The big events concerning this year’s race were the many changes made at the Speedway since last year’s race, the subsequent drop in speed, the retirement of two of the race’s four-time winners, the unexpected failure of another former winner to qualify for the race, and the outstanding performance of one of the most popular rookies in Speedway history.
On the personal side, the first day of time trials was one of the finest I’ve ever had, and a mental mistake on my part almost cost us a chance to see the race.
At 2:30 PM on Friday, May 14, I picked up Paul at Grant Middle School. He had forgotten something at home, so we had to go back and get it. It was really 2:46 PM when we started our trip.
We traveled in our 1984 Chevrolet Caprice and went east on Jefferson Street to Walnut Street, north on Walnut to Madison Avenue, east on Madison to Clear Lake, and then east until it became I-72.
The weather was pleasant all the way. Between Champaign and Danville, we started receiving WIBC on the radio and listened to what they had to say about the activity at the track.
It was about 5:00 PM when we reached the Indiana state line. For several weeks I had thought about doing some things differently this year, particularly where we ate and bought gas. When we were almost to Indianapolis, I turned off the highway and went to Brownsburg.
We found a shopping center and went to the Kroger store. The box lunches were similar to those sold at the Speedway Kroger store but they were already packaged, so we didn’t have to wait for them.
We left the grocery store and went a block or so to a gas station and filled the gas tank and used the restroom. It was much easier leaving this station than the Amoco station in Speedway.
There is a steak house on Crawfordsville Road that I had wanted to go to for a long time. But when we went inside we decided the prices were too high, so we went to our MCL Cafeteria again.
The waiting line was rather long, but it moved quickly. Paul had fish and chips, cornbread, mashed potatoes, apple sauce, and Pepsi, while I had meat loaf, tossed salad, broccoli, macaroni and cheese, cornbread, and mashed potatoes.
Our only problem occurred when Paul was unloading his tray and knocked over his Pepsi. Luckily it didn’t make much noise and didn’t go in his food. An attendant cleaned the mess cheerfully and gave Paul a refill free of charge, so that soothed the situation.
When we left the cafeteria we didn’t go anywhere else, so we got on I-465 north and then I-65. The traffic moved well, and at 7:40 we arrived at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Lebanon.
I had already paid for the motel room, so all I had to do was complete the registration form. When we got to our room we checked to see if everything worked okay, and then Paul changed clothes and left for the swimming pool.
While Paul was gone, I watched a special TV program honoring Bob Hope on his 90th birthday. It had excerpts from many of his TV programs, his movies, and his trips overseas to entertain people in the armed forces. It also featured many of the famous people he had worked with during his career and, of course, Bob himself. It was a fine program and I was glad I was able to see it because normally I would be working on Friday night.
When the program ended I walked to the Holidome area to see what was going on. There were several people using the area, but it wasn’t overcrowded. Paul was having fun with a couple of other boys in the pool, but he seemed happy that I came to see him. I stayed for 15 minutes or so and then walked to the lobby. The lounge and restaurant were busy and, as usual, every room was taken for the night.
When I returned to my room, I did some reading and got the tote bag ready for the next day. While I was doing this, Paul returned from the swimming pool. At 10:00 we watched the news on TV, which included the activity from the Speedway. The weather prediction sounded good, but we knew not to get our hopes up too much.
When the news program ended Paul went to sleep, and I did likewise at about 11:00.
It was about 5:30 when the alarm clock rang on Saturday morning. I immediately shut it off and lay in bed for a couple of minutes. When I got up I washed, shaved, and combed my hair. I also got Paul up and he used the bathroom to get ready while I got dressed.
It was a few minutes after 6:00 when we arrived at the motel restaurant. The buffet area wasn’t being used for breakfast, so we had to order from the menu. Paul had biscuits and gravy with orange juice, while I had pancakes, orange juice, and coffee. It wasn’t as filling as the buffet meal, but it was enough for a few hours.
When we returned to our room we brushed our teeth and put all of our belongings into the suitcase and locked it, then took the tote bag and walked to the car. It was a few minutes after 7:00 when we started our trip.
The traffic on I-65 was heavy and became heavier the closer we got to Indianapolis. I took the US 136 turnoff and followed Crawfordsville Road to Georgetown Road and then turned left. In some years the state police have made the traffic go north on Lynhurst Drive, but this year they didn’t do that.
The traffic moved slowly, but at last we reached the entrance gate, paid our money, and drove into the infield. We followed the directions of the Speedway patrolmen and parked at the north end of the track between the third and fourth turns. It was 8:26 when we stopped and I turned off the engine.
I made sure we had everything we needed, rolled up the windows, and took the keys out of the ignition. I locked the doors and we started the walk to our seats. We walked through the tunnel just north of the Control Tower and sat in some seats behind the starter’s stand.
