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 Family History

Immigrating from Switzerland, their father Louis and mother Marie eventually settled in Colorado Springs, raising a family by the nearby mountain Pike's Peak. Louis was especially skilled in exploring the then "new-fangled" automobile engine which sparked the interest of their sons. In September 1915 they rode a motorcycle and sidecar to the summit of Pike's Peak, a mountain previously declared to be unscalable. Soon after  this conquest, the Colorado City police hired the three Unser brothers to teach them how to ride motorcycles, and in 1916 after a road was built, Spencer Penrose officially staged a "Race to the Clouds", a 12.4 mile race to the peak. The Unser boys were regular competitors. Learn more...


Click below to learn more about the Unser family


Show / HideLouis Unser, Jr.     Louis, Jr., and his brothers Joe and Jerry Unser were born to Louis and Marie Unser...
Louis Unser Jr.
[ 1896 - 1979 ]
Louis, Jr., and his brothers Joe and Jerry Unser were born to Louis and Marie Unser, immigrants from Switzerland who had settled in Colorado Springs at the foot of Pike’s Peak.

Louis Sr. was especially skilled in exploring the then new “fangled” automobile engine, which sparked the interest of his sons. In 1915 the 3 Unser boys drove a motorcycle and sidecar to the summit of Pike’s Peak, a mountain previously declared to be unassailable.

Over time Louis, Jr. became know as the Old Man of the Mountain, winning the Pike’s Peak Hill climb 9 times beginning in the early thirties till the mid 60’s.

A machinist by trade, “Uncle Louie” had an excellent reputation and his work was sought after.

Show / HideJoe Unser     Joe, and his brothers Louis Jr., and Jerry Unser were born to Louis and Marie Unser...
Joe Unser
[ 1897 - 1929 ]
Joe, and his brothers Louis Jr., and Jerry Unser were born to Louis and Marie Unser, immigrants from Switzerland who had settled in Colorado Springs at the foot of Pike’s Peak.

Louis Sr. was especially skilled in exploring the then new “fangled” automobile engine, which sparked the interest of his sons. In 1915 the 3 Unser boys drove a motorcycle and sidecar to the summit of Pike’s Peak, a mountain previously declared to be unassailable.

Competing in the Pike’s Peak Hill climb numerous times, he was never able to beat his older brother Louis, Jr. In 19?? a sponsor was found that would allow the three brothers to try and “make the show” at Indianapolis. Joe and his brothers were preparing to try to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 race and while testing their cars on a stretch of road between Denver and Colorado Springs; Joe lost control of his car and was killed. The dream of going to Indy was abandoned for that generation, only to resurface in the next.

Show / HideJerry Unser, Sr.     Jerry Sr., born Jerome Henry Unser in 1899, was the second son born to Louis and Marie Unser...
Jerry Unser Sr.
[ 1899 - 1967 ]
Jerry Sr., born Jerome Henry Unser in 1899, was the second son born to Louis and Marie Unser. Jerry and his brothers were the first to ascend Pike's Peak in a motorcycle and sidecar in September of 1915, the year before an actual road had been built. Once the Pike's Peak road was built they were regular competitors in the annual race.

After serving in the Navy during WWI, Jerry lived a short time in California. There he served with the Castro Valley volunteer fire department. *He salvaged a 1917 Winston Touring Car from a ditch and converted it into Castro Valley’s first fire truck. In 1931 Jerry returned to Colorado Springs where he met and married Mary Craven, an accomplished pianist, and started his family. First came twins Jerry Jr. and Louis, followed by Bobby. In 1936 Jerry moved his family to Albuquerque where he opened a small garage. Within a few years he had relocated his garage, adding a filling station, to the western end of Central Avenue. Son Alfred (Al) was born in 1939. By this time Jerry had earned a reputation for being able to “fix things nobody else could.”

Jerry’s sons learned to drive a Model A Ford he’d acquired, on the burro trails on the outskirts of Albuquerque. Before long they had progressed to driving in races. Jerry taught each of his sons to stick with their endeavors, no matter how difficult, and to do their best at everything they tried. The boys competed in and won at many short tracks in New Mexico, Arizona, and Colorado and in 1955 they competed in their biggest race yet, Pike’s Peak.

