Bobby Unser, Indianapolis 500 Legend, Dead at 87

Bobby Unser, a legendary race car driver who won the Indianapolis 500 three times, died on Sunday, according to the Associated Press. He was 87 years old. Unser died at a home in Albuquerque, New Mexico of natural causes. He won the Indianapolis 500 in 1968, 1975 and 1981.

"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,'' Roger Penske, the current owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the team owner for Unser's 1981 Indy 500 winning car, said in a statement. "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."

Unser was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado on February 20, 1934. However, the family moved to New Mexico when he was a child. His father owned a garage on Route 66, and he and his brother worked before starting his racing career. Uner's brother, Al, also became a legendary driver, winning the Indianapolis 500 four times. Al's son, Al Unser Jr., won the race in 1992 and 1994.

Bobby Unser began his racing career in 1949 but left from 1953 to 1955 to serve in the U.S. Air Force. When he returned to racing, Unser's legendary run began. Along with winning the Indianapolis 500 three times, Unser is one of two drivers to win the race in three different decades, with the other being Rick Mears. Unser was one of six members in the family to compete in the Indianapolis 500.

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Unser competed in the Indianapolis 500 19 times and led in 10 races for a total of 440 laps. "When you mention icons in racing, and particularly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bobby Unser was a legend," said Doug Boles, president of the speedway. "He could drive, and win, in any type of car and on any type of track. And he was magical at Indy.''

"Fans always flocked to 'Uncle Bobby' to get a picture or autograph, to share their memories or to hear one of Unser’s countless colorful stories about his career and fellow racers," Indianapolis Motor Speedway said in a statement. "He also savored spending time in the Media Center swapping tales with many veteran journalists every May, as Unser was a tireless ambassador for IMS and the Indianapolis 500 until the end of his life."