The cars were allowed to take practice laps from 8:00-10:00, and at 10:00 the practice ended so that the cars could be lined up for qualifying and the pre-qualification ceremonies could be held. The excitement and tension steadily increased as the magic hour of 11:00 approached.
Suddenly, at about 10:45, a startling development occurred. AJ Foyt got into his familiar #14 black machine and slowly left the pit area to take a trip around the track. It took a couple of minutes before it finally registered in my head what was happening. AJ was taking his last lap around the track and was about to announce his retirement. He came through the pit area and stopped where PA announcer Tom Carnegie was stationed.
Tom asked him if he had something to say. When he tried to talk he started crying, as did many of the fans in the stands, including me. AJ said he tried to get both his and rookie Robby Gordon’s car ready for qualifying but he couldn’t be fair to both, so he was calling it quits as a driver so that he could devote his time to Gordon.
A huge applause and standing ovation came from the crowd as AJ struggled to regain his composure and continue talking to the audience. When he finished talking the applause continued, and he was mobbed by photographers and other media people.
By the time AJ and his car could get to Gasoline Alley, it was time for qualifying to begin. At 11:00, Tom Carnegie announced that the track was open for qualifications as a huge applause came from the crowd.
Stan Fox was the first driver to go out, but his crew waved him off and Mario Andretti went out. He made an excellent run in his K-Mart/Texaco Lola Ford and averaged 223.414 mph with a fast lap of 224.081 mph.
Several other drivers went out for qualifying. Some were successful and some were waved off before completing their runs.
Because of the warm temperature, there was little activity on the track after 1:00.
The first thing Paul and I did in this period of inactivity was eat our box lunches. We had fried chicken, baked beans, apples, slaw, and rolls. It tasted good and would hold us over until supper.
After dinner, we decided to see what was happening elsewhere at the Speedway. We walked behind the main straightaway grandstands until we came to the main entrance on 16th Street. We walked under the track to the museum parking lot and the second turn.
When we got to the Second Turn Terrace seats, we decided to sit down and rest for a few minutes.
To backtrack a little bit, before we walked into the infield we walked up to the upper deck of one of the sections of Grandstand E on the outside of the first turn. Because of a fear of heights I didn’t think I would make it to the upper deck, but it was not as frightening as it was in previous years.
These seats provide one of the best viewing areas of the Speedway. It is possible to see from the exit of turn four through the main straightaway to the south chute and the second turn. It was interesting to sit here for a few minutes and be able to see so much of the Speedway, but I wouldn’t want to see the race from here.
When we felt rested, we left the second turn area and walked north along the inside of the back straightaway. Our next stop was the new alcohol-free family spectator mound. It had to be one of the quietest areas of the Speedway. It was a pleasure to see the young families having a good time without being pestered by loud, obnoxious drunks.
From here we went to the non-restricted spectator mounds. There were some drinking adults here, but they were not being obnoxious. There was a concession stand here and Paul thought he was so hot that he needed a bottle of water, so I bought him one. He said it tasted really good and made him feel better.
From here, we continued walking northward to the turn three area. We came upon a first aid station and were pleased to find they were serving free ice water. There were chairs for visitors to sit on, so we sat down and rested for a few minutes. The walk around the Speedway was harder on Paul than on me, but it was me who couldn’t get enough to drink. One of the attendants on duty was really friendly, and we talked for several minutes. He said they had had only a few customers, which was good news.
When we felt refreshed we walked to the fourth turn area and sat close to the north end of the North Terrace in front of the Tower Suites. We sat here for several minutes and watched the cars start down the straightaway or come into the pit area. From here, we walked back to our original seating area. It was now about 5:00.
The crowd was coming to life again as the sun was shifting to the west and allowing the track to cool down. The first car in the line-up roared to life. It was the #10 Target/Scotch Video machine driven by Arie Luyendyk, the chief threat to Mario Andretti’s tentative pole position. Could he knock Mario off the pole?
His second lap of 224.316 mph was faster than any of Mario’s laps, and his four-lap average of 223.967 mph was about 1/2 mph faster than Mario’s speed.
Several other drivers made good runs, but none were better than that of Luyendyk. When the 6:00 gun sounded, 14 drivers had made complete four-lap runs. The slowest was Kevin Cogan at 217.230 mph.
When we got back to our car, I opened the windows to release some of the hot air that had built up during the day. We waited a few minutes and then joined the large multitude of cars exiting the Speedway. The Speedway patrol directed us out via the 30th Street gate, where we went west and then turned north onto Georgetown Road.
I drove a couple of blocks and then turned around and came south until we came to 25th Street. I then turned right and went west. The traffic moved slowly, about the same as usual in other years. At the shopping center we turned left and went to the MCL Cafeteria. It was about 7:15.
There was almost no waiting line, so it didn’t take us long to get our food. Paul had turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and Pepsi, while I had liver, mashed potatoes, beets, parsley potatoes, slaw, roll, and water. Everything tasted good, and we left feeling better than when we arrived.
