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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Bobby Unser, Indy and Pikes Peak racing legend, dies at 87 | Hagerty Media

Bobby Unser, the three-time Indy 500 winner and 10-time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb winner, passed away at his New Mexico home on Sunday at the age of 87. Unser was born February 20, 1934 in Colorado Springs, Colorado, but would soon move with his family to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/news/bobby-unser-indy-and-pikes-peak-racing-legend-dies-at-87/
12 REPLIES 12
DUB6
Technician

We will miss you, Bobby - you will remain one of the greatest all-around competitors in all of motorsports for all time.  Condolences to the entire Unser clan - many of them talented racers as well.  Bobby was something special...

ConfuciusRacing
Detailer

What sad news...I'm one of the throngs who was drawn to gregarious personality and of course his driving skill. Another true pillar of motorsport passing. RIP Bobby, thanks for the memories.
DaveB
Intermediate Driver

a true star of the sport
Studenorton
Instructor

His start at Indy in 1963 was anything but "inauspicious." He was driving a Novi. You don't do anything inauspicious in a Novi.

Bobby vanished into the wilderness in 1996, and was missing in a bliz long enough for major networks to read his obituary. He'd dug a snow cave, and came hiking back in a couple days later. He did get fined for running his snowmobile in the park, though.
okfoz
Detailer

About 10 years ago, I spoke to Bobby on the phone, he owned an Aerostar aircraft and I work for a company that sells Windshields and windows for airplanes. He called, I answered and he told me his name was Bobby Unser. I asked, "Like the Race car driver" he said, something like, "the one and only."
He then proceeds to tell me a story about landing on an airfield in the Phoenix AZ Area.
He was coming in on approach to a small airfield in Goodyear, AZ. As he was talking with the tower at Goodyear and when he landed, the Tower at Goodyear was asking, "500BU (His actual Tail number) I do not see you." Bobby radioed back and said, "Yes, I just landed and I have a lot of guns pointing at me"
Goodyear tower Radioed back, "You just landed at Luke Air-force Base, hold on" then they radioed back and said, "We cleared it up, take off, we are 2 miles south"
Both Luke AFB and Goodyear are parallel airfields.
It was a pleasure speaking with him, he seemed like a super nice guy from that conversation.
Eric2
Intermediate Driver

Really surprised the author didn't mention his brother Al along with the other notable family race car drivers/winners? RIP Bobby Unser
PRScott
Detailer

It wasn't Al or Al jr 's obituary
SJ
Instructor

Excellent!!!
E34stickguy
New Driver

A true racing hero, and someone who inspired so many of us to love cars, driving, and motorsport!
ACE_Sonoma
Detailer

Was very saddened to hear of Bobby's passing, not because it was never going to happen, but to mourn our communal loss of this True Racing Icon.  I'd like to share a very personal Bobby story, that I believe illustrates his Humanity and the behaviors that helped make this American Hero so popular.

 

Back in the late 80's, I was contacted by the Owner of the six-car Race Hauler I was using for our IMSA Firehawk cars about an opportunity to earn some income towards offsetting the cost of the Beast.  He put me in touch with the F.O.R.C.E. (Formula One Race Car Entrants) Owner/Director in SF, and we struck a deal to haul 5 Vintage F-1 cars to the Tacoma Dome, where they would run in concert with a major West Coast Formula Program for Atlantics (WCAR) and Formula Fords.  I was delighted at the opportunity to deliver a V-12 Ferrari, and Cosworth Lola's and March's, especially when I heard that Bobby Unser would be the Grand Marshal and drive an '82 March in the Race.  Imagine; I might be able to stand next to Bobby, get an autograph, and even have a word with him!  Meeting me at the 'Dome were two young Dutchmen, who reportedly worked for the Williams F-1 Team, and would act as Crew for the Cars; I was just to Drive, Unload, Load, and Drive back.  As it turned out, they, uhhh, weren't quite as efficient as they should have been, and improperly installed one of the 'pin-drive' rear wheels on Bobby's Car.  Bobby felt it right away, and limped around the K-Barrier lined course that wound its way around the 'Dome Parking Lot; avoiding a potentially catastrophic crash and serious personal injury.  When he got back to the Pit, he had a quick word 'The Boys', as well as the Car Owner, whereupon I made a quick repair and got the Car back to the Hauler.  As I was assessing the damage, who walks up behind me, but Bobby himself...

 

"Hi!  Are you, Dave?"

 

"Uhhhhh, yeah, I mean, uhhhhh yes, Sir, I am..."

 

Hand extended, "Well, I'm Bobby Unser, and I'd like YOU to work on my Car, would that be OK?"

 

"Could you also build me a heel support, this car is set up for a lot shorter guy, and I'm having a tough time heel-and-toeing?"

