Johnny Unser


Record updated 22-Oct-06

Johnny Unser, son of the late Jerry Unser, is best known for his IRL and CART exploits, but he has also won the 12 Hours of Sebring GTU class in 1989 and finished second in class in a Callaway Corvette at Le Mans in 1995.

Johnny Unser
Johnny Unser, son of the late Jerry Unser, who was the first of the family to race at Indianapolis, started his racing career in motorcycles, dirt tracks, autocross rallies. From 1987-88 the California State University grad raced for Clayton Cunningham Racing in IMSA's GTU series. He also competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona.

The following year his team won the 12 Hours of Sebring, setting a track record for GTO class in a Huffaker Racing Pontiac. His successful endurance racing career continued in 1990 as Unser's team finished fifth in 24 Hours of Daytona, and he qualified fastest of non-factory teams for 12 Hours of Sebring. He also won rookie of the year honors in the American IndyCar Series, finishing in the top three in every race with three poles, three victories and two track records to equal a second-place finish in AIS points.

In his second year with AIS he teamed with cousin Robby Unser for the Speedway Motorsports category. The two then joined Elliott Forbes-Robinson forming the only American team in Nurburgring 24 Hours driving factory Porsche; they finished sixth.

Johnny was the top finishing rookie, second, in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb's Production Rally Division in 1991. A year later he won the Los Angeles Grand Prix American IndyCar Series event at Willow Springs driving for Tempero Racing and he again ran 24 Hours of Daytona in prototype Ford Alba.

By 1993 Johnny moved to the CART series. He drove four races for Dale Coyne Racing with best finish of 17th at Toronto. On other fronts he finished seventh in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb for first time in a natural-gas powered stock car.

He won the 1994 Alcan 5000 Road Rally for Isuzu Motorsports, a race that travels 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The next year he finished second in class and ninth overall in the 24 Hours of LeMans and competed in the 24 Hours of Daytona in a Callaway Competition Corvette.

In 1996 Johnny was the third qualifier at Indianapolis in May with a run of 226.115 mph in the Project Indy entry, however, his car developed transmission problems on the second parade lap on race day. He also won the Alcan 5000 for second time for Isuzu Motorsports.

Unser ran six races in 1997, finishing 24th in points. He ran at Indianapolis and Las Vegas in Hemelgarn Racing's second entry and at several races as Mike Groff's injury replacement with Jonathan Byrd-Cunningham racing.

Johnny Unser was signed as driver of Hemelgarn Racing's second entry for the 1998 Indianapolis 500 in a Dallara/
Oldsmobile Aurora, he finished 25th. He returned to Indy in 1999 and 2000 but without troubling the podium.

He quit racing at the end of 2000 to concentrate on his business interests, but returned to the tracks in 2005 racing with George Robinson and brothers Wally and Paul Dallenbach, in a Lexus-powered Riley Daytona Prototype.

He raced in the Baja 1000 in 2003. Co-driving Bob Land's 7S class modified stock Chevy truck, they managed only a tenth of the distance before it broke.

Johnny also has stunt driven for commercials and films; worked with GM, Ford, Chrysler, Nissan, Infiniti, Volvo, Subaru, Isuzu, Rolls Royce and Mercedes Benz; and is vice-president of Precision Dynamics, a company which does vehicle evaluation and testing, and supplies professional drivers for corporate sales training and ride-and-drive programs. He has also recently been involved with tyre testing for the Cooper Tyre & Rubber Company and is heavily involved in the popcorn industry.