We didn’t visit any of the shopping center stores but instead left immediately for the motel and arrived there at 8:17.
Paul changed clothes and left for the swimming pool while I stayed in the room to watch TV and do some reading. About 30 minutes or so later I walked to the Holidome area to see what was happening. There were several people there, but it wasn’t crowded. The exercise room and ping pong tables were being used, while other people swam or sat around the pool and visited with each other. I stayed here for 30 minutes or so and then walked to the front of the motel. The lounge and restaurant were busy but not overcrowded.
I went back to my room and did some more reading and TV viewing. Paul came back at about 10:00 and we watched the 10:00 news, which included quite a bit about the activity at the Speedway.
After the program Paul stayed up for a few minutes, but then he conked out. I stayed up a few minutes longer, but I wore out and decided to join Paul. It had been a long but enjoyable day.
It was about 5:30 when I woke up Sunday morning. I read for a few minutes and then tried to go back to sleep, but I was unable to do so. I watched TV for a short time and then did some more reading. At 7:00 I walked to the motel lobby to buy an Indianapolis newspaper and pick up a cup of coffee.
When I got back to the room I looked through the paper for a few minutes and then took a bath, shaved, and put on clean clothes. Paul woke up at about 8:30 and lay in bed for a few minutes watching TV. After a few minutes, he got up and took a bath.
It was about 9:15 when we got to the motel restaurant. There were several other customers there, but it wasn’t crowded. Paul ordered biscuits and gravy while I had pancakes. Paul had orange juice to drink, and I had orange juice and coffee.
When we finished eating we returned to our room, watched TV for a few minutes, and got everything ready to start home. I checked everywhere to be sure we hadn’t left anything, and then we left and put our equipment in the car. Before leaving to start our trip, we walked to the outdoor playground and spent a few minutes on some of the structures as we do every year. When we finished I turned our key in and checked out of the motel. It was 10:55 when we started our trip home.
I took Indiana Route 39 to its intersection with I-74 and then went west on I-74. As we were riding we listened to radio station WIBC and its live coverage of the activity at the Speedway. Instead of going south on Route 1 from Danville, I continued on west to Champaign. From there, I took I-57 south to Tuscola. It was the first time Paul had been on this road, and the change of scenery made the trip a little more interesting. It was 1:15 when we arrived at the Dixie Truck Stop.
The walk from the car to the restaurant was good for my legs after being in the car for 2 1/4 hours. The restaurant was doing a good business, but the waiting line moved quickly. Unlike most years, Mother’s Day was the Sunday before instead of the Sunday of time trials, so we didn’t have to contend with that big crowd of people.
Paul had roast beef, potatoes and gravy, corn, and Diet Pepsi. I had meat loaf, potatoes and gravy, green beans, and coffee. The service and food were both fine, and it was a pleasant atmosphere in which to eat. After eating our dinner, we browsed in the adjacent gift shop for a little while. The shop had a large selection of merchandise and does a good business.
It was about 2:00 when we left and continued our trip west on Route 36. It was about 2:30 when we reached Decatur, and from there we took I-72 and Route 36 to Springfield, arriving home at 3:36.
It was one of the best time trials trips we had taken. For the first time in several years it hadn’t rained at all on the first day of qualifying, and all of the day’s activities went according to schedule. We got to see more of the Speedway area than on any other one day we had been there. It was a welcome relief after so many rainy, cold, windy days.
During the week before the race Paul and I got our suitcases packed, and on Saturday morning, May 29, at 10:06, we left home in our 1984 Chevrolet Caprice to being my 39th trip to see the 500-mile race.
We took old Route 36 to Decatur and arrived there at about 11:00. The traffic in Decatur was heavy, but there were no major tie-ups. We left the city at about 11:15 and continued eastward on Route 36. The good weather made the trip enjoyable, and at 12:31 we arrived at the Colonial Kitchen Restaurant at the Route 1 intersection.
Upon entering, I was surprised to see Marilyn Compton working. She spoke to us and said to sit wherever we wanted to sit. Because Paul hadn’t had much breakfast, we decided to have the buffet lunch. There was a large selection to choose from, and we both got our money’s worth of food. We talked to Marilyn for a few minutes before leaving and then at 1:11 left for the remainder of our trip.
The drive through the towns on Route 1 was pleasant, but when we went by Bryant Wrecked Cars in Westville my mood turned somber. The remains of Mark’s old car from his accident last summer are here. On November 21 of last year, Dixie, Mark, Paul, and I drove over here and saw the car at the junk yard. This was the only time I saw Mark’s car after the accident, and now was the first race trip I had taken since the accident.
A few minutes later we arrived at the I-74 intersection and got into the eastbound lane. We took the Lynch Road turnoff, and at 1:52 we arrived at the Ramada Inn Motel.