Show / HideJerry Unser, Jr.     Jerry Unser, Jr. was born in 1932, the firstborn twin son of Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser...
Jerry Unser Jr.
[ 1932 - 1959 ]
Jerry Unser, Jr. was born in 1932, the firstborn twin son of Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser. Jerry, an aggressive child and a star wrestler in high school, displayed the traits needed to be a good racer early on. After learning to drive the Model A Ford his father bought for the boys, Jerry quickly progressed to racing in his early teens. He and his brothers became known throughout the Southwest as being formidable short track competitors.

In 1952, while in the Navy and stationed in Hawaii, Jerry raced during his “off” time, winning the Hawaiian stock car title in 1953, and winning the adoration of Hawaii’s racing fans. In 1954 he was discharged and sent off with a huge farewell party, the “Jerry Unser Aloha Night”.

Jerry returned to Albuquerque to work in his father’s shop and to prepare to race at Pike’s Peak where he finished fourth in his first try in 1955. He married Jeanne Lamberth in 1956 and soon had two sons, Jerry and Johnny. In 1956 and ’57 Jerry returned to Pike’s Peak to win the stock car class both years.

In 1958 Jerry’s first attempt at the Indianapolis “500” ended during the warm up lap when a multi-car accident sent his car over the wall. A few weeks later he raced at Pike’s Peak, shifting and turning with one hand due to the dislocated shoulder he’d sustained in the Indy wreck. This race didn’t end well for Jerry, who rolled his car into a ditch and broke his nose. Early May of 1959 found Jerry Jr. at Indianapolis again, practicing for his second try at the “500”. He hit the wall during a practice lap and was badly burned. He succumbed to his injuries and pneumonia 17 days later.

Show / HideLouie Unser     Louis (Louie) Unser, the younger of the twins born to Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser, was born in 1932...
Louie Unser
[ 1932 - 2004 ]
Louis (Louie) Unser, the younger of the twins born to Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser, was born in 1932. Louie was a scrawny kid who stuttered, but he was also known for getting into fights with those who gave him or his brothers any trouble. Once Louie began racing in his early teens, his aggression served him well behind the wheel. Soon Louie, Jerry and Bobby were winning short track races throughout New Mexico and surrounding states.

At his first try at Pike’s Peak in 1955 Louie finished third driving Bobby’s car. His little brother had offered his own car to Louie after the boys’ uncle Louis had talked Louie’s car owner out of the deal, saying Louie was too young for such a powerful car. Soon Louie moved to California, working as a race car mechanic and engine-builder. He teamed up with his twin, keeping the cars running while Jerry drove, and they won the National Stock Car Championship in 1957.

After Jerry’s death in 1959, Louie mourned for a short time, but then he returned to Pike’s Peak in 1960 and ’61, winning the stock car class both years. From 1961 to 1964 Louie worked for various car manufacturers, building motors in the shop and attending to cars during races. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1964. He continued to serve as a race team crew chief, including pushing little brother Al at the ’65 Indy “500”, until the M.S. forced him to retire from racing and concentrate on building up his engine business. Louie continued to work long hours in his shop, and also gave time to fund raising for the M.S. Society—in 1982 he was named the MS "Father of the Year". Louie retired in 1990 and passed away in 2004 at the age of 71.

Show / HideBobby Unser     The third son of Jerry and Mary Unser, born in 1934, Bobby (Robert William) Unser...
Bobby Unser
[ 1934 - ]
The third son of Jerry and Mary Unser, born in 1934, Bobby (Robert William) Unser began his racing career driving his father’s cars in the annual Mexican road race at age 15 and by the time he was 18 he was winning races and championships. His goal in his early days of racing was to win at Pike’s Peak. He accomplished this at the young age of 22 in 1956.

Bobby then pursued a wider range of racing and became known as an outstanding Sprint car driver. He learned to fly airplanes in order to get to distant races quickly. Bobby made his first trip to Indy in 1963, and had his first win there in 1968. He went on to win the Indy 500 in ’75 and ’81 as well. He was a 2-time USAC-CART national champion (1968, 1974) and ranks 5th on all-time CART list with 35 career wins. Bobby is the father of two sons, Bobby Jr. and Robby, and two daughters, Cindy and Jeri.

