1.5/25  The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

From: briancarlin@earthlink.net (Brian Carlin)
Date: Fri, May 25, 2001, 4:15pm
To: briancarlin@earthlink.net (Me)
Subject: The Greatest Spectacle in Racing

Don't forget the Indy 500 race begins on ABC-TV at 0800 Sunday morning. It is the greatest spectacle in racing.

Some time ago you asked me why they don't require all drivers to complete the 500 miles, even after the winner has crossed the finish line. I now have the information from the INDIANAPOLIS 500 CHRONICLES book. 1912 (2nd running of the Indy 500):

"Only the top 12 finishers earn prize money, and speedway rules require that drivers complete the 500 mile distance to collect. Ralph Mulford takes umbrage at the rule and takes his sweet time complying. Mulford and his mechanic reportedly enjoy a dinner-on-the-run while finishing the 500 miles-2 hours and 32 minutes after Dawson-to collect $1200 for 10th place. Dawson earns $20000 plus contingency prizes.

"Hampered by serious clutch trouble and numerous stops with his huge Knox, Ralph Mulford was running long after all other contestants had been flagged off in 1921. As a result, Carl Fisher and starter Fred Wagner got into a tiff. Wagner wanted to give Mulford the checkered flag without his completing 500 miles; Fisher contended he should go the distance. Long after Fisher and Wagner had left the grounds, Mulford slogged on. By one account, he stopped to have fried chicken and ice cream, and to change shock absorbers for a softer ride.

"And so, with the sun beginning to set, Mulford finally finished eight hours, 53 minutes after the start. His average speed of 56.29 mph is still a record; the slowest finishing speed in 500 history."

They changed the rule for 1913, the race ends the moment the winner crosses the finish line.

The Indy 500 might be interesting this year. The owner of the speedway locked out many of the racing teams and created his own league of less talented drivers. But the CART series (featured in the movie DRIVEN) may now return to the Indy 500 provided they buy different cars and engines for the race. So now some have returned. Chip Ganassi and Joe Montana (football) qualified four cars, and team Penske is racing the Indy 500 for the first time since they won 1994.

Michael Andretti is racing at Indy for the first time since 1995. He has led more laps in the Indy 500 than any other active driver, but never won.

1986: Andretti led the first 34 laps. He was on the lead lap (4th) near the end of the race but had to stop for fuel, and finished 6th. 1987: Mario Andretti led the entire field by a lap. A $2 part broke on the turbo charger with 30 laps to go.

1989: Michael Andretti passed Emerson Fittipaldi for the lead with 40 laps to go. His engine blew several laps later. 1991: Michael Andretti passed Rick Mears on the outside with a few laps to go. Mears passed Andretti one lap later, on the outside, to win the Indy 500. Michael won the series championship that year. 1992: Michael Andretti led the field by one lap. He broke his timing belt with ten laps to go. I've never heard of another car breaking a timing belt in the Indy 500.

Arie Luyendyk (winner 1990, 1997) is coming out of retirement against his family's objections.

Robbie Gordon is starting on the outside of the front row, which is the best starting position if you want to lead the first lap. In 1999 he lead the race and ran out of fuel on the 199th lap.

Buddy Lazier finished 2nd last year. He broke 18 bones in his spine in a 1995 crash. He won the Indy 500 in 1996.

Mark Dismore has a fast car this year. In 1991 he crashed his car into the end of the pit wall and spent months in the hospital putting himself back together.

Roberto Guerrero failed to bump his way in to the Indy 500 this year. In 1984 he finished 2nd, 1985, 3rd, 1986, 4th. In 1987, Guerrero lapped Al Unser Sr. near the end, but stalled his car trying to leave the pits on his final stop. Al Unser won the race in a very slow car, and Guerrero finished 2nd. Guerrero never won the race. In 1987 he crashed in testing at Indy and was in a coma for a month.

In 1992 Guerrero won the pole at Indy and set the fastest qualifying time in history. During the pace lap before the race he accelerated, lost traction, and spun into the guard rail.

And a 20 year old girl is starting the Indy 500. This is the story angle most of the media is following.

Brian's Santa Barbara Weather page: http://homepage.mac.com/kb6nvh/SBA_wx.html
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