Because I had already paid for the room, all I had to do was fill out the registration form. Our room was located on the west side of the motel on the first floor. I checked to see that everything worked okay, and then we watched an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries.” When that was over, Paul changed clothes and went to the swimming pool while I watched TV and did some reading.
About 30 minutes or so later I walked to the pool and sat down and joined the pool crowd. There were a few other hotel guests there, but it wasn’t crowded. I stayed for a few minutes and then went to see what was going on in the rest of the motel.
Everything in the lobby area was quiet, but the off-track betting area was a busy place. I went back to the pool for a few minutes and then went to our room. Paul stayed at the pool for a couple of hours and then came back and we watched TV for a while.
Shortly after 5:00, I took my bath and put on clean clothes. A few minutes later we drove into town to do the three jobs we do every year on the night before the race. The first place we stopped at was the Famous Recipe chicken place. We got our box of chicken and biscuits for Sunday dinner, and then we went back to a gas station on Voorhees Street and filled the gas tank.
With the gas tank filled, we were ready to fill our stomachs. After the unpleasant experience with the Ponderosa Steakhouse last year, we were ready for some good food again at George’s Buffet. We had chicken, liver, lettuce, carrots, corn, cake, and a few other good items. The food, service, and atmosphere were all considerably better than last year. Even the clientele seemed to be better than that of last year.
When we could eat no more, we left and drove back to the motel. Paul watched TV while I checked out the rest of the motel. The restaurant, lounge, and betting parlor were all doing a good business, but there weren’t many people at the swimming pool.
I bought a can of soda for both of us and then went back to the room. I got the tote bag ready by putting into it everything from the suitcase that we would need for the next day. We watched TV for a while, including the 10:00 news. When the news was over I made sure the door was locked and chained, checked to see that the alarm clock was working and set for the right time, and turned off the light. A long day lie ahead of us. I said goodnight to Paul and hoped the alarm clock would do its job.
It was a few minutes after 4:00 when the bell on the clock started ringing. I turned it off and lay in bed for a couple of minutes. Then I got up and washed, shaved, and dressed. When I finished, I woke up Paul so that he would have time to slowly wake and get going. We watched TV for a few minutes, and then he got up and washed and dressed.
I could hear doors shutting, water running, and people talking, so I knew we weren’t the only people up at the early hour. A few minutes before 5:00 we walked to the motel restaurant. The employees were finishing putting the food on display. We had to wait a couple of minutes, along with a few other people, but then the hostess said it was ready and to go ahead and sit where we wanted to.
On the menu were pancakes, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, hashed brown potatoes, orange juice, and coffee. Everything tasted good, and we made sure we ate all we could because it would be a long time until we ate again.
While we ate there was a steady increase in the number of customers, and almost all of them had the same plans for the day that we did.
When we finished we paid the bill, then we hurried back to our room. We brushed our teeth, got the tote bag, and at 5:36 left for our trip to see the big race.
Before we got to the state line, a horrible thought struck me. I could not remember putting the race tickets in the tote bag. I asked Paul about them, and he couldn’t remember for sure, either. We crossed the state line and I started looking for the first turn-off, which I found in the next minute or so. I was glad to see one so soon. It is supposed to be used by emergency vehicles only, but luckily there were no state police around, so I turned around and went back to the motel.
I rushed into the room and opened the suitcase. They were lying on top of everything. I was sure I had seen them the night before but couldn’t remember putting them in the tote bag. I don’t know why I thought about it so soon instead of waiting until we got to the race track, but I’m really thankful I did.
We started our trip again, but it was a long time before my hands quit shaking and my heart stopped beating really fast. I kept thinking of the worst — leaving the tickets at home.
We had hardly gotten started again when some more bad news hit us. We were listening to station WIBC when the announcer said that eastbound traffic on I-74 near Veedersburg was moving slowly because of a wreck of three semi-trailer trucks and that drivers should take alternate routes. Everything seemed fine for several minutes, but then the traffic slowed to almost a crawl. The accident scene was frightening. One truck was lying on its side blocking the right lane and part of the shoulder. The middle truck was blocking more of the left lane and its cab was jack-knifed to the left. The third truck was in the ditch of the median between the two sides of the highway. There was just enough room between the right and middle trucks for traffic to creep through and only then one at at time.
The delay lasted several minutes, but when we got past the accident scene we had no more delays.
It was at about 7:15 when we reached I-465 and encountered an unusual situation. Unlike other years, there was no bumper-to-bumper traffic. The police were directing traffic, and we got past the shopping center before we had to stop. It stopped for only a few seconds, and then we continued. I turned off at 20th Street, found a parking area, and at 7:24 our trip ended.
I paid the $10 parking fee, made sure we had everything, rolled up the windows, and locked the car. The walk along Crawfordsville Road presented the usual sights of race morning, but there was one that was different from the others. It was a cardboard picture of Bobby Rahal holding a sign that said “I NEED TICKETS,” referring to the fact that Bobby did not qualify for this year’s race. It was a popular attraction and got a lot of laughs from the people walking by.
