Hendricks County, Indiana Booking Photo

Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. arrested for OWI

2 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS – Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser, Jr. was booked into jail overnight in Hendricks County, Indiana, charged with OWI (Operating While Intoxicated). He remains incarcerated awaiting bond.

Unser is an executive consultant with Harding Steinbrenner Racing and has struggled with alcohol issues throughout his life.

This is Unser’s fourth alcohol-related arrest. In 2002, he was arrested after an alcohol-involved fight with his then-girlfriend. He also has previous drunk driving arrests in 2007 and 2011.

Unser has taken many attempts to remain sober. He regularly speaks about his struggles with alcoholism, including just a few weeks ago with students at Hope Academy in Indianapolis. He has admitted drinking was a demon he faced, and he hopes others will learn from his mistakes.

Unser won the Indianapolis 500 in 1992 with Galles Racing and 1994 with Team Penske.

He was vital in helping Harding Steinbrenner Racing turn into a competitive NTT IndyCar Series team, and was one of the first members hired on the team by founder and owner Mike Harding.

The team that features 19-year-old driver Colton Herta, who starts fifth in Sunday’s 103rd Indianapolis 500, issued a statement  on Monday.

“The entire Harding Steinbrenner Racing organization is saddened to learn of Al Unser Jr’s arrest on an OWI charge,” the statement said. “Alcoholism is a disease and a continuing battle for those struggling with it. At this time, we do support Al in any way that he needs. All additional questions should be directed to Al’s legal counsel, James H. Voyles.”

 

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

Ker Robertson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?