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Newz Forum: AUTO: Al Unser Jr. to announce retirement

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posted on Jun, 30 2004 @ 11:10 AM
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The highly successful and occasionally controversial racing career of Al Unser Jr. has come to an end. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner will announce his retirement as a driver Wednesday at noon EDT news conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unser's retirement was confirmed to SportsTicker by an unidentified executive member of the Speedway who said Unser will remain with Patrick Racing in a management capacity.

In three races this season, Unser had a difficult time competing. He started 22nd and finished 21st in Saturday night's IRL SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway, two weeks after starting 20th and finishing 11th at Texas Motor Speedway.

In this year's Indy 500, Unser started and finished 17th.

Ironically, it was a snowmobile crash in New Mexico last October that may have ended Unser's career. He suffered a broken pelvis in that crash, and when he returned to racing, he admittedly was out of shape as he was unable to work out because of his injuries.

Sadly, Unser's racing career ends when he is getting his personal life back in order.

Two years ago, Unser entered an alcohol treatment program after he was involved in an altercation with his girlfriend in Indianapolis. His sobriety allowed him to return to the IRL later that season, and he returned to victory lane when he drove a Kelley Racing car to victory at Texas Motor Speedway in June 2003.

However, Kelley Racing was unable to secure sponsorship for Unser's car at the end of last season, leaving him without a ride. He finishes his career with 34 IndyCar wins, driving for some of the top teams.

Maintaining his sobriety, Unser continues to speak to youth groups about the dangers of alcoholism. He admits that racing has helped him overcome nearly every career hurdle, personal and professional.

"I love racing; racing is my entire life and there hasn't been an obstacle put in front of me that we haven't been able to overcome because of the love of the sport," he said earlier this season.

Patrick Racing will not announce a replacement driver until Thursday. Rookie driver Jeff Simmons of Bridgeport, Connecticut and Richie Hearn of Los Angeles are the leading candidates to replace Unser in the Dallara/Chevrolet.

Unser is the second IRL driver to leave his ride this week. Earlier Tuesday, Panther Racing and IndyCar Series rookie Mark Taylor announced that they will seek other options for the remainder of the season.

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