An Auto Racing Legend Is Gone

Three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser dead at 87
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2021 12:16 PM CDT
An Auto Racing Legend Is Gone
Bobby Unser is shown at the Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1971.   (AP Photo/Chuck Robinson, File)

Bobby Unser, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and part of the only pair of brothers to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” has died at age 87, per the AP. He died Sunday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of natural causes, the Indianapolis Speedway said Monday. Unser won the Indy 500 in 1968, 1975, and 1981. His younger brother, Al, is one of only three four-time Indy 500 winners in race history. Al Unser won the race in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987. The Unser family tradition stretched to Al Unser's son, Al Unser Jr., who won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994. Bobby Unser was born Feb. 20, 1934, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but moved with his family as a child to New Mexico. His father owned a garage along Route 66 and he his brother grew up tooling around in old jalopies before he began his racing career in 1949 at Roswell New Mexico Speedway.

After a two-year stint in the US Air Force from 1953 to 1955, Unser turned to racing full time and became one of the greatest racers in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. He is one of just 10 drivers to win the 500 at least three times, and Unser and Rick Mears are the only drivers to win the 500 in three different decades. His final Indy 500 victory in 1981 came in one of the most controversial and contentious outcomes in race history. Unser beat Mario Andretti by 5.18 seconds, but officials ruled Unser passed cars illegally while exiting the pit lane under caution—drawing a penalty that docked him one position and moved Andretti to winner. Unser appealed, and the penalty was rescinded months later. It was the 35th and final victory of Unser's career. (Read more obituaries.)

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