Only Father & Son INDY 500 Winners Lead Portland Vintage Racing Festival Celebration
The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) announced today that Al Unser and his son Al Jr., who together account for six victories at the Indianapolis 500, will serve as co-grand marshals for the July 7 – 10 Portland Vintage Racing Festival at Portland International Raceway (PIR). The two champion drivers of one of racing’s most famous families are the only father and son to have both won the Indianapolis 500 in its 99 races. Al Jr. also picked up his first-ever Indy car victory at PIR in 1984. He added two more at the course in 1994 and 1995 as a driver for Roger Penske.
“The featured cars of this weekend are of the open wheel, formula variety and while both these champions are very versatile I think it’s appropriate since their greatest moments came in open wheel races,” said Tony Parella, SVRA President and CEO. “All of us at the SVRA are so honored by the relationship we have developed with the Unser family. All the Unser family’s Indy 500 veterans have been important participants in SVRA events.”
“Big Al” Unser is one of only three drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 four times, and one of just five to win the storied race in consecutive years, 1970-71. He narrowly missed becoming the only winner of three consecutive Indianapolis 500 races when he finished second to Mark Donohue in 1972. A three-time Indy car champion (1970, ’83, ’85) “Big Al” was among the rare breed that could drive any type of car on any venue, including sports cars, stock cars, modifieds and dirt cars. The four-time Hoosier Hundred dirt track victor drove and won in sprints, midgets, Formula 5000 and stock cars to name a few. A Hall of Fame super star, Al was USAC stock car rookie of the year in 1967 and IROC champion in 1978. In his final Indianapolis 500 win in 1987 he broke Ralph De Palma’s 67-year-old record for most career laps led in the historic race. He retired in 1994 after setting the mark at 644 laps. No active Indy 500 driver is within 200 laps of that record.
“I have to tell you it is an honor to share the SVRA stage with Dad, the man I believe to be the greatest racecar driver who ever lived,” said Al Unser Jr. “It’s also pretty sweet to return to Portland International Raceway where I won my first Indy car race. I’m really looking forward to seeing the fans there again.”
Al Unser Jr. is a two-time Indy car champion (1990 and 1994) and the winner of 34 Indy car races including the 1992 and ’94 Indianapolis 500s. His 1992 Indianapolis 500 victory is the closest finish in history with a margin of just 43 ten-thousandths of a second over second-place Scott Goodyear with “Big Al” running third. A versatile driver, “Little Al” was a winner in World of Outlaws sprint car racing; 1982 Can-Am champion and IROC champion in 1986 and again in 1988. He’s also a two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Daytona in 1986 and ’87. Like his father Al Unser Sr. and Uncle Bobby Unser he enjoyed tremendous success as a star driver for Roger Penske’s team, which provided his winning entry for the 1994 “500.” He also won the SVRA’s inaugural Brickyard Invitational “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with co-driver Peter Klutt in 2014.
Among their ceremonial duties as grand marshals will be to greet fans and start feature events. They will also discuss their careers, their family and auto racing in, “An Evening with the Unsers,” a moderated discussion to be presented during the Saturday night membership banquet.
The Portland Vintage Racing Festival will attract more than 200 historic racecars at the second edition of the event. While all SVRA classes will be represented, open wheel road racing cars will be featured in a “Formula Festival” which will pay homage to Formula 1, Formula 5000, Formula B, Formula Ford, Formula Vee and Formula Junior as well as Indy-style racers. Prototype, sports racing and production sports cars from marques such as Lotus, Alfa Romeo, Jaguar, Porsche and Corvette – principally from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – will also be on track.
PIR will be open to auto racing fans and car lovers for the Portland Vintage Racing Festival beginning Friday, July 8 through Sunday, July 10. Children 12 years old and under are admitted free. Admission covers entry to all spectator areas, as well as paddock access (parking $10). Fans can stroll the paddock, see the cars up close and chat with the drivers, or shop and eat on vendor row. A staple of SVRA weekends is the “Shine & Show” car show that will be presented near the PIR paddock. This event offers a wide array of outstanding classic, vintage, exotic and collector cars. Those entering the car show have the opportunity to participate in a track lap at the end of the day.