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Bobby Unser (1934–2021), three-time Indy 500 winner

by Linnea Crowther

Bobby Unser was a racing driver who was one of only 10 drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three times.

Record-setting racing career

Unser was a member of the Unser family of acing drivers, who have a record nine Indy 500 wins between them. He began racing as a young man alongside his brothers, Al (who won the Indy 500 four times), Jerry, and Louis Unser, and his son Robby and nephews Al Jr. and Johnny Unser are racing drivers as well. Unser’s winning career began at the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb, a challenging race that he won his second time out, in 1956. He would go on to win another 12 times at Pike’s Peak, as well as setting many course records.

Unser first raced in the Indianapolis 500 in 1963, though an early crash kept him from glory. He would first win the Indy 500 in 1967, when he became the first driver to exceed 170 miles per hour there. Unser won Indy again in 1975 and 1981, making him one of only two drivers to win the famed race in three different decades. His 1981 win was a controversial one in which he was stripped of his title after review of a caution; he contested the result and later got his win back. The incident led Unser to retire from racing.


After his retirement, Unser became a commentator for Indy car races, working for ESPN as well as NBC and ABC. He also provided commentary for a number of NASCAR races. He is a member of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame, International Motorsports Hall of Fame, and Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Notable quote

“I look back at my career and go Wow! I had a lot of bad years, a lot of lean years climbing that long ladder but once I got into it, somehow the good Lord found good race cars!” —from a 2010 interview for OldRacingCars.com

Tributes to Bobby Unser

Full obituary: Albuquerque Journal

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