It was a few minutes before 8:00 when we handed the gate attendant our tickets and walked through the turnstiles.
We stopped and bought two Speedway souvenir programs and then walked onto the racetrack through the open gate on the outside of the track at the entrance to the first turn. This is the only place on the track where the paying customer can walk and then for only a short time We stayed here for a few minutes and then walked to the infield and the garage area.
This was a popular area. We saw a few race cars being pushed to the pit area and a few well-known persons. From here we left to see the Indy 500 Expo near the museum and encountered a crushing mob of people There were two ambulances going west while the large majority of the pedestrians were going east. It was an unpleasant situation for hundreds of people. After several minutes the traffic thinned out a little bit. At about the time we arrived at the Expo site, we saw a golf cart with two men on it. The cart stopped near us and I asked the driver if his passenger was Tony George. He said yes, so I hurriedly took a picture of Paul standing next to him. This was the first time I could remember seeing Tony George in person.
The Indy 500 Expo is a trade show and was sponsored this year by PPG Industries and Chevrolet. Some of the exhibitors included IBM, Delco Electronics, Budweiser, and Valvoline. It gives race fans a chance to meet the people and see the products that make racing possible. This was the third year for the exhibit, and it is really popular with the fans. If I had had the time I would have stayed longer and seen more, but we had to get to our seats.
Still well aware of the mess we got into last year in trying to get to our seats, I decided we would take the walkway around the east side of the garage area. There was no traffic stoppage at all. We walked across the grassy area behind the Control Tower and arrived at our seats at 9:30.
The front straightway area was replete with activity. High school and college bands were busy doing their jobs, while pit crews were checking their cars and hundreds of people were walking through the area.
I shook hands with the two people from Michigan who sit on our right side each year and visited for a few minutes, and then I walked behind the pit area to see what was happening. I saw several famous people, but I know there were several I didn’t recognize. At 9:45, “On the Banks of the Wabash” was played and the pit crews were directed to push their cars to their starting positions on the track. I returned to my seat to be sure I didn’t miss anything.
It was a few minutes before 10:00 when our yearly companion at the race, Malcolm McKean, made his appearance.
By then the parade of celebrities was taking place as several TV, movie, and other famous people were driven around the track for everybody to see.
At 10:30 the final inspection lap was made by Chief Steward Tom Binford and his crew. While this was happening, the Purdue University Band played “America the Beautiful” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.” At 10:40, the huge crowd rose to its feet and caps were removed as Florence Henderson sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After a couple of minutes of cheering, a period of quietude settled over the Speedway as Archbishop Daniel Buechlein delivered the invocation and concluded by saying “God Speed” in several languages – French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese. The invocation was really fitting for the occasion.
This was followed by the playing of “Taps” as a group of four F-16 naval jets approached the Speedway from the north and flew in perfect formation right over our heads.
The quietude subsided somewhat as perennially popular Jim Nabors sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” and the multitude of balloons was released from the grassy area behind the Control Tower. It made a spectacular sight as they sailed skyward.
At 10:52 Mary Hulman was introduced to the audience and gave her anticipated command, “Lady and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”
The crowd erupted in applause as the 33 engines came to life. The drivers revved their engines for a minute as 33 pit crew members each raised an arm to signal their cars were ready to roll.
Three Chevrolet Camaro Z-28s, plus the official pace car, slowly pulled away. The three Camaros came off the track after one tour and left Chevrolet General Manager Jim Perkins to drive the remaining two laps. The field was in ragged formation after the first lap and only slightly better after the second one.
The next time around, Jim Perkins came charging through the pit area with the field a long distance away. Several second later, a big roar came from the audience as the field came through the fourth turn and down the straightaway. As they reached the starting line, Duane Sweeney and honorary starter Nick Fonoro waved their green flags, and the race was on.
Arie Luyendyk and Raul Boesel, starting first and third, raced together to the first turn with Boesel getting through first. As they came by for the first time, it was Boesel, Luyendyk, Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Jr., Scott Goodyear, Stefan Johansson, Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy, Nigel Mansell, and Scott Brayton.
Boesel maintained his lead and after nine laps was lapping the tail-enders. On the 16th lap, Jim Crawford spun coming out of the second turn and caused the first caution period of the day. He was able to regain control and stopped at his pit for a new set of tires. Almost everybody made their first pit stops, and then the green flag came out on the leader’s 21st lap.
After 20 laps, the first 10 positions were held by Kevin Cogan, Al Unser, John Andretti, Mario Andretti, Boesel, Robby Gordon, Stephan Gregoire, Brayton, Luyendyk, and Tracy.
Al Unser led for nine laps, and then Danny Sullivan crashed in the north chute, bringing the yellow flag out again. Sullivan’s car was damaged beyond repair, thus causing him to be the first driver out of the race.