 

I instantly felt my feet leave the ground, Angels were singing, there was a bright light from an unknown source, I heard a man's voice....

 

"Is that OK, can you do that, for me?"

 

Snapping back to some sense of reality, I managed to blurt out some affirmative response, as Bobby grabbed my hand, and shook it forcefully.

 

I had him sit in the car, get comfortable, removed the footwell inspection plate, adjusted the pedals, measured for the heel plate, then adjusted the lap, shoulder, and sub belts before allowing him to leave...

 

He said, "Come join us for Lunch", spun on his heels, and walked off...

 

"Sorry guys, BOBBY wants ME to work on HIS Car!"

 

I visit my Dear Friend racing Atlantics a few stalls over, Danny Marvin, and ask if he has any Aluminum Right Angle.  "Sure, right over here, help yourself!"

 

As I'm finishing up the job after measuring, drilling, riveting, grinding, polishing, trying to make a Work of Art out of a small utilitarian bracket, because it's for BOBBY UNSER, here comes his daughter, Cindy in a Golf Cart.  "Are you almost done?  Daddy wants me to take you to Lunch in the VIP Area..."

 

"I don't have any more than a Pit Pass, I can't get into..."

 

"Hey, don't worry about that, I've been doing this a LONG time!" she laughed.

 

Off we go in the EZ-Go, which is a misnomer when there's an Unser at the wheel; it's easy to see that Speed and Skill is profoundly in the DNA.  We blast past Security Checkpoints as if we were Secret Service Agents, with Right hand on the wheel, left holding up her own credential, and me just grinning foolishly, just along for the ride...

 

"Thank You, Thanks, Hi, Hello, Bye..." as she never even lifted...

 

We get to the VIP tent, where she grabs my hand and wends her way through the crowd until we arrive at the Head Table.  "Here he is, Daddy!"

 

"Ohhh, Great, Hey. come sit down next to me!" as he unceremoniously damn near shoves a very well-known journalist sitting to his right yet even further right...

 

"Baby, can you get him a plate?" he kindly asks Cindy.

 

Turning to me, she said, "What would you like, Hon?"

 

"Uhhhhhhhh..."

 

"Baby, just get him a little of 'everything'..." and off she goes, to return with about 5lbs of BBQ and Fixin's...

 

I listen intently to the conversations around me, while sitting next to BOBBY UNSER...

 

Finally, I work up the courage to interject during a lull in the conversation...

 

"Bobby, you know, I've just only been to one Indy 500, and that was in '81, you know, where you Won, then later that night, someone else was declared the Winner, then the Morning Paper announced You were reinstated, and I just wanted to say it was a very exciting race, and I'm glad you won, and I was there, and well, I thought that Norton car was just beautiful, and inspired the color scheme on my own Race Cars, and..."

 

His face went from an interested grin, to a broad smile, to the look of Pure Joy on an eight-year-old's face on Christmas Morning; "Dave (he remembered my NAME), Dave, I BOUGHT that car, it's down at the House, we're restoring it NOW, Ya' gotta COME SEE IT!!!"

 

I do not remember much after that, as the euphoria of the moment seemed all-encompassing and everlasting...

 

Did I ever go to Albuquerque and visit Bobby and the Norton Car?

Nope...

Perhaps fearful of a phone call, or letter would be answered with, "Dave, Who?" or worse, no response at all, I never followed up.  Or perhaps, it was just that moment in time, where Bobby Unser spoke to me, an inconsequential 'nobody', but who had touched something within him, and he responded gracefully, enthusiastically, and granted me 'peer' status for just a nanosecond...

 

Heartfelt and Warmest Condolences to the Unser Family, and especially Cindy for her Kindness and Generosity in fostering such a fortuitous meeting...

 

Godspeed, Bobby!

DUB6
Technician

What a fascinating and thoroughly charming story - again illustrating the genuine personality of Bobby and others in his family.  ACE_Sonoma, you lucky sir, were indeed in the presence of greatness, and yet you were also at the side of a down-home cool dude.  Thanks for sharing this bit of insight into the legacy of an all-time great!

Bullit
Intermediate Driver

My Late Father was a drag-racer, when I was born in 1961. He took me to the dragstrip for my first day at a racetrack & my first race of any kind when I was 8 days old. I chose all my childhood Racing Hero's by the time I was 5, first was The Snake in 65, then both Richard Petty & The Great Bobby Unser in 66. I had the extreme pleasure of growing up watching my Hero's go on to become Legend's in Auto racing. I could not have picked better one's, both on & off the track. I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried like I was 5 again upon hearing that my Hero & neighbor here in Albuquerque, The Legendary Bobby Unser had passed away. Thank you for your Greatness Uncle Bobby, on & off the racetrack, you were the Bravest Racecar Driver I EVER saw. You will be sorely missed, for you are LEGEND 🙏 RIP ✝️