Robert William “Bobby” Unser, the auto racer who won the Indianapolis 500 three times in his nearly 30-year career, died at age 87.
Unser’s death was confirmed by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday. He is survived by his wife, two sons and and two daughters.
Unser won the Indy 500 in 1968, 1975 and 1981 during a 27-year career. The Unser family is legendary in auto racing — six members of the family have raced in the competition. Bobby’s younger brother, Al Unser, won the Indy 500 four times, making the two the only pair of brothers to both win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
Unser also won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Live Sports Special” in 1989, for his broadcast coverage of the Indy 500.
The Indianapolis 500 confirmed Unser’s passing Monday and said he was the “total package — adored by fans, funny and charming, and a true champion.”
Unser was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and became fascinated with racing as a child — his dad owned an auto shop on Route 66 and he began his racing career in Roswell New Mexico Speedway when he was 15 years old. Unser took a break from racing to join the U.S. Air Force from 1953-55, and then started racing full time. He became one of the 10 drivers in the world to win the Indy 500 at least three times, and he’s one of the only two drivers to win the race in three different decades.
“When you mention icons in racing, and particularly the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Bobby Unser was a legend,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles told CBS News. “He could drive, and win, in any type of car and on any type of track. And he was magical at Indy.”
Mario Andretti, the Italian-American former racing driver, remembered Unser today. Andretti called his time working with Unser “the best of times.. when a fierce competitor can also be a very very very good friend.”
Check out more reactions to Unser’s passing below.