#201, Al Unser Jr. talks drugs, driving in new book

James Raia

Al Unser Jr. tells his life story in his new book, "A Checkered Past."

As co-hosts of The Weekly Driver Podcast, Bruce Aldrich and I sometimes have a guest cancel at the last minute. Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. was our scheduled guest. With his non-appearance, we decided to talk about him.

Specifically, we discuss Unser’s new book, “A Checkered Past.” The 302-hardcover offering includes a foreword by Roger Penske, the team owner who once employed “Little Al” and who is now the owner of the Indianapolis Speedway.

Al Unser Jr. tells his life story in his new book, "A Checkered Past."
Al Unser Jr. tells his life story in his new book, “A Checkered Past.”

The book is written “As Told To Jade Gurss.” A long-time journalist, Gurss has written several additional motorsports books and has also worked in marketing and publicity for Mercedes-Benz and Mazda in his varied career.

Unser’s book is appropriately titled. Throughout his adult life, the winner of the 1992 and 1994 Indy 500s has been addicted to alcohol and drugs. It costs him his racing career, friends, family and nearly his life.

Al Unser Jr.: Life Was A Party

“Something else made a big difference for me personally,” Unser says in Chapter 15: Randomly Selected. “For the first time CART has instituted random drug testing. A month before the first race of the season (1988), I quit smoking marijuana on a daily basis. I felt sharp. I could feel the difference when I was driving and giving feedback to the team.”

But for Al Unser Jr. life as an addict and its ramifications exceeded his attempts for a healthy life.

Beyond discussing the new book, Bruce also provides an update on the pending new Ford F-250 pickup truck and RV he and his wife Alene have recently purchased.

Telsa Moves To Texas Where Gas Rules

We also talk about Elon Musk’s to relocate Tesla’s headquarters from Palo Alto to Austin, Texas.

And we conclude Episode #201 with some observational “odds and ends” from the automotive industry including a brief report on Escapod. It’s market as “Born from a desire to build the best damn camper known to man, the TOPO2 is a premium teardrop trailer that doesn’t ask you to choose adventure over comfort.”

During the recent Sea Otter Classic bicycle festival on the Monterey Peninsula, I met the co-founder of the company, Chris Hudak during the event’s expo. We briefly talked about his family and their travels.

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Article Last Updated: October 18, 2021.

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