The green light reappeared as Mario Andretti went to the front of the field. At 40 laps, the leaders were Mario Andretti, Luyendyk, Fittipaldi, Teo Fabi, Mansell, Roberto Guerrero, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., John Andretti, and Brayton.
Nelson Piquet was the next dropout from the race when his #77 ARISCO/STP car retired after 38 laps with engine failure.
During the next several laps there were several leaders as the drivers made their next round of pit stops. The leaders included Luyendyk, Al Unser, John Andretti, and Gordon. Scott Goodyear led for two laps before pitting and giving the lead to Mansell.
At 60 laps, the first 10 leaders were Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., John Andretti, Gordon, Brayton, Tracy, Cogan, Johansson, Goodyear, and Mario Andretti.
Stan Fox was finished for the day after 64 laps when his #91 Lola-Buick experienced engine problems and was withdrawn from the race.
Mansell continued in the lead, and his 80-lap average of 173.342 mph would be the only new record set today. After 80 laps, the top 10 leaders were Mansell, Mario Andretti, Fittipaldi, Fabi, Luyendyk, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Gordon, John Andretti, and Brayton.
On the 92nd lap, Mansell made his third pit stop. He came in too fast, overshot his pit, and had to be pushed back to his pit area, causing him a 40-second pit stop and the loss of the lead to Mario Andretti.
The yellow flag was out for laps 89 to 93 because of debris on the track and then reappeared two laps later when Tracy crashed in the third turn and was out of the race.
At the halfway mark, 100 laps, the first 10 positions were held by Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Al Unser, Jr., Luyendyk, Brayton, Mansell, Goodyear, John Andretti, Guerrero, and Fittipaldi.
There were two amazing facts about the race that were hard to believe; 1) only four cars were out of the race, and 2) 11 cars were still on the lead lap.
Mario Andretti increased his lead as second-place Al Unser started losing several positions. At 113 laps he was 18 seconds ahead of Luyendyk with Mansell close behind.
At 120 laps Mario’s lead was 23 seconds, and the first 10 positions were held by the following drivers: Mario, Al Unser, Jr., Mansell, Luyendyk, Guerrero, Al Unser, Brayton, Fabi, Fittipaldi, and Goodyear.
On the 124th lap Guerrero, running in fifth position, made a pit stop. His pit was directly in front of us, and as he started to leave his engine died. A big moan came from the crowd around us as his crew hurried to get the car restarted. The mishap cost him a total of 47 seconds for the stop and dropped him to 15th position.
A worse fate was about to strike Roberto. On his second restart lap, he and Jeff Andretti tangled in the third turn and crashed into the wall. Both drivers received minor injuries as the yellow flag came out for the fifth time. This caution period caused several pit stops and lead changes.
The green flag came out again on the 139th lap, and at 140 laps the first 10 leaders were Al Unser, Jr., Mario Andretti, Al Unser, Brayton, Fittipaldi, Mansell, Luyendyk, Fabi, Goodyear, and Boesel.
Eddie Cheever was the first car behind the pace car at the restart and built a five-second lead over Al Unser, Jr. until he ran into slower traffic at 147 laps.
On the 152nd lap Mario Andretti regained the lead, and other changes were also made in the next few laps. At 160 laps, 400 miles, the first 10 positions were held by Mario, Al Unser, Jr., Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Mansell, Brayton, Boesel, Goodyear, Luyendyk, and Fabi.
At about the 170-lap mark another round of pit stops was made. When Al Unser came in he stalled his engine, which made for a 25-second stop. During the pit stops the yellow light came on at lap 169 when rookie Robby Gordon lost his gear box and stalled at the north end of the track. The yellow remained on for six laps, and on the restart Mansell took the lead as Mario Andretti started losing ground.
In the meantime, Geoff Brabham was forced out of the race after 174 laps with a blown engine, and then on the leaders’ 183rd lap the yellow flag came out again when Lyn St. James stalled at the north end of the track and had to be towed to the pit area.
The green flag came out on the 185th lap as Fittipaldi passed Mansell to take the lead. Going through the first turn, Luyendyk went to the right and passed Mansell on the outside. Emmo started increasing his lead, and then on the 193rd lap the yellow flag was displayed again. Mansell made slight contact with the second turn wall, but he was able to maintain control.
At 195 laps the green came out again, and Fittipaldi started increasing his lead. His 198th lap speed of 214.807 mph was the fastest of the race.
The next time around he was shown the white flag and then the checkered as he beat Luyendyk to the flag by 2.86 seconds. Mansell, Boesell, Mario Andretti, Brayton, Goodyear, Al Unser, Jr., Fabi, and John Andretti completed the first 10 positions, and they all were on the lead lap, which was an amazing accomplishment.
As Fittipaldi came slowly through the pit area to victory lane, he was given a huge ovation. Within the next couple of minutes or so the remaining cars returned to their pit areas, and all of the drivers received a warm reception.
