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Robert William "Bobby" Unser (born February 20, 1934) is an American former automobile racer. He is the brother of Al Unser, Jerry Unser and Louis Unser, the father of Robby Unser and the uncle of Al Unser Jr. and Johnny Unser. The Unser family has won the Indy 500 a record nine times. He is one of ten drivers to win the Indianapolis 500 three or more times and one of only two (followed by Rick Mears) to have won the 500 in three different decades (1968, 1975, 1981). Bobby has also been a spokesman and advocate of many commercial products.

Bobby Unser
Bobby Unser - 2015 Indianapolis 500 - Stierch.jpg
Unser in 2015
NationalityUnited States American
BornRobert William Unser
(1934-02-20) February 20, 1934 (age 85)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Related toAl Unser Sr. (brother)
Jerry Unser Jr. (brother)
Louis Unser (uncle)
Robby Unser (son)
Al Unser Jr. (nephew)
Johnny Unser (nephew)
Championship Car
Years active1955–1982
Starts258
Wins35
Poles52
Best finish1st in 1968 & 1974
Championship titles
1968, 1974
1968, 1975, 1981
1975
USAC National Champion
Indianapolis 500 winner

International Race of Champions
Formula One World Championship career
Active years1968
TeamsBRM
Entries2 (1 start)
Championships0
Wins0
Podiums0
Career points0
Pole positions0
Fastest laps0
First entry1968 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry1968 United States Grand Prix
Bobby Unser's 1979 Penske Cosworth Champ Car

Contents

Early lifeEdit

Unser was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the third oldest of 4 brothers. When he turned 1 his family moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1950, at the age of 15, he won his first championship in Southwest Modified Stock Cars. From 1953 to 1955 he joined the Air Force and became a top competition sharp shooter in military matches, though he later bitterly regretted it. In 1955 Bobby and brothers Jerry and Al Unser decided to pursue racing careers in USAC. In 1959 his brother Jerry Unser died in an automobile accident at the Indianapolis 500.

Bobby is the father of two sons, Bobby Jr. and Robby, and two daughters, Cindy and Jeri.

IndyCar careerEdit

Unser came from a family of racecar drivers. He won numerous racing championships throughout his career, including three Indianapolis 500 titles.[1][2] He debuted in 1955 at Pike's Peak, dubbed "Unser's Peak" because of his family's history of success at the hill climb.[1] He finished fifth that year, behind his two brothers. A year later he won his first of a record 13 championships at Pike's Peak.[3][4] He won six straight titles from 1958 to 1963. His streak ended in 1964 when his younger brother Al won the race.[1]

Unser raced in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963. He crashed early and placed thirty-third.[5] His first Indy-car win came in 1967 at Mosport, Ontario.[1] A year later, Unser won his first Indianapolis 500, setting the record as the first driver to race over 170 miles per hour at Indianapolis.[1] In 1969 Unser won his first USAC National Driving Championship.[2]

In 1972 Unser set another Indianapolis 500 record for the fastest qualifying time at 195.94 miles per hour.[6] In 1974, he won his second USAC National Driving Championship and a year later he won his second Indianapolis 500 in a race that was rain-shortened on lap 174.[1] From 1979 to 1981 Unser raced in the CART series for Team Penske winning ten races.[3][4][7] In 1980 he became the first driver to win the California 500 four times. His career ended in 1981 following a controversial win at Indianapolis.

1981 Indianapolis 500 controversyEdit

Bobby was the center of one of the most controversial finishes in Indy 500 history at the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Unser won the pole in the #3 Roger Penske-owned car and led the most laps (89 laps).

On lap 149, during a caution period, Bobby and Mario Andretti made their pit stop and headed back to the race. Bobby passed eight cars during the caution, while Mario passed two cars. Unser went on and won the race, but was stripped of it on the following morning in favor of second-place finisher Mario Andretti. After a 5-month lawsuit and protest by Penske, Bobby Unser was re-awarded the win in October 1981. For his infraction, Unser was instead fined $40,000 ($110,000 in today's money).

But the controversy and financial impact (Unser once estimated that the commercial endorsements he lost because of the delayed result cost him $1 million) caused a bitter Unser to retire from racing at the end of the year. In a 1982 interview Unser refused to come out of retirement and said he retired because following the controversy he became disillusioned with auto-racing and lost his passion for driving race-cars. "Regardless of the outcome it's been ruined for me. I would paint out racing if I painted my future," said Unser in an interview at the time. Unser sat out the 1982 IndyCar season but planned to make a comeback in 1983 driving for Patrick Racing (the team that was stripped of the win). However he changed his mind and retired in 1983.

