Note from Paul: In 1954, my father, David Dalbey, attended his first Indianapolis 500 with his father and aunt. Several years later, he started recording his experiences in detailed, handwritten journals. He continued this ritual until his final year of attendance in 2019, at which time his health precluded him from continuing the practice. Several of the earliest years were written many years later and may contain some errors in information. He was not a wordsmith, but nonetheless, I am pleased to present these journals in their original form without attempt to edit or correct any mistakes.
(Logo courtesy of doctorindy.com)
The second consecutive year of having the first day of time trials washed out, the unexpected victory of Arie Luyendyk, and the unbelievable 15 mph increase in the winner’s average speed were the highlights of this year at the Speedway.
On Friday, May 11, I picked Paul up at Dubois School, and at 3:54 we left on our trip to the time trials in our 1984 Chevrolet Caprice. We drove on Sangamon Avenue and Camp Butler Road to Riverton and got on I-72. It was then 4:20. We encountered no traffic problems and sailed along smoothly. To help pass the time, Paul suggested we play the initial game. It was fun to play, and we played for a long time. We went around Decatur and then northeastward to Champaign. There we changed to I-74 and drove east to Danville, and at 6:00 we crossed the Indiana state line. Paul needed to use a bathroom, so we stopped at the first rest stop and stretched our legs for a couple of minutes.
As we continued on our way, we listened to Indianapolis radio station WIBC for their good information on activity at the Speedway. The volume of traffic increased as we approached the big city, and at 7:20 our trip ended in the Speedway Shopping Center parking lot.
The west end of the shopping center, including the parking area, had been extensively remodeled during the past year and presented a new appearance.
Our first order of business was eating supper. The line in the MCL Cafeteria was fairly long but it moved steadily, and in a few minutes we were making our selection of food.
Paul had mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, applesauce, fried chicken, baked cod, and Pepsi. I had liver, garlic bread, green beans, beets, macaroni and cheese, combination salad, and Pepsi. It had been several hours since we had eaten, so everything tasted really good to us.
With job number one completed, we moved to job number two — getting our dinner for the next day. In a few minutes we were at the Kroger store and ordering our box lunches from the deli section. Unlike last year, we received good service and didn’t have to wait a long time.
From the grocery store we went to the Amoco gas station about a block west of the shopping center. I filled the gas tank and washed the front window. My gas mileage for the trip was 22.13, which I was really pleased with.
With these three jobs done, we were ready for the drive to the motel. The traffic was heavy and wild as usual on this Friday night, so it took a few minutes to get over to I-465. The traffic on that road moved swiftly, and a few minutes later we moved onto I-65.
It was 8:55 when we arrived at the Holiday Inn Motel at Lebanon. I had paid in advance for the room, so all I had to do was register and get my room key.
Paul was eager to go swimming, so he changed clothes and hurried to the pool while I checked out the room. Everything looked tidy and the TV set worked okay, so I was pleased with that.
I watched TV for a few minutes and then walked to the Holidome area. It was a busy, noisy place but not overcrowded. I sat in one of the pool chairs for a few minutes while Paul swam, then I walked back to my room to see the 10:00 news. While the news was on, Paul came back from the pool and got ready for bed.
When the news was over I changed into my pyjamas, set the alarm clock for 5:30, turned off the lights, and drifted off to sleep.
At 5:30 the alarm clock rang, and I shut it off before it woke Paul. A couple of minutes later I arose and went to the window. The sun wasn’t completely up yet, but it was up enough for me to see that it was raining. This was not the way I wanted to start the day.
I got washed and shaved and then woke up Paul. He got washed and dressed, and then we walked to the motel restaurant for breakfast. While we were seated at our table the buffet serving line opened, so we decided we would eat that way. On the menu were pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, hash brown potatoes, orange juice, and tomato juice.
Business was slow when we arrived but picked up steadily while we were there. Most of the people there had the same plans for the day that we had.
We ate until we couldn’t eat anymore then returned to our room, brushed our teeth, checked to see that we had everything, and at 7:20 left for our trip to the Speedway.
It was raining rather heavily and showed no signs of letting up. The traffic on Crawfordsville Road was really light, and there was no congestion until we turned onto Georgetown Road. It was slower here but still quicker than usual. Speedway patrolmen directed us to our parking space, and at 7:55 I turned the ignition key off to end our trip.
The infield was an unbelievable quagmire. Mud and water came to the tops of our shoes, and it was almost impossible to find any ground that wasn’t the same way. As quickly as possible we hurried to the nearest shelter, which was the new Tower Terrace Suites area. This is a beautiful new addition to the Speedway’s seating area built since last year’s race. Although the suites are private and not open to the general public, the seating area is public. We sat in a couple of the dry seats. The view of the straightaway area is spectacular.
