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DATE News (chronologically)
06/18/09
irl
Unser among "Father of the Year" honorees  
Al Unser Sr.
Al Unser's success in and longtime contributions to motorsports are unparalleled. National Father's Day Committee chairman Glen Schanen says Unser's contributions extend to being a role model to generations, which elevates him into another category.

Unser and five other men will be honored June 18 during the 68th Annual "Father of the Year" Awards presentation in New York hosted by MSNBC's Chris Matthews.

"We are privileged to pay tribute to this outstanding group of men who exemplify the characteristics of not only great fathers but as great role models for children and parents across the country," Schanen said.

The others:
• Michael Krzyzewski, basketball coach, Duke University
• General D. H. Petraeus, Commander, United States Central Command, U.S. Army
• George Stephanopoulos, ABC News journalist
• Jonathan M. Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp
• Ronald Wurtzburger, President of Peerless Clothing

"I am sincerely honored to be in the company of men who I have admired my entire life," said Unser, who celebrated his 70th birthday on May 29.

Unser is the second of three drivers to have won the Indianapolis 500 four times, the fourth of five to have won the race in consecutive years and is the only person to have a sibling (older brother Bobby) and child (Al) as fellow winners. Between them, the Unsers have nine 500-Mile Race victories.

His father, Jerry, and uncles, Louis and Joe, also were auto racing drivers - competing in the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, among other events, beginning in 1926. Al began racing in 1957, initially competing in sprint cars, midgets and roadsters. He competed at Indianapolis for the first time in 1965, and won for the first time at the Speedway in 1970. That year, he won the USAC National Championship; he added CART titles in 1983 and '85.

Unser holds the laps led record at Indy (644) - breaking Ralph DePalma's mark of 612 on the final lap of his fourth victory in 1987 when he was 47 years old.

Unser also was the 1978 IROC champion, and competed in select NASCAR Winston Cup and Grand National races during his career. He retired in 1994. The family operates the Unser Racing Museum in their hometown of Albuquerque, N.M.

Unser was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 1991 and the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1998. Al Unser Jr. will join his father and uncle Bobby as members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in August.

"I would like to congratulate my dad on receiving the Father of the Year Award. He really deserves it," said Al Jr., a two-time Indy 500 winner who currently is the driver coach for the IndyCar Series. "I am very proud of him."

The National Father's Day Council is part of the Father's Day/Mother's Day Council, Inc. a non-profit membership association that has as its mission, the recognition and awarding of honors to role models and contributing to issues affecting the life and well-being of men, women and families.

Past honorees have included Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, and 1969 Indianapolis 500 winner Mario Andretti.

Proceeds from the luncheon will benefit Save the Children, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making lasting positive change in the lives of children in need in the United States and around the world. The Father`s Day/Mother`s Day Council has donated almost $21 million to charities, which includes more than $3.2 million in 2008.

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