IRL: Al Unser jump-starts museum drive

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003 -- Al Unser has found another prominent race car for his museum. Now all he needs is the money to build the Children's Discovery Museum on a parcel of land from his Albuquerque, N.M., property he has...

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2003 -- Al Unser has found another prominent race car for his museum.

Now all he needs is the money to build the Children's Discovery Museum on a parcel of land from his Albuquerque, N.M., property he has donated for the project.

Four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Unser, the driving coach for the Indy Racing League® IndyCar® Series, was one of the few racers among 320 people who attended an auction Nov. 15 in Phoenix as Vince Granatelli, son of Speedway Hall of Famer Andy Granatelli, sold all of his racing equipment and his 38,500 square-foot shop and private jet. Vince retired as a car owner in CART after the 1991 season yet maintained his equipment in spotless condition for the past 12 years.

The prize among the four Indy-type cars available was the 1991 Lola that Arie Luyendyk drove to third place in the 1991 Indianapolis 500. The car also won at Nazareth, Pa., and finished second at Michigan. Unser purchased that car. He also bought benches, shelves and other equipment and hauled them back to Albuquerque.

"All the cars were sold," Granatelli said. "I have offers on the building and jet.

"I'm out of the racing business. Everything was sold. I have mixed emotions. Al said, 'I know how you feel.'"

When Unser was asked what he paid for his car, he laughed and said, "Too much." Then he laughed again and added, "More than a dollar."

The Kruse International auctioneering firm of Auburn, Ind., handled the sale. Greg Weld, who drove in the 1970 Indianapolis 500, purchased a 1991 Lola backup car without an engine. Dean Kruse of Kruse International bought the other two cars, the 1987 March that Roberto Guerrero drove to second in the 1987 Indianapolis 500 and won with at Phoenix and the 1991 Lola that Luyendyk won in at Phoenix and finished second in at Detroit.

Roger Penske sent some representatives, but mostly the crowd was comprised of people seeking memorabilia. Granatelli said many people thanked him for keeping every piece in such immaculate condition.

The live auction started at 10 a.m., and a picture of each numbered item of some 900 was displayed on a 60-inch television screen. The auction also was carried live on Internet auction site eBay. The auction was stopped at noon, and bids were taken on the building and jet. The cars were sold in mid-afternoon.

The Luyendyk car joins about 30 that Unser and son, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., have in their shop ready to place in the museum when it is constructed.

Al Unser is finishing restoration of the 1971 Johnny Lightning car that he drove to his second straight Indianapolis 500 victory that year. He also has built a copy of the Johnny Lightning dirt car he drove in 1970.

The younger Unser has among others, his 1983 Indianapolis 500 rookie car, an IROC car and one of the first sprint cars he drove as a teen-ager awaiting display.

Al Unser is enthusiastic about his museum project.

"It's for kids and grown-ups to let them see what we did and see what cars are all about," he said. "I'd like to create something for the kids."

Unser is dismayed that auto mechanics has been dropped from the curriculum of most high schools. He wants his museum to be open to all young people so they can get a hands-on feel for working with cars, both passenger and race vehicles.

"I want to get the kids interested and get them off the street," he said.

Now the tough part of the project is underway -- finding funding.

"I thought racing was hard," Unser said, "but raising money is really hard.

"I've just now started raising some money. We're talking large dollars."

The museum will be housed in an already planned and designed 50,000 square-foot building.

"It's a good project," he said.

***

2004 tickets: Tickets are available for the 2004 Indianapolis 500. For information, log on to www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or call the IMS ticket office at (800) 822-INDY or (317) 492-6700.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Al Unser Jr. , Arie Luyendyk , Roberto Guerrero , Roger Penske , Al Unser