Unser Family

Raised in the US South, my childhood was immersed in sports. Over time, my passion evolved into a mission to share overlooked tales from the sports world. I created Daily Dose of Sports to highlight stories of perseverance, legends, and unsung heroes. Today, I'm not just a sports enthusiast - I'm a storyteller. Read more about me here.

Today is a special day for the Unsers, one of the most prominent families in the history of auto racing.

Robert William Unser was born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, February 20, 1934, as the third of four sons in a motorsports family.  The family moved to Albuquerque when Bobby was one and 14 years later he won his first championship, in Southwest Modified Stock Cars.  Unser served in the Air Force from 1953 to 1955, becoming a top competition sharp shooter in military matches.  In 1955, he debuted at the Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb—the “Race to the Clouds”—an annual 12.5 mile race that climbs more than 4,700 vertical feet to the summit of Pike’s Peak.  He finished fifth behind his two brothers.  The following year, he won his first of a record 13 championships at Pike’s Peak.  Bobby Unser raced in his first Indianapolis 500 in 1963, four years after his older brother Jerry died in a crash at Indy.  He finished last, then claimed his first Indy-car win in 1967.  The following year, Unser won his first Indianapolis 500, setting a record as the first driver to race over 170 miles per hour at the Brickyard.  In 1968, he won the first of his two career USAC Driving Championships.  Six years later, he won his second Indy 500.  Unser won ten CART races between 1979 and 1981, including the California 500, which he won a record four times.  On this date in 1981, Bobby Unser was the center of one of the most controversial finishes in Indy 500 history.  After winning the pole position in qualifying and leading the most laps [89] of the race, he and Mario Andretti [Daily Dose, April 4] made a pit stop on lap 149 during a caution period.  Unser passed eight cars during the caution, while Andretti passed two.  Unser won the race but was stripped of his title the following morning by USAC officials, who assessed a one-position penalty to give Andretti the win.  Following a lengthy protest and appeals process, Unser was declared the winner five months later.  The controversy tarnished Unser’s reputation and cost him an estimated one million dollars in lost endorsement revenue.  Embittered, Bobby Unser retired from racing following the 1981 season.

Alfred Unser, born in Albuquerque May 29, 1939, is the youngest of four brothers.  He began racing at 18 and competed in Indy for the first time in 1965, finishing ninth.  In 1967, he was voted USAC Rookie of the Year.  “Big Al” won ten races in 1970, including his first Indianapolis 500, en route to taking that season’s USAC Driving Championship.  He successfully defended his title at the Brickyard in 1971 and won his third Borg-Warner Trophy as Indy 500 champion in 1978.  On this date in 1987, Al Unser won his fourth and final Indianapolis 500 in a car that had been sitting on display in a Reading, Pennsylvania, hotel lobby–just a few weeks prior to the race.  After starting the event in the 20th position, Unser steadily worked his way forward and took the lead on the 183rd lap [of 200] before holding off a charging Roberto Guerrero to win by 4.5 seconds in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the Brickyard.  Only five days shy of his 48th birthday, Al Unser broke brother Bobby’s record as the oldest Indy winner.

Alfred Unser, Jr. was born April 19, 1962, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  “Little Al” started racing sprint cars at eleven, winning the Super Vee title in 1981 and Can Am title the following year.  He first raced at Indy in 1983, finishing tenth, and won the International Race of Champions in 1986 and 1988.  On this date in 1992, “Junior” held off Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds to win his first Indianapolis 500 crown in the closest finish in the race’s history.  After competing in the 1993 Daytona 500 [Daily Dose, March 8], Unser returned to Indy, winning the race in 1994 en route to being named ABC’s Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year.  Al Unser, Jr. won CART Indycar World Series championships in 1990 and 1994.

Bobby Unser won 35 Indycar races in 258 starts.  Nine times he started in the front row at Indy and is one of ten drivers to win open wheel racing’s most prestigious event three or more times.  Bobby is one of only two drivers [Rick Mears] to have won Indy in three different decades.  Al Unser, Sr. is the second of three men to have won the Indianapolis 500 four times and is the only person to have both a sibling and child as fellow Indy 500 winners.  Big Al started 322 Indycar races, winning 39 of them and finishing in the top three 97 times.  Al Unser, Jr. became the first second-generation driver to win The Greatest Spectacle in racing.  In 329 Indycar starts, he has seven poles and 34 wins, including two at the Brickyard, in 1992 and 1994.  Louis Unser, uncle to Bobby and Big Al, twice won at Pike’s Peak.  Bobby won there 13 times—including eight in a row—while Al won the Race to the Clouds on two occasions.  Bobby, Al, and Al Unser, Jr. are all members of the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.