IndyCar »

Unser Jr's Long Beach to be marked this weekend.

For almost 20 years, Al Unser Jr has been known as the 'King of the Beach' and this year, when the IndyCar Series makes its debut in on the streets of the seaside city, he will add at least one more title to his haul.

Unser, who won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach a record six times between 1988 and 1995 while competing in the CART series, will act as grand marshal for the 35th running of the event this weekend [18-19 April], as well as leading the professional contingent in the popular Toyota Pro/Celebrity race and - along with long-time rival and former team-mate Bobby Rahal - will be inducted into the Motorsports Walk of Fame.

“Southern California is always beautiful at this time of year, and the fans make Long Beach more than just a race,” said Unser, who now holds a driver coaching role with the Indy Racing League, “They love the single-seat open-wheel cars, and what I'm really excited about it is now it's back to where they can see the IndyCars that will run the Indy 500 on the streets of Long Beach again, like it used to be back in the 1980s and '90s. That's what made it special.”

Unser believes one reason he always performed well on the tricky street course was that, despite the fact that it was such a different kind of track compared to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he treated the event as a warm-up for Indy and the month of May.

“For me in particular, it was the race before the Indy 500,” said Unser, a two-time winner of the blue riband Indianapolis race, “You really want to do well the race before the Indy 500 so you can take that momentum into the month of May. I really, really worked hard on that race in particular because it generally fell before the month of May. If you could win that race, the whole team would take that momentum into the month of May and think 'we can win against these guys'.”

During his eight-year Long Beach run, Unser won six times - in 1988, '89, '90, '91, '94 and '95 - and added a fourth-place finish in 1992. He looked set to win that year too, only to be bumped out of the lead late in the race by Galles Racing team-mate Danny Sullivan. In that eight-year span, Unser led laps every year except 1993, a record 545 in all.

“He was very good there and proved it more and more,” said three-time Long Beach race winner Mario Andretti, “He certainly won his share there and had that place down pat.”

Unser, who will coincidentally celebrate his 47th birthday on 19 April, recorded 31 race wins and two championships - in 1990 and '94 - in the CART/PPG IndyCar World Series, and added three more victories under Indy Racing League sanction following the series' split in 1996.


Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Al Unser Jr will be honoured at the 2009 Long Beach Grand Prix   [pic credit: IRL/Garrett]
JR Hildebrand waits on pit lane prior to practice for the Angie`s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday May 7 2015. (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Rocky Moran Jr. sits in his Honda machine prior to practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Friday April 17 2015. (Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Rocky Moran Jr. enters Turn 10 during practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Friday April 17 2015. (Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Rocky Moran Jr. is ready for his first practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Friday April 17 2015. (Photo by Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Teammates Ed Carpenter and JR Hildebrand (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Al Unser Jr. speaks with Sebastian Saavedra prior to practice (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Al Unser  [Pic supplied by Goodwood]
JR Hildebrand at the Sonoma open test - Wednesday, August 21 2013 (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
JR Hildebrand at the Sonoma open test - Wednesday, August 21 2013 (Photo Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
JR Hildebrand crashes during the 2013 Indianapolis 500 - Sunday, May 26 2013. (Photo Credit: Mike Young for IndyCar Media)
Michel Jourdain Jr. on Bump Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Sunday May 19, 2013. (Picture Credit:  for IndyCar Media)
JR Hildebrand and Townsend Bell run side-by-side on the sixth day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Thursday May 16, 2013. (Picture Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
JR Hildebrand on the fourth day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Tuesday May 14, 2013. (Picture Credit: Pete Howard for IndyCar Media)
Michel Jourdain Jr. on the fourth day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Tuesday May 14, 2013. (Picture Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Michel Jourdain Jr. gets ready on the fourth day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Tuesday May 14, 2013. (Picture Credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
JR Hildebrand and Ryan Hunter-Reay on the fourth day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Tuesday May 14, 2013. (Picture Credit: Leigh Spargur for IndyCar Media)
Michel Jourdain Jr. on the third day of practice at Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Monday May 13, 2013. (Picture Credit: Walter Kuhn for IndyCar Media)

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register before adding your comments.

Although the administrators and moderators of this website will attempt to keep all objectionable comments off these pages, it is impossible for us to review all messages. All messages express the views of the poster, and neither Crash Media Group nor Crash.Net will be held responsible for the content of any message. We do not vouch for or warrant the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of any message, and are not responsible for the contents of any message. If you find a message objectionable, please contact us and inform us of the problem or use the [report] function next to the offending post. Any message that does not conform with the policy of this service can be edited or removed with immediate effect.




© 1999 - 2016 Crash Media Group

The total or partial reproduction of text, photographs or illustrations is not permitted in any form.