After retiring from Indycar driving in 1982, Bobby did developmental work for Audi, lapping one at 206.8 MPH. And in 1986, after a 12 year absence from the Pike’s Peak race, he won his event for the tenth time driving an Audi Quattro, breaking the tie he had with Uncle Louis for nine overall victories apiece. The 1986 win brought Bobby’s total number of Pike’s Peak victories to 13, including two stock car class victories (1969 and 1974) and a single sports car class win (1963).

Bobby has continued to pursue his interests with energy and passion. He has been a commentator for ABC television at many Indycar races and in 2003 he published a book, ““Winners are Driven: A Champion’s Guide to Success in Business and Life”.

Show / HideAl Unser, Sr.     Al (Alfred), Sr. Unser was born in 1939, the youngest son of Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser...
Al Unser Sr.
[ 1939 - ]
Al (Alfred), Sr. Unser was born in 1939, the youngest son of Jerry Sr. and Mary Unser. As a teen, Al played football, but racing quickly became his first love. In 1957 he won his first race in a modified stock car built by his father and brother Bobby. This was just the beginning of an amazing career.

His first big wins were at Pike’s Peak in 1964 and ’65. Also in 1965 Al went to his first Indianapolis “500” where he finished ninth in A.J. Foyt’s backup car.  Al’s car had blown its engine during qualifying and Foyt generously offered a ride to the dejected young rookie. Greater things were still to come….

Al was only the fourth driver ever to achieve back to back wins of the Indy “500”—in 1970 and ’71—a feat not repeated for more than three decades, until Helio Castroneves won back to back victories in 2001 and '02! In 1978 Al became the first and only driver to win the Triple Crown of 500-milers –Indianapolis, Pocono, and Ontario—in a single year. In 1985 he won his third national championship after taking over the injured Rick Mears’ car and beating his son, Al Jr., by one point.

Indianapolis “500” race day in 1987 was a surprise to everyone, including Al himself. Five days before his 48th birthday Al won his fourth Indy “500” driving a backup car owned by Roger Penske, who had asked Al to step in for the injured Danny Ongais in early May. Al had traveled to Indianapolis that year not sure if he would even drive in the race.

“Big Al” retired from racing in 1994 with eight 500-mile victories, 39 career wins, and he is ranked third on the all-time Indy Car victory list. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998. Since retirement he has served as a driver coach and consultant for the Indy Racing League.

Show / HideAl Unser, Jr.     Al Unser, Jr., nicknamed “Little Al”, son of Al Unser, Sr. and first wife Wanda, was born in 1962...
Al Unser Jr.
[ 1962 - ]
Al Unser, Jr., nicknamed “Little Al”, son of Al Unser, Sr. and first wife Wanda, was born in Albuquerque in 1962. His father and uncle having already earned fame behind the wheel before he was even born, it was no surprise that “Little Al” would follow in their footsteps. Al Jr. also credits his cousin, Bobby Jr., with inspiring him.

Al Jr. began racing go-karts at age 9 and moved on to sprint cars in his early teens. In 1981 he was named the SCCA Rookie of the Year after winning the Super Vees championship and in 1982 he finished fifth in his first IndyCar 500-miler in California. Also in 1982 he drove his uncle’s dirt car for his first race up Pike’s Peak, finishing fourth. And he returned to the Peak in ’83 to win. In 1984, Al Jr. won his first PPG Cup event and in 1985 he lost the closest point battle in IndyCar history (151-150) to his father. Al Jr. continued to regularly win races, including two wins at the 24 Hours of Daytona, building up to his first Indy “500” win in 1992. This was the closest win ever in Indy history, .043 seconds over Scott Goodyear. And in 1994 Al Jr. collected eight wins, his second Indy “500” win and a second PPG Cup. That year he was named ABC Wide World of Sports “Athlete of the Year.”

In the years following his second Indy “500” win Al Jr. continued to compete in and win many CART and Indy Racing League events. Since retiring in 2004 Al Jr. has been spending time with his children, Joey, Shannon, and Cody, and he also has been active in advising his oldest son, Al Unser III (“Just Al”) as he is getting his own racing career off the ground.

Show / HideJeri Unser     Jeri Unser, daughter of Bobby Unser and second wife Norma, and younger sister of Robby Unser...
Jeri Unser
[ 1969 - ]
Jeri Unser, daughter of Bobby Unser and second wife Norma, and younger sister of Robby Unser, was born in 1969. Being female hasn’t discouraged Jeri from getting into the driver’s seat of racecars one bit. Jeri has a particularly great love for Pike’s Peak. She grew up watching many family members challenge the mountain and is thankful to them for instilling that love in her.

In 1998 she collected three 1st place finishes out of five go cart races and also in 1998, the first female Unser to compete in the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb, she was named “Rookie of the Year”. She took 6th place that year in the Mini Sprint Division. This feat was just a warm-up for 2003. That year she broke a record for electric cars at Pike’s Peak, bringing the Unser family’s total up to 38 victories at the Peak. Holding to the family tradition started by Jerry Unser, Sr. of choosing the patriotic colors of red, white, and blue for her car, she drove a Compact Power ER3, designed and built by Tim Eckert, to a new Electric Division record of 14:33.12, breaking Eckert’s 2002 division record by 45 seconds.

Show / HideRobby Unser     Robby Unser, youngest son of Bobby Unser and second wife Norma, was born in 1968...
Robby Unser
[ 1968 - ]
Robby Unser, youngest son of Bobby Unser and second wife Norma, was born in 1968. He was racing go-karts at the age of 8, winning the New Mexico International Karting Federation road-racing and dirt division titles in 1981 when he was 13. He raced stock cars in 1983-84, sprint cars in 1985 and the Skip Barber Pro-Saab Series, Formula Fords and sprint cars in 1986. He has won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb an unprecedented 9 times in many different events including Rally, Open Wheel, Truck and Stock classes. And he drove in the Indianapolis “500” twice. First, in 1998, he placed 5th and won Indy Racing Leagues prestigious title “Rookie Of The Year” for the 1998 season, and in 1999 he placed 8th. He also is a FIA Hill Climb Champion and is an American Indy Car Series winner.

Robby has enjoyed racing many different types of automobiles and he’s won and broke records with his own self built race cars and trucks. Robby has worked as a driving coach and taught driving safety and recently he has been involved with the publication of “Adventures in Driving”, a fictional novel with factual events written with the goal of encouraging and promoting safe driving.

Show / HideBobby Unser, Jr     Bobby Unser, Jr., son of Bobby Unser and first wife Barbara, was born in 1955...
Bobby Unser Jr.
[ 1955 - ]
Bobby Unser, Jr., son of Bobby Unser and first wife Barbara, was born in 1955. As a youngster Bobby Jr. raced go-Karts and then Sprint cars, often times racing with his cousin, Al Unser, Jr. By the early 1980’s Bobby Jr. was competing in Super Vee races. And in 1981 he set a qualifying record at the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, going on to duel with Al Jr. at the Peak in 1983.

Bobby Jr. went on to pursue other interests, including playing the drums in a rock ‘n roll band and later, breeding and raising Spanish Arabian horses, yet he has maintained his connection with fast cars. He has been a stunt driver in various commercials, movies, and television shows, including the popular “Walker, Texas Ranger” series in the early 1990’s. About Bobby’s stunt driving career, cousin Johnny says: “He’s the one that really got that going for the Unser family…he’s one of the guys in the industry that works more than anybody else, and he has all the connections.” In recent years Bobby Jr. has worked as a stunt driver with other world class race car drivers as part of the “Performance Two, Inc.” high performance driving team.