In his autobiography Winners are Driven, Unser expressed his beliefs that the debacle was politically motivated and that USAC disqualified him (and benefited Andretti), hoping to start a falling-out between Pat Patrick, Mario's car owner and owner of Patrick Racing, and Roger Penske (owner of Unser's car), in order to destroy CART. He claimed that Patrick's team did not protest the finish and that Patrick was on Unser's side in the controversy.

Other achievementsEdit

Unser was the 1975 IROC champion, and won the 1993 Fast Masters championship.

Unser challenged Dan Gurney to improve the performance of his 1971 USAC car, leading to the development of the Gurney flap.[citation needed] In 1993, Unser set a new Bonneville Salt Flats record at Bonneville Speedway of 223.709 in a D/Gas Modified Roadster that stood for 18 years. He leads the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with 13 wins, setting a new track record nine times.[citation needed]

After retiring from Indycar driving in 1982, Unser did developmental work for Audi, lapping one at 206.8 MPH. In 1986, after a 12-year absence from the Pikes Peak race, he won the event for the tenth time driving an Audi Quattro, breaking the tie he had with Uncle Louis for nine overall victories each. The 1986 win brought Unser’s total number of Pikes Peak victories to 13, including two stock car class victories (1969 and 1974) and a single sports car class win (1963).

In 2003, he published a book, Winners are Driven: A Champion’s Guide to Success in Business and Life.

BroadcasterEdit

Unser became a television commentator for Indy car races after his retirement working for NBC, ABC, and ESPN. Unser also worked as the analyst for the IMS Radio Network in 1986. In 1989 and 1990, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded ABC's telecast of the Indianapolis 500 the Sports Emmy Award for "Outstanding Live Sports Special". Unser receiving announcer honors with Paul Page, Sam Posey and others. Unser also broadcast several NASCAR events between 1986–1992 alongside Page and Benny Parsons. The most famous NASCAR race Unser broadcast was the 1989 The Winston in which Rusty Wallace won by wrecking Darrell Waltrip with 2 laps to go; Unser was the first broadcaster of the broadcasting team to spot the post-race fist-fight between Wallace and Waltrip's pit crews.

AwardsEdit

Federal criminal chargesEdit

On 20 December 1996, in Colorado, Unser and a friend became lost while snowmobiling near Unser's New Mexico ranch. They abandoned one stuck snowmobile before a storm blinded them both. When the second snowmobile stopped working, they spent two days and nights in subzero weather before finding a barn where they were found. Both men were suffering badly, his friend was suffering from hypothermia, and Unser had vomited blood during this time.[8] Unser was later convicted of a Federal misdemeanor, "unlawful operation of a snowmobile within a National Forest Wilderness Area" (16 U.S.C. 551, 36 C.F.R. 261.16(a)), and was fined $75. Maximum penalties could have been up to six months in jail and up to $5,000.00 in fines. Unser appealed, claiming to have been lost before the accident, but the court ruled that maps were widely available and it was a public welfare offense, thus intent was not necessary.[9] Unser appealed this decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but his writ of certiorari was denied.[10]

