3-Time Indy 500 Winner Bobby Unser Dies at Age 87

Jenna CiccotelliCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2021

INDIANAPOLIS, IN — May 1981:  Bobby Unser of Albuquerque, NM, with Roger Penske’s Penske/Cosworth Norton Spirit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Unser won the pole position for the USAC-sanctioned Indianapolis 500 Indy Car race, then went on to win his third Indy 500 race, becoming just the second driver to win the event in three different decades.  Unser also tasted Indy victory in 1968 and 1975.  (Photo by ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)
ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images

Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser died Sunday at his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, of natural causes, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway confirmed to Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press. He was 87. 

Unser was crowned the champion of the Indy 500 in 1968, 1975 and 1981. 

His younger brother, Al Unser, is a four-time Indy 500 champion. They are the only brothers to have both won the Indy 500.

"Bobby was a ferocious competitor on the track, and his larger-than-life personality made him one of the most beloved and unique racers we have ever seen,'' said Roger Penske, who currently owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and owned the team with which Unser won the race in 1981. 

That Penske team victory in 1981 came amid controversy after it was ruled Unser passed illegally, giving Mario Andretti the win. The team successfully appealed the ruling in October 1981 and Unser earned his 35th career victory. 

Through 19 career starts at Indianapolis, Unser won the race in 1968, 1975 and 1981 and finished in the top 10 on 10 separate occasions. His 440 leading laps (which spanned 10 races) rank 10th all-time. 

His racing career began at Roswell Speedway in New Mexico in 1949, developing into a family business that saw his nephew, Al Unser Jr., win the Indy 500 in 1992 and 1994. In total, six drivers in the family have raced in the Indianapolis 500. 

After Unser retired from racing, began a broadcasting career that resulted in an Emmy Award in 1989. He was inducted into International Motorsports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and National Sprint Car Halls of Fame, as well as the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America and the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame.