The beloved Bobby Unser, three-time Indy 500 winner, spins tales of being part of the first crop of drivers to use turbocharged Offenhauser engines at the 1966 Indy 500, the rapid evolution of turbos by 1968 that led him to Victory Lane, and a few more stories of qualifying at Indy with 1100hp while driving for Dan Gurney and fiery stories of racing for Roger Penske.
“Jesus Christ, I just saw some pictures here a little while back of the the first lap or the start, whatever it was, of that ‘72 race, and I’m, I’m already more than a half a straightaway ahead of ‘em, long straightaway, not the short chute. And I looked at that, and I just started laughing,” Unser said of the volcanic Offy turbo built by John Miller strapped to the back of his Eagle chassis.
“I thought, ‘that God damn, Miller.’ I mean to tell you what, when you stepped on that throttle, you better know where you’re going, ‘cause that things gonna go, you know? And it was that way all the time with Miller, and nobody could ever figure out his secrets. And of course, Dan didn’t like my blowing all the engines up. That was kind of the bad part about the whole thing, you know?”
And that time when Gurney asked Unser to hold off on setting the first 200mph lap on a closed course in testing with his Eagle-Offy turbo Indy car?
“Well, shit. That’s like telling a race driver, don’t go fast,” he continued. “I mean, that’s no good. It hurt my feelings. And then the race’s right around not too far behind that test that we were doing, see? And I got to qualify, and, and I’m gonna run more than 200, that’s for damn sure. And the God damn thing blows the intake manifold off. I mean, well, it had so much boost, it just blew the God damn thing apart!”
Uncle Bobby, in all of his yarn-spinning splendor, talking Indy 500 technology while spilling dirt...who could ask for more?