Bobby Unser, 3-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner, Dies at 87

by Madison Miller

Racing legend, Bobby Unser, passed away on Sunday at the age of 87. He was at home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and died from natural causes.

The news of his passing was released today (May 3) by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Unser had been one of 10 drivers to win the Indy 500 on three different occasions during his career as a driver.

Bobby Unser Legendary Racing Career

He won in 1968, 1975, and 1981. Unser is also the only driver to have accomplished this win in three different decades.

Bobby Unser is part of a family of racers. He and his brother, Al Unser, are the only brothers to both win at the Indy 500, which is also known as “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” according to ESPN. His brother won the Indy 500 in 1970, 1971, 1978, and 1987. He then had a son, Al Unser Jr., who won the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994.

The Unser family had made the Indy 500 their second home. The joy of winning it had become a family tradition over the years.

Bobby Unser grew up with a father who happened to own a garage along Route 66. His childhood was spent tinkering around with cars alongside his brother. He first got a taste of the racetrack in 1949 when he raced at the Roswell Speedway in New Mexico. His racing career was put on hold when he joined the U.S. Air Force in 1953 and stayed for two years.

Key Moments in Career and Life

After that, he spent the rest of his life devoted to racing. His last win at the Indy 500 remains one of his most popular due to the controversy connected to it. He beat his opponent, Mario Andretti, by 5.18 seconds, however, officials ruled that he had passed illegally while exiting the pit lane. The penalty he received moved him to second place. Eventually, both racers appealed and the penalty was removed, which instead crowned Unser as the rightful winner.

Bobby Unser and his family were also known as the “Kings of the Hill.” The family had dominated the “Race to the Clouds.” It is a dangerous race that people have taken part in on the Pikes Peak Highway since 1916. Bobby Unser has won this race on 13 different occasions. He was knocked off his pedestal of wins in 1964 and 1965 when his younger brother beat him.

The whirlwind Indy 500 win in 1981 would be his final victory of a long racing career and 35 total wins. After racing, Unser also took up a carer in broadcasting, as many former athletes choose to do. He ended up winning an Emmy for “Outstanding Live Sports Special” along with the rest of the ABC Sports broadcast team. He was covering something he knew better than a lot of people. Unser was reporting on the 1989 Indy 500.

In his personal life, Unser married his wife, Lisa, and the two had four children together. Social media has been filled with touching tributes to the late racing legend.