Three-Time Indy 500 Winner Bobby Unser Has Died

·2 min read
Photo credit: Alvis Upitis
Photo credit: Alvis Upitis

There was nobody like Bobby Unser.

Uncle Bobby, as he was affectionately known, had one of the most successful careers in all of American motorsports.

A three-time Indy 500 winner, two time USAC national champion, and an IROC champion, Bobby also won the Pikes Peak Hill Climb 13 times, 10 of them overall. His final win came in 1986 in an Audi Sport Quattro and broke the tie he held for overall wins with his uncle, Louis.

Photo credit: Brian Bahr
Photo credit: Brian Bahr

Unser is the only driver to win Indy in three different decades. His first appearance at the race saw him finish last. His last appearance at the race saw him finish first, though that 1981 Indy 500 was clouded by poor officiating that saw Uncle Bobby stripped of the win, which was then given to Mario Andretti, and then re-awarded to Bobby months later after a prolonged legal fight. Bobby quit at the end of the season and a rift was formed between Unser and Andretti, who didn’t make amends until 2017.

Photo credit: RacingOne
Photo credit: RacingOne

He was, of course, a member of the legendary Unser family. His brother Al won Indy four times and his nephew Al, Jr. has two wins at the speedway. While his son Robby had limited success in open wheel racing, he has nine wins at Pikes Peak, with four overall.

The fast-talking Unser was always good for a wisecrack and had personality for days, something that served him exceedingly well in his broadcasting career. Joining ABC for its Indy coverage after he retired from driving, Unser was a wonderful, addition to race coverage. His insight was unparalleled and his friendly rivalry with R&T contributor and fellow commentator Sam Posey was legendary. It made for TV gold, with the considered, thoughtful Posey frequently corrected or talked over by Unser.

Photo credit: RacingOne
Photo credit: RacingOne

An avid snowmobiler, Unser did make news in the late 1990s when he and a friend got lost and spent two frigid nights stuck in the wilderness. After they were found, Unser was charged with a federal misdemeanor of operating a snowmobile in a national wilderness area. Unser, who was fined $75, was determined to have the record expunged, and appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. His petition wasn't granted, but it was always part of Uncle Bobby's character to never give up.

A true character, Unser was known for his humor and his decency among racers and colleagues. Uncle Bobby passed away from natural causes on Sunday at the age of 87.

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