While the drivers were relaxing and visiting with their pit crews and other friends, the three of us got out our food and had a late dinner. Malcolm had some sandwiches and soda pop while Paul and I had chicken, biscuits, and soda pop. It wasn’t a complete meal, but it tasted fine and it had been about 5:30 since we had had anything to eat.
While we were eating, Speedway president Tony George took a south-to-north walk through the pit area to congratulate those drivers who had finished the race. When he got to our area, Paul rushed down to the fence and was able to get somebody to get Tony’s autograph for him. It was a big thrill for Paul.
When we finished eating we visited for a few minutes and then decided to leave. When we reached the entrance to the Speedway, we said goodbye as Malcolm left to catch his bus at 16th and Main Streets and we started our walk along Crawfordsville Road.
There were the usual sights along the road — beer cans by the hundreds, a multitude of drunks, blatant profanity, and bumper-to-bumper traffic with impatient drivers and passengers. When we got past Lynhurst Drive the situation improved quite a bit, and a few minutes later we arrived at our car.
We let the car air out for a few minutes, and then at 4:15 we started our trip back to the motel. We got onto Crawfordsville Road right away, but then it took several minutes of stop-and-go traffic to get to the I-465 interchange. From there the traffic thinned out and we were able to drive at highway speed.
We listened to station WIBC, and the weather forecast was a heavy rain coming from the west. I decided to stop at the first rest stop while the weather was still good. Many other motorists had the same idea, and I could tell that many of them were coming from the Speedway.
When we had been back on the road for about 30 minutes, the veracity of the weather prediction became apparent. The sky got really dark, a strong wind came up, and in a couple of minutes big drops of rain started pelting the car. Within seconds the rain became so heavy that it sounded as if it was coming through the car. I turned the wipers on fast speed and slowed down considerably, but we still could see almost nothing. A few minutes later the rain lightened somewhat and then stopped, although the sky remained dark for some time afterwards.
It was 6:00 when we arrived at the motel. It felt good to lie on our beds for a while and rest while we watched TV. While we were watching TV, one of the funniest events of the trip occurred. We found a station that was giving a report of the race, and when the announcer said that Raul Boesel finished fourth he mispronounced the last name and said BO-ZO. The mistake provided us with one of the biggest laughs of our trip.
Around 7:00 we decided it was time for supper, so we walked to the motel restaurant for its Sunday night buffet. There was a variety of fruits and vegetables, along with ham, beef, and desserts. We were both hungry and ate good-sized meals.
While eating, we watched a tape of the big race. It’s always interesting to see the TV tape since it shows the action from everywhere on the track. There was a large crowd in attendance, and everybody seemed to be having a good time either watching the race telecast or the horse races from the off-track betting parlor, or just visiting with other people.
We stayed for a long time to see the race telecast and then returned to our room and watched TV for a while. After the 10:00 news, Paul decided it had been a long enough day for him and drifted off to sleep. I stayed up until about 11:30 and then joined Paul in sleep. It had been a long day but one that we would remember for a long time.
It was about 6:15 when I awoke on Monday morning. I knew Paul would sleep for some time, so I got up and did some reading and TV viewing. At around 7:30 or so I took a walk around the motel grounds to get some fresh air and see what activity was taking place. The only facility open was the restaurant, and it had only a small business. I returned to my room and did some more reading, and at about 8:30 Paul woke up. He lay in bed for a few minutes and then turned on the TV set.
It was nice to be able to not rush around as we did the previous morning and just loaf around for a while. At about 9:15 we walked to the restaurant for breakfast. We ate buffet style and had pancakes, sausage, bacon, hash brown potatoes, biscuits and gravy, coffee, and orange juice. There were several other people eating breakfast, but it wasn’t crowded. We took our time eating, and when we were finished we returned to our room.
We watched TV for a little while, got everything packed and ready to go, took a few pictures, checked out of the motel, and at 11:10 left to begin our trip back to Springfield. Instead of coming straight home, we decided to go to the border town of State Line. We went east on I-74 to Indiana Route 3 and then north a few miles. Then we turned off and drove on some country roads for a few miles until we came to State Line. As its name implies it borders the state line, but it’s on the Indiana side and is little more than a dot on the map. We drove around for several minutes and saw some people there. When we had seen everything we thought there was to see we went back to Illinois and came to the north end of Lynch Road.
We drove south by the motel and took I-74 to the interchange with Route 1 and went south from there. When we got to Westville, we stopped at the house on the highway where the lady lives who sells Granny Goose clothes. We had become acquaintances with her on the Saturday before Thanksgiving last year when Dixie, Mark, Paul, and I went to Bryant’s Wrecked Car Lot to see Mark’s car that was damaged in his accident. The lady and her husband seemed really pleased to see us, and they seemed to remember us when we told her we had been there before. She had a large selection of clothes to choose from, and we decided on three outfits.
