Unser Jr. arrested on DWI, reckless driving charges

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr., who helped bring the Baltimore Grand Prix to the city over Labor Day weekend, was arrested early Thursday morning on charges of drunken driving and reckless driving in New Mexico. Authorities with the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department said he was driving more than 100 mph.

Sheriff's spokeswoman Jennifer Brown confirmed that Unser, 49, was arrested around 3 a.m. just outside of Albuquerque, where he lives. Brown said Unser was drag racing another car in his Suburban and was going around 101 mph before sheriff's deputies caught up to him.

He was charged with reckless driving and aggravated driving while intoxicated.

In a statement, IndyCar, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, said it was aware of the charges. Unser was working with IndyCar as a driving coach and a race control official.

"Al Unser Jr. has been suspended indefinitely and relieved of his duties in Race Control, pending further investigation," IndyCar said in a statement.

According to a sheriff's report, Unser smelled of alcohol and was slurring his speech. Sheriff's deputies said his blood-alcohol content was twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Unser was released from jail on his own recognizance.

It was unclear if he had an attorney. No one answered a phone call to a number listed under his name.

Unser has been in Baltimore frequently over the last several years to help Baltimore Racing Development promote the race to the city and to racing fans in the region. In July 2009, while working for IndyCar and as a consultant to BRD, Unser said the Inner Harbor would be a scenic backdrop and that the event could attract racing fans from Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

"I'd kind of like to call it [Baltimore] our East Coast Long Beach," Unser said then. "Long Beach just had their 35th annual [street race]. I really feel this is going to be a long-term win-win situation."

Thursday's arrest is not the first time Unser has had problems with the law.

In 2007, he pleaded no contest to a driving under the influence charge stemming from a January 2007 crash on a Nevada freeway. Nevada authorities said Unser's blood-alcohol content was three times the legal limit and he failed field sobriety tests. As part of the plea deal, Unser lost his driver's license for 90 days, was fined $1,000 and had to attend a drunken driving school, a victim-impact panel and undergo alcohol abuse evaluation.

His lawyer at the time said Unser had stopped drinking and was attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Unser also performed more than 100 hours of community service on alcohol treatment-related causes.

In 2002, Unser also underwent treatment for alcohol abuse after his girlfriend said he hit her in the face while he was drunk in Indianapolis. Prosecutors did not file charges.

Unser, who is retired, is the son of Indy 500 racing legend Al Unser, and the nephew of three-time Indy winner Bobby Unser. He won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994, and won two CART points titles and two IROC championships.

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