A Day With "Uncle Bobby" Unser at the 102nd Indy 500

A Day With "Uncle Bobby" Unser at the 102nd Indy 500

A Typical Day At KD Smart Chair

Our day started like any other day at the KD Smart Chair office, fielding calls and communications from clients to help those in need. I received a call from a gentleman asking general information questions about our wheelchair.  This is something we address daily and was not out of the ordinary.

As the conversation became more personal, the gentleman stated that his friend has an extremely chaotic schedule and was seeking more mobility while being celebrated at an "event". What happened next was certainly a new experience that we will never forget.

Uncle Bobby

Bobby_Unser_KD_Smart_Chair_Indy_500

Uncle Bobby Unser using his KD Smart Chair. 

The Gentleman's friend is Racing Champion and Legend "Uncle" Bobby Unser.

  • Three-Time Indianapolis 500 Winner 1968, 1975, 1981
  • Two Time Indy Car Champion 1968, 1974
  • Four-Time California 500 Winner 1974, 1976, 1979, 1980
  • 13 Time Pikes Peak International Hill Climb Champion [Record Setting] 1956, '58,'59,'60,61,'62,'63,'64,'66,'68,'69,'74,'86
  • IROC Champion 1975

I had the honor to speak extensively with Bobby, who made sure I didn't call him Mr. Unser.  We immediately had a great rapport, I learned so much from our conversation about life and racing.

Bobby expressed to me that he's recently been dealing with lumbar issues, and would like to use our KD Smart Chair to further his mobility at the 102nd Indy 500. Bobby and his Iconic Championship Family are being honored by The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum with a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit; "The Amazing Unsers: From Albuquerque to Indianapolis". The display opened April 9 and runs through October 28, 2018.

At KD Smart Chair, we've made it our mission to be able to help those in need. This wouldn't be the first time we've done something like this, although, this experience was much different than others. Our Team immediately discussed the urgency of the situation and executed as fast as possible.

"We are Honored that Champion and Legend Bobby Unser will be debuting our KD Smart Chair SE at the 102nd Indy 500. We are grateful to have a Champion representing our brand" - Roland Reznik; CEO.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Upon our arrival to Speedway, Indiana we were greeted by Bobby's wife, Mrs. Lisa Unser, and her assistant Kay. That's when the fun started!

Lisa and Kay were kind enough to give us on a tour of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway mega complex which holds approximately 400,000 fans; the highest capacity sports venue in the world.

While touring the grounds, Mrs. Unser took us to the garage area where the race cars are serviced, showed us multiple tracks used for different events, a golf course on site and finally we viewed the classic glass Pagoda, which has been in place since 1913. We were then escorted to the motorhome area to officially meet Bobby. 

Auto Racing Royalty

Upon arriving at Bobby's luxury motor coach, the sun was shining and the roar of engines sounded in the background. I turned to my left and there appeared Bobby, rolling up with his new KD Smart Chair!  I got the chills when I saw his smile, and it felt like I was reuniting with an old friend.  Other than phone conversations we never met, I was enamored by his presence, and he couldn't have made us feel more comfortable.

Everywhere Bobby goes he is a wanted man, no matter if it's press or fans wanting an autograph someone is calling his name. We chatted for a bit, discussed our new KD Smart Chair SE Model and if it was meeting his needs.

 

"I really like this chair, I've been all over the grounds already. You see, this chair is helping me get around to do the things I like to do, if I spend too much time on my feet, my back will start bothering me".

"Enough small talk Lenny, you and Steven go down to the pits and check out the action while we get ready for the day!"

As we walked down "Gasoline Alley", we were surrounded by multi-million dollar race cars heading to the track for practice. Drivers in fireproof suits and the scent of burnt rubber throughout the air. While in the Pit Stop, we saw the race teams preparing for the 102nd running of the Indy 500.

We were amazed by the computer systems that are utilized to create a champion, team members analyzing car and track data, as well as the supercars constructed by Honda and Chevrolet that are so fast they disappear in the blink of an eye when circling the 2.5-mile track, with speeds in excess of 225mph. In one word, mesmerizing

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum

Bobby then took us to the acclaimed Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, dedicated to The Champion Unser Family.  We couldn't believe our eyes with the history that the Unsers have brought to this sport for decades.

We learned that Bobby's Dad, Jerry Unser, started it all, from a small gas and mechanic station on Route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is where the family tradition started and is now the Unser Family Museum. Race cars were built and there was always plenty of Mom's cooking, as Mary Unser was known for her chili, later getting help from Ortega because it was in such high demand!

Unser_Motor_Company

The IMS Museum is filled with many artifacts the Unsers curated over time. Everything from winning race cars, Bobby's Leather Saddle Bag to carry his race suit and helmet, and even Sheriffs Badges as Bobby taught the local police how to drive at high speeds!

One of the most interesting things I learned was Bobby's Indy win in '81 didn't come easy, there was a fire which set his driving suit a blaze. "I figured if I drove 200mph the fire would have to go out, which it did!". The only thought that came to my mind is this is how champions are made.

Unser_1981_Indy_Win

We spent hours with Bobby and were compelled by his stories. He was accompanied by his friend and assistant Kody, who was also involved in racing as a crew member for over 20 years and is currently part of the Sam Schmidt Foundation

As Bobby signed Autographs and talked to fans, Kody told us all about the cars, what it was like being in the pits, and where it all started for Bobby.  "Bobby was The King of Pikes Peak, no one could beat him".

Pikes Peak, known as "The Race to the Clouds", is an uphill race which takes place on "Americas Mountain" in Colorado. Competitors start the race up the mountain at 9,160 feet to the finish line at 14,115 feet, a total climb of 4,720 feet! "No one can ever beat my record, I did it on dirt!", Bobby said. 

Our Day with Bobby

After our grand tour of the museum, we hoped in Bobby's Official Indy 500 vehicle and went to lunch with his team.  He took us to Steak and Shake, a local establishment that he's been dining at for 50 Years! As soon as we walked in Bobby and his team were greeted by the hosts; "How have you been Mr. Unser, We'll have your bowl of chili ready right away!"

After eating and conversing, we headed back to the track and finished off our day. We met the Little Unsers, 2 Beautiful Cat's, Named Indy and Novi, which travel with the Unser's wherever they go. Of course, the cats are named after the iconic track which has brought so many accolades to the Unser family, and the car which Bobby cherished the most.

From the start, rather than being a business trip, it felt more like we were with a friend.  The Unsers made us feel like we were at home, with family.  Kay and Kody were always nearby to answer any questions we had, as well as soaking up as much information about Bobby's new toy, The KD Smart Chair SE

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. - Bobby Unser

Desire! That's the one secret of every man's career. Not education. Not being born with hidden talents. Desire. - Bobby Unser

I'd like to give a special thanks to the great people that made this possible. Bobby & Lisa Unser; Kody & Kay Kohlman, Jim Rice, and The IMS Museum and Speedway. I can be reached at any time via email: Lenny@kdsmartchair.com

Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Bobby Unser
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/bobby_unser_126431
Success is where preparation and opportunity meet. Bobby Unser
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/bobby_unser_126431

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