After we paid for the clothes, we talked to the people for a long time. They are friendly people and seemed in no hurry to have us leave. We stayed for about an hour, and then we continued south on Route 1 until we arrived at the Colonial Kitchen. It was 2:00 when we arrived.
There were several customers there, but business wasn’t really rushing. We ordered only sandwiches and a drink and had a long visit with Marilyn Compton. When we finished eating and visiting, we paid our bill and then drove to Decatur.
We stopped at the K-Mart store on the east side of town to see if we could find some Granny Goose glasses, but we couldn’t find any and neither could a couple of employees whom we asked for help. The thing to do, we decided, was wait until we got to Springfield and see if Dixie would know where to get some. A few minutes later we continued another race tradition and stopped at the Holiday Inn Motel. This time, however, we didn’t stay and watch a basketball game on TV, but we used the restroom and then continued our trip.
We took old Route 36 the rest of the way and arrived at our house at 5:37, ending another trip to the big race and leaving us with many memories for many years to come.
When the official results of the race were released, they showed that Emerson Fittipaldi was the winner by 2.862 seconds over Arie Luyendyk. He didn’t lead until the 185th lap, but then he led the rest of the way. He covered the 500 miles in 3:10:49, and his winning average speed was 157.207 mph. It was the second victory for Fittipaldi and the ninth for car owner Roger Penske.
Arie Luyendyk had an excellent record for this year’s race, starting first and finishing second. Although his car didn’t handle correctly during the race, he was less than three seconds behind Fittipaldi. In the last four races he had finished first, third, and second in three of them.
One of the biggest names at the Speedway this year was rookie Nigel Mansell. He was the World Driving Champion and came really close to winning the race this year. He was the last lap leader before Fittipaldi, and many people will always wonder if he would have won if no yellow flags had come out.
If there was a hard luck trophy given each year, it probably would have gone to fourth place finished Raul Boesel this year. After leading the first 17 laps of the race, Raul had the misfortune of being assessed two stop-and-go penalties. His car owner, Dick Simon, said that on the next-to-last caution period the three drivers ahead of Raul passed a car and should have been penalized a lap. This would have given them the victory. But USAC officials disagreed, and they were left with their fourth-place finish.
Once again, Mario Andretti was deprived of victory by rotten luck. His 72 leading laps were the most of any driver, but he was assessed a stop-and-go penalty on one of his pit stops. Then the stagger on his last set of tires was wrong, and this caused him to drop to fifth place by the end of the race.
Another driver for Dick Simon, Scott Brayton, finished in sixth position. Scott drove a good race, but he said he car was too slow on straightway speed to challenge for a higher position.
Scott Goodyear finished seventh, less than eight seconds behind Emerson Fittipaldi. But like many other drivers he was the victim of a mishandling car and couldn’t match his outstanding performance of last year.
Last year’s winner, Al Unser, Jr., could only finish eighth this year. He was another victim of mishandling and his last set of tires didn’t have the right stagger, which kept him from advancing any higher.
Teo Fabi had his best finish in six starts and finished the 200 laps for the first time as he brought his Pennzoil Lola/Chevrolet home to a ninth-place finish. He was among the top 10 leaders all day, but handling problems prevented him from moving up in the standings.
John Andretti brought his Ford-Copenhagen Racing car home in 10th position for car owner AJ Foyt. John didn’t have a ride when the Speedway opened, but he did some test driving and finally was hired by Foyt. This was John’s sixth race, and he has finished in the top 10 positions for the last four years.
The appearance of the Speedway had changed greatly since the 1992 race. The entire outer wall of the track and the fencing above it was all new. New warm-up lanes and rumble strips were added in the turns, and a new North Vista grandstand was built on the outside of the racetrack between the third and fourth turns.
There was apprehension among some of the drivers before the race about accidents and safety because of the track changes, but after the race there was much praise for the changes.
One of the minor controversies of this year’s race was that of Emerson Fittipaldi drinking orange juice instead of milk in victory lane. He felt he needed to promote orange juice because of his orange field business in South America.
The total purse of $7,681,300 was a new record, but Fittipaldi’s first-place prize of $1,155,304 was a little short of last year’s winner, Al Unser, Jr.
I think the outstanding feature of this year’s race was that 24 cars were still running at the finish and the first 10 finishers were all on the lead lap. Only in the premiere race of 1911 had this many cars finished the race. I don’t know if this is a sign of things to come in future races, but I thought it really made the race more interesting. Of the nine cars that failed to finish, only five were due to mechanical problems.
A year ago nobody could envision AJ Foyt, Bobby Rahal, and Rick Mears not being in this year’s race, but the race went off anyway.
What does the 1994 race have in store for its thousands of spectators and fans? I can’t say for sure, but I hope to be there to find out.
Pace Car — Chevrolet Camaro
500 Festival Queen — Michelle Hasken