Bobby Unser

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Bobby Unser
Bobby Unser - 2015 Indianapolis 500 - Stierch.jpg
Unser in 2015
Nationality United States American
Born Robert William Unser
(1934-02-20) February 20, 1934 (age 82)
Colorado Springs, Colorado, U.S.
Related to Al Unser, Sr. (brother)
Jerry Unser Jr. (brother)
Louis Unser (uncle)
Robby Unser (son)
Al Unser, Jr. (nephew)
Johnny Unser (nephew)
Championship Car
Years active 1955–1982
Starts 258
Wins 35
Poles 52
Best finish 1st in 1968 & 1974
Championship titles
1968 & 1974
1975
USAC National Champion
International Race of Champions
Awards
1968, 1975 & 1981 Indianapolis 500 winner
Formula One World Championship career
Active years 1968
Teams BRM
Entries 2 (1 start)
Championships 0
Wins 0
Podiums 0
Career points 0
Pole positions 0
Fastest laps 0
First entry 1968 Italian Grand Prix
Last entry 1968 United States Grand Prix
Bobby Unser's 1979 Penske Cosworth Champ Car

Robert William "Bobby" Unser (born February 20, 1934) is a retired American 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. 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, 75, 81). Bobby has also been a spokesman and advocate of many commercial products.

Early life[edit]

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 career[edit]

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 debacle at Indianapolis.

1981 Indianapolis 500 controversy[edit]

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 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. But for his infraction, Unser was instead fined $40,000 ($104,000 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 (ironically 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 & 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 achievements[edit]

Was the 1975 IROC champion.

Challenged Dan Gurney to improve the performance of his 1971 USAC car, leading to the development of the Gurney flap.[citation needed]

Won the 1993 Fast Masters championship.

In 1993 he set a new Bonneville Salt Flats record at Bonneville Speedway of 223.709 in a D/Gas Modified Roaster that stood for 18 years.

Leads the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with 13 wins setting a new track record 9 times.[citation needed]

After retiring from Indycar driving in 1982, Bobby did developmental work for Audi, lapping one at 206.8 MPH. And in 1986, after a 12-year absence from the Pike’s Peak race, he won his event for the tenth time driving an Audi Quattro, breaking the tie he had with Uncle Louis for nine overall victories apiece. The 1986 win brought Bobby’s total number of Pike’s 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”.

Broadcaster[edit]

Unser became a television commentator for Indycar races after his retirement working for the ABC, ESPN and the NBC. In 1989 The National Academy of Televisions Arts and Sciences awarded ABC "Indianapolis 500" as "Outstanding Live Sports special" for the "National Sports Emmy Awards", Bobby receiving announcer honors with Paul Page, Sam Posey and others. He also broadcast several NASCAR events between 1986–1994 alongside Ned Jarrett and Bob Jenkins. The most famous NASCAR race Unser broadcast was the 1989 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.

Awards[edit]

Federal criminal charges[edit]

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 record[edit]

American open-wheel racing results[edit]

(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position)

USAC[edit]

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 Rank Points
1975 All American Racers United States
ONT1
United States
ONT2
10
United States
ONT3
2
United States
PHX
United States
TRE
United States
INDY
1
United States
MIL
2
United States
POC
22
United States
MIS
5
United States
MIL2
3rd 2480
Jerry O'Connell Racing United States
MIS2
3
United States
TRE2
United States
PHX2
1976 Fletcher Racing United States
PHX
1
United States
TRE
DNQ
United States
INDY
10
United States
MIL
3
United States
POC
32
United States
MIS
United States
TWS
United States
TRE2
United States
MIL2
4
United States
ONT
1
United States
MIS2
4
United States
TWS2
17
United States
PHX2
21
6th 2080
1977 Fletcher Racing United States
ONT
15
United States
PHX
17
United States
TWS
United States
TRE
WD
United States
INDY
18
United States
MIL
16
United States
POC
19
Canada
MOS
United States
MIS
21
United States
TWS2
15
United States
MIL2
17
United States
ONT2
30
United States
MIS2
United States
PHX2
8
35th 75
1978 All American Racers United States
PHX
18
United States
ONT
16
United States
TWS
13
United States
TRE
20
United States
INDY
6
Canada
MOS
19
United States
MIL
17
United States
POC
20
United States
MIS
5
United States
ATL
3
United States
TWS2
8
United States
MIL2
20
United States
ONT2
13
United States
MIS2
United States
TRE2
United Kingdom
SIL
8
United Kingdom
BRH
13
United States
PHX2
11
12th 1122

CART[edit]

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

Indy 500 results[edit]

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 results[edit]

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 results[edit]

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

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f "Family History". Unser Racing Museum. Retrieved 11 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b "Bobby Unser Inventor, Collaborator, 3-time Indy 500 Winner". OnInnovation. 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 
  10. ^ Carroll, Conn (2011-03-14), "Bobby Unser vs the Feds", The Foundry (Heritage Foundation) 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Mark Donohue
IROC Champion
IROC II (1975)
Succeeded by
A.J. Foyt
Preceded by
A. J. Foyt
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1968
Succeeded by
Mario Andretti
Preceded by
Johnny Rutherford
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1975
Succeeded by
Johnny Rutherford
Preceded by
Johnny Rutherford
Indianapolis 500 Winner
1981
Succeeded by
Gordon Johncock