Racing recordEdit

American open-wheel racing resultsEdit

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

Complete USAC Championship Car resultsEdit

Year Team Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 Pos Points
1955 INDY MIL LAN SPR MIL DUQ PIK
5
SYR ISF SAC PHX 32nd 100
1962 TRE INDY MIL LAN TRE SPR MIL LAN SYR ISF TRE SAC
DNQ
PHX - 0
1963 TRE INDY
33
MIL LAN TRE SPR
18
MIL DUQ ISF TRE SAC
7
PHX
9
25th 100
1964 PHX
17
TRE INDY
32
MIL
12
LAN
7
TRE
18
SPR
4
MIL
20
DUQ
4
ISF
15
TRE
6
SAC
18
PHX
22
14th 470
1965 PHX
16
TRE
10
INDY
19
MIL
17
LAN
14
PIP
2
TRE
14
IRP
2
ATL
22
LAN
5
MIL
4
SPR
10
MIL
18
DUQ
17
ISF
4
TRE
6
SAC
4
PHX
3
7th 1.402
1966 PHX
19
TRE
18
INDY
8
MIL
16
LAN
14
ATL
14
PIP
1
IRP
4
LAN
19
SPR
5
MIL
8
DUQ
3
ISF
17
TRE
DNQ
SAC
5
PHX
4
6th 1.210
1967 PHX
19
TRE
3
INDY
9
MIL
9
LAN
6
PIP
5
MOS
1
MOS
1
IRP
3
LAN
3
MTR
22
MTR
13
SPR
8
MIL
26
DUQ
6
ISF
18
TRE
3
SAC
18
HAN
2
PHX
3
RIV
2
3rd 3.020
1968 HAN
5
LVG
1
PHX
1
TRE
1
INDY
1
MIL
21
MOS
17
MOS LAN
2
PIP
1
CDR
11
NAZ
7
IRP
3
IRP
21
LAN
2
LAN
16
MTR
2
MTR
11
SPR
DNQ
MIL
4
DUQ
18
ISF
16
TRE
7
SAC
DNQ
MCH
17
HAN
2
PHX
19
RIV
2
1st 4.330
1969 PHX
8
HAN
7
INDY
3
MIL
16
LAN
1
PIP CDR
16
NAZ TRE
23
IRP
24
IRP MIL
2
SPR
10
DOV
22
DUQ
5
ISF
3
BRN
13
BRN
11
TRE
7
SAC
3
KEN
17
KEN
5
PHX
22
RIV
4
3rd 2.585
1970 PHX
2
SON
18
TRE
4
INDY
11
MIL
6
LAN
1
CDR
4
MCH
2
IRP
24
SPR
9
MIL
19
ONT
22
DUQ
2
ISF
DNQ
SED
DNQ
TRE
2
SAC
6
PHX
17
2nd 2.260
1971 RAF
27
RAF PHX
2
TRE
4
INDY
12
MIL
14
POC
9
MCH
18
MIL
1
ONT
21
TRE
1
PHX
8
6th 1.805
1972 PHX
1
TRE
17
INDY
30
MIL
1
MCH
14
POC
20
MIL
Wth
ONT
24
TRE
1
PHX
1
8th 1.500
1973 TWS
20
TRE
19
TRE
15
INDY
13
MIL
1
POC
10
MCH
20
MIL
DNQ
ONT ONT ONT
7
MCH
10
MCH
16
TRE
2
TWS
15
PHX
18
12th 1.108
1974 ONT
2
ONT ONT
1
PHX
2
TRE
1
INDY
2
MIL
21
POC
5
MCH
1
MIL
4
MCH
3
TRE
2
TRE
1
PHX
2
1st 4.870
1975 All American Racers Eagle 74 Offy 159 L4t ONT ONT
10
ONT
2
PHX TRE INDY
1
MIL
2
POC
22
MIS
5
MIL 3rd 2.489
Jerry O'Connell Racing Offy Drake L4t MIS2
3
TRE PHX
1976 Fletcher Racing Eagle 74 Offy Drake L4t PHX
1
TRE
DNQ
INDY
10
MIL
3
POC
32
MIS TWS TRE MIL
4
ONT
1
MIS
4
TWS
17
PHX
21
6th 2.080
1977 Fletcher Racing Lightning Mk1 Offy Drake L4t ONT
15
TRE
WD
INDY
18
MIL
16
POC
19
MOS MIS
21
TWS
15
MIL
17
ONT
30
MIS 35th 75
Eagle 74 PHX
17
TWS
Lightning Mk1 Cosworth DFX V8t PHX
8
1978 All American Racers Lightning Mk1 Cosworth DFX V8t PHX
18
ONT
16
TWS
13
TRE
20
12th 1.122
Eagle 78 INDY
6
MOS
19
MIL
17
POC
20
MIS
5
ATL
3
TWS
8
MIL
20
ONT
13
MIS TRE
Eagle 78 MkII SIL
8
BRH
13
PHX
11

CARTEdit

Year Team Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Rank Points
1979 Team Penske Penske PC-7 Cosworth DFX V8t PHX
5
ATL1
7
ATL2
4
INDY
5
TRE1
1
TRE2
1
MIS1
Ret
MIS2
1
WGL
1
TRE3
2
ONT
1
MIS3
1
ATL3
3
PHX2
2
2nd 3820
1980 Team Penske Penske PC-9 Cosworth DFX V8t ONT1
Ret
INDY
Ret
MIL1
1
POC
1
MDO
Ret
MIS1
2
WGL
1
MIL2
3
ONT2
1
MIS2
2
MEX
2
PHX
DNS
    2nd 3714
1981 Team Penske Penske PC-9B Cosworth DFX V8t PHX1
2
MIL1
Ret
ATL1
13
ATL2
6
MIS1
Ret
RIV
9
MIL2
3
MIS2
7
WGL
Ret
MEX
Ret
PHX2
2
      7th 99

