Bobby Unser, the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in three different decades, died May 2, 2021 in his Albuquerque, New Mexico home. He was 87.
Unser won the “500” in 1968, 1975 and 1981, just one of 10 drivers to have won the race at least three times. Rick Mears later matched Unser’s feat of winning in three different decades.
Unser led the family clan to victory circle at Indy. Younger brother Al won the “500” a record-tying four times and his son, Al Jr., won twice to push the family total to nine. It’s a record likely never to be broken.
For more about Unser’s life and racing career, read the IMS.com story here.
Two new Directors have been announced — Bob Jenkins and Paul Page — and they will be joining the Board of Directors in 2021. They will be replacing Bill Marvel, who passed away in December, and Dick Mittman, who will become Director Emeritus, joining Johnny Rutherford. The Board is honoring Dick with his appointment in appreciation of his commitment and long service as the Newsletter Editor.
The organization is honoring 29 members with their “yellow hats” symbolizing 20 years of being a member of the organization. They will also be honoring one member — Robert Bunting — with his “white hat” marking 40 years of organization membership.
20 Year Yellow Hats: Larry Arnold, Terry Ferguson, Brian Livingston, Noble Bennett, Frank Fiore, Russ Newnes, Jeffrey Boles, Richard Fritz, Keith Overpeck, Joel Bornhorst, Richard Glick, John Pickard Jr., Tracy Chaney, Walter Goodwin, H.Martin Storm Jr., Wayne Coles, George Greenwell, Marvin Taylor, Daniel Cotter, Daniel Hagist, Rick Whitt, Ron Dawes, Max Klise, Donald Wilkerson, Herb Detrick, Edward Koenig III, Joyce Yockey, Susan Ebershoff-Coles and Stephen Lewis. Congratulations to all of you. Your hats will be coming your way shortly.
Steve Stapp, an inductee of both the National Sprint Car and USAC Halls of Fame and the third winningest car owner in the history of the USAC National Sprint Car division, passed away April 23, 2021, in his sleep at the age of 80.
“The Bopper” spent more than a half century from the late 1950s and well into the 21st century in USAC pits. He was the son of Babe Stapp,the 12-time Indianapolis 500 starter and a fellow inductee in the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
The first of Stapp’s 51 career victories as a car owner in USAC National Sprint Car competition came at the Terre Haute Action Track in 1965 with Johnny Rutherford driving.
Pat Patrick, one of the most influential car owners in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history, passed away Jan. 2 in Phoenix. He was 91. Patrick’s teams won the Indianapolis 500 three times, including the rain-shortened race in 1973 with Gordon Johncock and then near photo finish in 1982, where Johncock edged Rick Mears, and again in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi. But Patrick’s legacy will likely be as one of CART’s founding fathers.
Aldo Andretti, the twin brother of racing legend Mario Andretti and father of the late John Andretti, died Dec. 30 at 80. In a tweet, Mario wrote that “Aldo Andretti, my loving twin brother, my partner in crime and my faithful best friend every day of my life was called to heaven last night. Half of me went with him. There is no eloquence. I’m shaken to my core.” Aldo and Mario were born in Montona, Italy, and spent several years in a Tuscany refugee camp before immigrating with their family to the United States in 1955. Their father arrived in the country with $125 and a promise to stay for at least five years. The twins soon began racing and winning on dirt ovals nearly their home in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. Though Aldo’s driving career was cut short by a crash, he retained his passion for motorsports, attending most of the events of racing family. Aldo and his high school sweetheart, Corky, had five children: Carolyn, Mark, John, Mary Jo and Adam.
John Paul Jr., one of racing’s most talented, beloved and star-crossed drivers died Dec. 29, 2020 at the age of 60. He spent nearly two decades fighting the cruel Huntington’s Disease, which robs its victims of motor skills, among other things. The disease is hereditary, and John lost his grandmother, mother, aunt and sister to it. John is best known for his exploits in sports car racing, becoming the youngest IMSA champion and scoring more than 20 career victories, including two in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and one in the 12 Hours of Sebring. But he also won a CART race at Michigan in 1983 and an IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1998 — that’s more than 15 years apart! John had lived the past dozen years in Calabasas, Calif., where he donated considerable time to the UCLA Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Studies in search of a cure for Huntington’s Disease. He spent all those hours with the hope he might see a cure in his lifetime and his efforts be a benefit to his children, who have a 50-50 chance of suffering from it. The excellent book “50-50” details his struggles with the disease.
Our close-knit motorsports family lost a dear friend Dec. 20, 2020 when Bill Marvel passed away at the age of 91. Almost everyone has a story to tell of Marvel, a charter member of the United States Auto Club who attended the sanctioning body’s first race (Jan. 8, 1956 in Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind.) and spent more than 60 years promoting the sport, its drivers, tracks and sponsors,
Marvel, an Indianapolis native and longtime resident, was a U.S. Marine, serving three years of active duty in the Korean War. Marvel’s list of contributions, titles, generosity, friendship and family contributions go well beyond whatever can be written about him, and there is a terrific obit here on USAC’s website.
Marvel’s father, Clem, attended his first Indianapolis 500 in 1914, and his son became hooked on the sport. In August, Marvel attended his 76th consecutive Indianapolis 500. Of course, Marvel’s life can’t be told without mentioning the heartbreaking loss of his oldest son, Billy Jr., in a sprint car crash at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind., in 1983. Marvel’s other son, Brad, went on to a strong career driving open-wheel race cars. Subsequent generations of Marvels have continued the family success in the sport.
Marvel served 32 years on the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers’ Board of Directors, and he was the Executive Director of the the USAC Benevolent Foundation which assists those from the motorsports world in need. Quite frankly, Marvel did it all, and he will be sorely missed.
Ralph Liguori, a New York native known to many as Ralphie the Racer, has passed away. He was 93. A dirt track standout who held the track record at Langhorne, the personable Liguori was best known for never making the field for an Indianapolis 500 despite 10 years of trying. He was the second-oldest driver member of the Indianapolis 500 Oldtimers.
Jimmy Joe “JJ” Humpfrey passed away June 6, 2020. He was a member of the Safety Patrol for more than 25 years.
Tom Sneva, the 1983 race winner, lost his wife, Sharon, in the summer of 2020.
Four-time Indy 500 starter Chuck Hulse died July 13. The best of his “500” finishes came in 1967 when he finished seventh in the No. 8 Hopkins Lola-Offy. Hulse, a dirt track star from Southern California, was one of 11 drivers to score top-10 finishes in cars with engines in the front and rear. He was 92.