Auto racing champ Unser calls it quits

Thursday, July 1, 2004

INDIANAPOLIS -- Al Unser Jr. woke up to a harsh reality this week. His passion for racing was gone.

In a news conference Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Unser announced his retirement because he was no longer having fun on the track, stepping away from a successful career on his own terms.

"Racing has to come before everything else in your life," he said. "I'd reached a point where helping my sons and daughters means more to me today than driving into turn one."

Unser, 42, leaves open-wheel racing as one of its most successful drivers. In more than 21 seasons, Unser won two Indianapolis 500s, two CART championships and a combined 34 races on the CART and Indy Racing League circuits.

His new career -- as an adviser for Patrick Racing, his team, and a driving mentor for his son, Al -- begins this weekend at the Argent Mortgage Indy 300 in Kansas City, Kan. Team owner U.E. "Pat" Patrick has not yet named a replacement driver for Unser.

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