Indianapolis 500 resultsEdit

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish
1963 Kurtis 500K Novi 16th 33rd
1964 Ferguson P104 Novi 22nd 32nd
1965 Ferguson P104 Novi 8th 19th
1966 Huffaker 66 Offy 28th 8th
1967 Eagle 67 Ford 8th 9th
1968 Eagle 68 Offy 3rd 1st
1969 Lola T152 Offy 3rd 3rd
1970 Eagle 67 Ford 7th 11th
1971 Eagle 71 Offy 3rd 12th
1972 Eagle 72 Offy 1st 30th
1973 Eagle 73 Offy 2nd 13th
1974 Eagle 74 Offy 7th 2nd
1975 Eagle 74 Offy 3rd 1st
1976 Eagle 74–76 Offy 12th 10th
1977 Lightning Mk1/77 Offy 2nd 18th
1978 Eagle 78 Ford Cosworth DFX 19th 6th
1979 Penske PC-7 Ford Cosworth DFX 4th 5th
1980 Penske PC-9 Ford Cosworth DFX 3rd 19th
1981 Penske PC-9B Ford Cosworth DFX 1st 1st

Indy 500 qualifying resultsEdit

Year Att # Date Time Qual
Day
Car # Laps Qual
Time
Qual
Speed
Rank Start Comment
1967 4 05-13 4 1 6 4  — 164.752 9 8
1968 6 05-18 6 1 3 4  — 169.507 3 3
1969 12 05-24 12 2 1 4 3:32.1600 169.683 3 3
1970 24 05-16 24 1 3 4 3:33.6400 168.508 8 7
1971 17 05-15 17 1 2 4 3:24.7600 175.816 3 3
1972 13 05-14 16:49 1 6 4 3:03.7300 195.940 1 1
1973 19 05-12 13:28 1 8 0  —  —  —  —
1973 29 05-12 17:20 1 8 4 3:01.6500 198.183 2 2
1974 14 05-11 11:40 1 48 4 3:14.4100 185.176 8 7
1975 16 05-10 13:14 1 48 4 3:08.4100 191.073 3 3
1976 1 05-15 14:36 1 3 1  —  —  —  — PULLED OFF
1976 34 05-16 13:15 2 3 4 3:11.9800 187.520 5 12
1977 6 05-14 11:44 1 6 1  —  —  —  — PULLED OFF
1977 32 05-14 16:48 1 6 4 3:02.0700 197.726 2 2
1978 30 05-20 17:07 2 48 4 3:04.9400 194.658 10 20
1979 17 05-13 14:08 1 12 4 3:09.5600 189.913 4 4
1980 23 05-10 14:16 1 11 4 3:09.4800 189.994 3 3
1981 19 05-16 11:36 1 3 4 2:59.5100 200.546 2 1

Complete Formula One World Championship resultsEdit

Unser participated in 2 Formula One World Championship Grands Prix.

(key)

Year Entrant Chassis Engine 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 WDC Points
1968 Owen Racing Organisation BRM P126 BRM V12 RSA ESP MON BEL NED FRA GBR GER ITA
DNS
CAN NC 0
BRM P138 USA
Ret
MEX

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Family History". Unser Racing Museum. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Unser Inventor, Collaborator, 3-time Indy 500 Winner". OnInnovation. Archived from the original on 11 February 2015. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Bobby Unser 1980 USAC Champ Car Series Results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Bobby Unser 1981 USAC Champ Car Series Results". Racing Reference. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  5. ^ "1963 Indianapolis 500". Racing Reference. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  6. ^ Oreovicz, John (16 May 2011). "Indy at 100: Fatalities mar the '70s". ESPN. Retrieved 19 February 2015.
  7. ^ "Bobby Unser". Racing Reference. Retrieved 11 February 2015.
  8. ^ Indy 500 Winner Bobby Unser vs. the U.S. Government on YouTube
  9. ^ Friedman, Richard A. (July 1999), Brief for the United States in Opposition, archived from the original on 2010-08-30
  10. ^ Carroll, Conn (2011-03-14), "Bobby Unser vs the Feds", The Foundry, Heritage Foundation

External linksEdit