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Bobby Unser

Indy Controversy Led To Retirement

Unser's biggest and most controversial win came at the 1981 Indianapolis 500. Unser had started the race in the pole position. Three and a half hours later he won the race, beating Mario Andretti by only 5.3 seconds. This was Unser's third Indianapolis 500 win and at the age of 47 he was the oldest driver to win the race. However, when the race was over, Andretti complained that Unser had passed illegally during the race. On lap 149 Unser was coming out of the pits during a yellow flag and had passed seven cars, even though passing is not allowed during a yellow flag. Upon reviewing the videotapes, race officials decided that Unser should be penalized one lap for this infraction, which meant that Andretti was the new winner of the race. This was the first time in Indy history that a winner had been stripped of a victory. Unser and car owner Roger Penske were furious and they filed protests. "We weren't cheating," Sports Illustrated quoted Unser from a press conference following the incident, "We had the fast car, no matter what the decision." Eventually a USAC appeals panel overruled the decision. Unser was reinstated as the 1981 champion, but he was fined $40,000 for the passing infraction. Despite the victory, Unser was bitter about the whole experience and no longer desired to race Indy cars.

In 1982 Unser decided to retire from Indy racing. "For the first time I realized that I had been thinking only of Bobby Unser, and perhaps it was time to think about my family," the New York Times quoted Unser. By this time Unser had been married three times. He had two children, Bobby Jr. and Cindy, with his first wife Barbara Schumaker. He also had two children, Robby and Jeri, with his second wife Norma Davis.

Being a professional racecar driver meant that Unser was not home most of the time. "Successful as my racing has been, my family life, in a lot of ways, has been a failure," wrote Unser in The Bobby Unser Story. "You're not successful unless you spend part of every day with your kids." By the time Unser decided to retire, his son Bobby, Jr. and his nephew Al, Jr. had already begun their racing careers and his younger son Robby was also showing an interest in the sport. Unser wanted to be available to help the next generation of Unser drivers.

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Famous Sports StarsAuto RacingBobby Unser Biography - Born To Race, Chronology, Became A Racing Champion, Indy Controversy Led To Retirement, More Controversy Off The Tracks - SELECTED WRITINGS BY UNSER: