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

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

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 and hit the Donate Now button. In the near future, I plan to create something meaningful specifically in her name as part of CUFSF.”



Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”