for your love and support!!! In lieu of flowers or gifts, I ask that if my mom ever meant something to you, please donate to The Cody Unser First Step Foundation,” said Cody Unser on the CUFSF Facebook page. “Go to www.codysfirststep.org and hit the Donate Now button. In the near future, I plan to create something meaningful specifically in her name as part of CUFSF.”

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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.