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American Racing Legend and Indy 500 Champion Bobby Unser Dead at 87

The oldest of the Unser racing dynasty, Bobby is one of only 10 drivers to win the race three times in the 100+ years it's taken place.

Three-time Indy 500 winner and overall American racing icon Bobby Unser, is confirmed to have died Sunday at the age of 87. The popular racing driver is said to have passed away peacefully at his home in New Mexico, and leaves behind his wife, Lisa; sons Bobby Jr. and Robby; and daughters Cindy and Jeri.

Easily one of the most popular names to have ever been linked with the Indy 500, Unser won the famous race in 1968, 1975, and one last time in 1981. That last win was engulfed in controversy, as Unser was demoted to second place less than 24 hours after being proclaimed race winner due to an alleged, illegal pass under a yellow flag. Mario Andretti was immediately crowned winner of the 1981 race, but an appeal later that year reversed the victory back to Unser.

AP Images

Bobby Unser was no stranger to controversies or hard-fought victories, of course, coming from a family known for being outspoken and ultra-competitive. His own brother, Al Unser, is still one of just three drivers to have won the 500-mile race four times, up there with legends like AJ Foyt and Rick Mears.

“There simply was no one quite like Bobby Unser,” said Roger Penske, Chairman, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Team Penske in a press release. “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. Bobby brought so much to Team Penske during his time with our team, including a memorable victory in the 1981 Indianapolis 500.”

“Beyond his many wins and accomplishments, Bobby was a true racer that raised the performance of everyone around him. He was also one of the most colorful characters in motorsports. Throughout his time as a driver, a commentator, and an ambassador of our sport, Bobby’s stories and his passion for racing were legendary,” added Penske.

After retiring from IndyCar in 1982, Unser was still around the paddock fulfilling multiple roles, and he even participated in other one-off racing around the country, such as the famous Pikes Peak Hillclimb. He was inducted into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame in 1990. His post-racing career included plenty of tv commentating, as well as various ambassador roles for the series and other products. Later in life, he was also the racing coach for his son, Robby Unser, who also raced at the 500.

“Everyone at IMS extends our deepest sympathies to Bobby’s family, friends and fans,”  He was one of a kind and will be deeply missed, but always cherished in the heart of every race fan.”

Goodspeed, Bobby.

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