Up to Speed: On Watching a Son’s First Indy 500

“He was only 19. Like any parent, I was concerned, hoping he’d have a safe race.

“Al Unser Sr. asked me, ‘How do you do it?’ I said, ‘What?’ And he goes, ‘Watch Graham? I hated watching Al Jr.’

“I thought Al Sr. had ice water in his veins, you know? It made me feel better, because it’s very nerve-wracking for me when Graham is racing, especially on ovals because of the speed. But I always had a lot of faith in him. He drives with his head, and I thought he’d do okay.

“He made a little mistake and hit the wall. Obviously, I had immediate concern. But he didn’t hit hard, and I saw him moving. These cars are pretty safe, but there’s always that risk.

“You keep your fingers crossed it doesn’t happen often.”


This article is part of IM’s special May 2016 coverage of the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500.


Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.