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1981 Indy 500: A controversial finish

Posted at 6:20 PM, Apr 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-23 18:33:51-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- In 1981, Bruce Springsteen rocked Market Square Arena on March 5 after "The Boss" postponed his February concert.

But a far more serious event rocked the city and the nation that same month -- the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan on March 30.

There was talk of postponing that evening's NCAA Championship basketball game between Indiana University and North Carolina. But the game went on, and the Hoosiers won their fourth title.

With the game in the rear-view mirror, attention turned to racing, but nobody knew just how controversial the 65th Indianapolis 500 would become.

Bobby Unser was on the pole, looking for his third 500 win.

With just over 50 laps to go, Unser completed a pit stop under caution, and while staying on the apron, passed numerous cars as he returned to the track, right behind the pace car. 
 
Unser went on to take the checkered flag,  but the celebration  was short-lived.  
 
Second place finisher Mario Andretti appealed what he called an illegal pass. 
 
The following morning, USAC agreed and penalized Unser a position, declaring Andretti the winner. He returned to the track for winner's photos.
 
But this wasn't over. Unser's team immediately appealed.
 
Finally, in October, 138 days after the race, an arbitration committee reinstated Unser's title and penalized him $40,000 instead. Unser secured his third and last Indy 500 win.
 

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