But all season it has been Unser, not Fittipaldi, who has had the best luck on the Penske team. Unser had been advised so often by his father and his uncle to follow in their tire tracks and hook on with Team Penske that, as Junior says, "all Roger had to do was breathe in my direction." Breathe he did at the end of last year, and the partnership has already produced wins at Long Beach on April 17 and now Indianapolis, where so much Unser history has been written.
Al Unser Sr.'s oldest brother, Jerry Jr., was the first member of the clan to come to the Brickyard, finishing 31st in 1958. But the very next year he rolled his car in practice and died. Little Al was too young to be at Indianapolis for his father's first two wins there, in '70 and '71, and he missed the third in 1978 when his parents left him at home in Albuquerque after catching him ditching school. So it was important to him that his father be there this time. "I've always been proud of my father to the point that I'm really happy to be known as 'son of,' " says Now-Not-So-Little Al.
The Als plotted strategy with Penske for 20 minutes on Sunday morning, and when they were finished, Sr. reminded Jr., "This race will come back to you." Then in celebration of both his retirement and his 55th birthday, Big Al took a last lap in the Penske car with which he had won his last 500, in 1987. Little Al watched him on a TV in the motor home. "There's Dad!" he chirped excitedly. "And they don't have the car set up right," he added critically when he saw his father's head bouncing around in the cockpit.
Later, as Al Sr. and Jr. circled the track in the pace car on Little Al's victory lap, they passed the spot where Fittipaldi had struck the wall. "There's Emmo," Little Al said, pointing at the black mark Fittipaldi had left like a trail marker. Then father hugged son, and both of them cried. "See," Big Al said softly in his ear, "it comes back to you at this place."