Show / HideJohnny Unser     Johnny Unser was born in 1958, younger son of Jerry Unser Jr. and wife Jeanne...
Johnny Unser
[ 1958 - ]
Johnny Unser was born in 1958, younger son of Jerry Unser Jr. and wife Jeanne. Due to his father’s death when Johnny was an infant, he grew up a bit removed from his racing uncles and cousins. Therefore he didn’t begin seriously pursuing a racing career until his late twenties. Acceding to his mother’s wishes, Johnny graduated from college and taught school, but he always had a desire to explore racing. This desire increased after spending a summer in his early 20’s with his uncle, Al Unser, Sr. He helped with Al’s 1980 Longhorn team, around the garage and in the pit. Johnny says, “Al Sr. sort of became my father symbol after my dad died. He’s the one who sort of stepped in and the guy I really looked up to the most….”

He began his racing career with the Formula Mazda series and then moved into the American Indycar Series in the early 1990’s. He also ran in the 24 Hours of Daytona, a race he has participated in many times since then. He was a C.A.R.T. racer in 1993 and 1994 and moved into the Indy Racing League in 1996. He qualified for the Indy “500” five consecutive years, 1996-2000, with his best finish in 1997, finishing 18th. He raced sportscars up until 1998, which has provided many of his career hightlights, including winning the GTU class in the 1989 12 Hours of Sebring.

Johnny also has several business interests that keep him busy, especially his role as Vice President of Precision Dynamics, a company that does sales training for the automotive industry. He also has had experience in stunt driving for commercials and movies, an adventure that Johnny credits cousin Bobby Jr. with getting him involved in.

Show / HideJason Tanner     Jason Tanner, son of David Tanner and Mary (Unser) Tanner, grandson of Al Unser, Sr., was born in 1981...
Jason Tanner
[ 1981 - ]
Jason Tanner, son of David Tanner and Mary (Unser) Tanner, grandson of Al Unser, Sr., was born in 1981. Of course, being born into the Unser family has played a significant role in Jason’s choice to pursue racing. By the age of 4 Jason was running his first races—on BMX bicycles. He progressed to go-carts at age 9. And in his teens he moved into sprint car racing. Jason credits his cousin, Robby Unser, with being a key supporter in his launch into the racing world.

In April of 2005 Jason drove a wingless sprint car to the 30 lap feature win at the El Paso Speedway Park as part of the new Barnett Harley Davidson Touring Series. And in May he finished 4th, after starting from the 8th row at the Aloha Shootout in Tucson.

Jason is not exactly sure where he will go with racing in the future. Perhaps the NASCAR or Busch Series, or maybe even Indy. Either way, he knows that he has a family full of spectacular racers supporting and encouraging him all the way.

Show / HideAl Unser, III     Alfred Richard Unser, A.K.A. “Just Al”, was born in 1982, the first son of Al Unser Jr...
Al Unser III
[ 1982 - ]
Alfred Richard Unser, A.K.A. “Just Al”, was born in 1982, the first son of Al Unser Jr. and former wife Shelley. Unlike many of his Unser predecessors, Al was not sure as a youngster that he wanted to grow up to make a career of car racing. He had his start in go-karts at the age of 9, just like his father, but didn’t really jump into racing until he got his first car at age 16. He realizes he has some very big shoes to fill and wants to handle the pressure of being an Unser well while earning respect for himself based on his own merits.

In 2002 Al was named Rookie of the Year in the Skip Barber Western Racing Series on the strength of six victories and in 2003 he recorded four top-10 finishes in the Barber Dodge Pro Series. In 2004 he entered the Menards Infiniti Pro Series scene by placing third in his first series race and he went on to earn four additional third place finishes out of seven more starts. In 2005 “Just Al” continues to race in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and finished a respectable fourth at the IRL Menards Infiniti Pro Series Futaba Freedom at the end of May.

The future is wide open for Al. ;He is quoted in July of 2004 as saying: "Definitely, I have a goal of being at the Indy 500," he said. "It's in my genes; it runs in my veins." In the meantime, in addition to honing his skills behind the wheel, he enjoys snowboarding, snowmobiling, and also dirt and mountain bike riding.
Al Unser III Jeri Unser Robby Unser Bobby Unser Jr. Johnny Unser Al Unser Sr. Bobby Unser Louie Unser Jerry Unser Jr. Jerry Unser Sr. Joe Unser Louis Unser Jr. Jason Tanner Al Unser Jr.