May 12, 2021

Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser dies

Unser won the Indy 500 in 1968, 1975 and 1981, making him the only other driver than Rick Mears to win the event in three different decades.

He was born in Colorado Springs in 1934, brother to Al Unser Sr and uncle to Al Jr – both of whom also won the Indy 500. Another brother, Jerry, died in the 1959 race.

In 1949, Unser started racing at Roswell Speedway. In 1950, he raced at Speedway Park in Albuquerque and won his first championship in Southwestern Modified Stock Cars. After serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1953-55, Unser and his brothers Jerry and Al decided to pursue racing careers in United States Auto Club (USAC) competition.

Bobby earned seven career USAC Sprint Car feature victories and placed third in the standings in 1965 and 1966. He also won six USAC Stock Car races and three USAC Midget features.

Unser’s career in IndyCars started in the end of the 1962 season. He spent three years driving Novi-engined cars for Andy Granatelli, his first Indy 500 start coming in 1963, completing just two laps after being involved in an accident.

His first IndyCar win came at Mosport in 1967, and he went on to become USAC National Champion in ’68 and ’74. He finished his career with 35 career IndyCar victories, recorded eight top-three finishes in the season points and was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1990.

He retired from racing soon after his controversial final Indy 500 victory, having been initially stripped of victory for passing cars during a caution. Five months later, the win was reinstated following a protest and lawsuit by team owner Roger Penske – instead, Unser was fined $40,000.

Following the controversy, Unser said he became disillusioned with the sport – but went on to have a hugely successful broadcasting career, working for NBC, ABC and ESPN on IndyCar, as well as NASCAR events.

Unser also won 13 class titles at the Pikes Peak hillclimb and earned ‘King of the Mountain’ honors 10 times during his career as the fastest driver overall up the famed mountain.

Unser is survived by his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri.

Bobby Unser with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015

Bobby Unser with Juan Pablo Montoya in 2015

Photo by: IndyCar Series

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