Say the name Bobby Unser and everyone immediately thinks 3 time Indy 500 winner, undisputed king of ...Pikes Peak, and two-time USAC National Champion with 35 Indy Car wins, nine time front row qualifier at Indy, eight 500 mile wins. Not many people remember the years he spent in midgets and sprint cars.
Robert W Unser was born February 20, 1934 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His family moved to Albuquerque is 1936, where he still lives today. Bobby got started in racing at the age of 15 driving modified stock cars at New Mexico’s Roswell Speedway, a year later he was the Southwestern Modified Stock Car Champion. After winning the Modified Championship again the following year he moved onto midgets in 1952. A career path his father objected to, as he felt the midgets were a dangerous series, but Bobby persevered and drove as many midget races as he could.
He traveled throughout the southwest in those early days, going where ever the money was for a midget race. Bobby did not chase after track or organizations championships, he raced to feed his family and support his career choice of being a race driver. While serving in the United States Air Force from 1953 through 1955 he even continued to run midgets and sprint cars.
Bobby’s first win in a midget came in 1953 at South Mountain Speedway in Phoenix, which was to be one of many. During his midget career he drove for some of the best car owners, Jim Gary, Bob Rosen, Bud Trainer, George Talent and National Midget Auto Racing members Ken Brenn, Doug Caruthers, Parnelli Jones and Eddie Meyer.
Bobby got his first of many Pikes Peak titles in July of 1956 driving for his father; he felt that was the race that gained him notoriety. He decided to branch out in his career, so along with the midgets he started driving in the USAC stock car division, sprint cars and some sports cars. He got his start in Indy cars in 1963 passing his rookie test at Indy and running four events in his first season. He retired from sprint cars after the 67 season, but it wasn’t until 1969 that he drove his last midget race ending a fifteen year career in midgets.
One of the most versatile drivers in auto racing history, he went on to capture two USAC Championships in 1969 and 1974 win two more Indy 500 ‘s 1975 and 1981. Take home the 1975 International Race of Champions title, garnered 13 Pike Peak titles over his career. Although retired from Indy car racing in 1981 he set a land speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1993 and won the 1993 Fast Master Racing Series.
Extending his career beyond driving he became a familiar face to race fans worldwide as he took on the role of color commentator for ABC Sports