We stayed there for quite a while and then walked to the gift shops behind the Tower Terrace section. They were doing a good business, particularly with caps, umbrellas, and ponchos. Many customers were like us, just browsing and thankful for a chance to get out of the rain for a while. We also went through the photography shop and the bottom floor of the Control Tower. From there we walked through the pedestrian tunnel and sat in the grandstand seats for a few minutes. Fortunately, we had remembered to bring the long sleeve sweaters we bought here last year when it rained and we got chilled.
By then it was obvious that there would be no racing, even if the rain stopped right away. We went back to the car and at 12:00 left to take a trip downtown. Our tickets would be good for re-admission to the grounds, as long as it was today.
I drove east on 16th Street to Delaware Street and then south to Market Square. I parked in a public parking lot across the street.
The place was a disappointment to me. It was old and dirty and unappealing. There wasn’t anything outstanding to see or do, and there weren’t many people there. We had a Coca-Cola to drink and a sandwich to eat and then left.
I had planned to spend some time downtown going in some buildings to get out of the rain for a while, but we couldn’t find a parking space anywhere, so we decided to go back to the Speedway.
The traffic near the Speedway was heavy, but when we got in the patrolman let us park in the museum parking lot, which was a big help.
By then it had quit raining, so there were more people walking around. There was a large crowd around the garage area fence, although there were no race cars to be seen.
As the afternoon passed by, the weather didn’t get much better. There was no more rain but it remained dark and cool with no sunshine, which made it difficult to dry the track. The weather forecast was pessimistic, so USAC and Speedway officials decided to call it a day.
We stayed around a little longer and then left for the shopping center.
Earlier at the Speedway we had eaten our box lunches of fried chicken, brownies, apples, slaw, and baked beans. That kept us from getting really hungry at the Speedway, but it was time for supper, so at 6:00, we went to the MCL Cafeteria.
The waiting line was much shorter than the night before, so we went right through. Paul had chicken breast, potatoes and gravy, corn bread, baked cod, applesauce, and Pepsi. I had corn, broccoli, salad, meat loaf, and Pepsi. Everything tasted fine, and it felt good to eat a warm meal in a warm building.
When we finished eating we drove to the motel, arriving there about 7:30. Paul left for the swimming pool while I stayed in the room for an hour or so. Then I walked to the Holidome area and sat by the pool for a few minutes. Shortly before 10:00 I returned to my room, and a few minutes later Paul did likewise.
We watched the 10:00 news and then retired for the night.
Unlike Saturday morning there was no need to get up really early, so I let Paul sleep later that morning. I got up at about the same time and got cleaned up and did some reading while I waited for Paul.
It was between 8:00 and 8:30 when Paul woke up and about 9:00 when we went to the motel restaurant. We ate the buffet breakfast and made sure we were full when we left. When we finished we went back to our room, brushed our teeth, checked to be sure we hadn’t left anything, and then checked out of the motel. It was 10:00 when we left.
When the time trials were cancelled on Saturday, Paul asked me several times if we could go back on Sunday. Because of the time factor I didn’t want to, but I yielded to him and said we could stay only a short time.
Again, like the day before, the traffic moved well but slowed down somewhat on Georgetown Road. I was ready to go through Gate 3 when a patrolman shut the gate and said the infield was full. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think this had ever happened, but after considering the atrocious condition of the infield the day before I could understand the reason for it.
I continued on for a short distance and followed some other cars that were parking in the North 40 lot. It, too, was in terrible condition, but I took it because I didn’t want to spend any more time looking for a parking space.
Our admission stubs from the day before were good that day, so we entered the grounds at Gate 8 and walked southward. I think it was the first time I had ever come through this gate. Along the way we stopped in seating areas J and H and got an idea of how things look from this viewpoint.
When we reached the pedestrian tunnel we crossed over to the infield and walked through the Control Tower and took seats in the section immediately north of it. The cars were in line ready for practice and qualifying, but the weatherman wasn’t cooperating enough. There was no rain, but it was still dark and quite cool.
The track was dry except for part of the third turn. At 2:30, Tom Carnegie announced that the track would be open for 10 minutes of yellow caution time. The roar of the engines elicited a huge cheer from the crowd. At 3:00 the track was opened for full speed practice for half of the cars. This brought the crowd to life even more so. At 3:36, the second group of cars went out for practice. Both groups practiced for 30 minutes.
At 3:45 I told Paul we had to leave and get started for home in order to get back at a reasonable time. Neither one of us wanted to leave, but we would just have to write the weekend off to experience.
At 4:00 we left the parking lot and drove down Georgetown Road to Crawfordsville Road and turned right. The traffic was no problem, and in a few minutes we were on I-74.
As we traveled, we listened to the time trials on WIBC. It was about 5:30 when we arrived at Danville. We drove into town and stopped at McDonald’s for supper. We used the restroom first, then bought our food and resumed our trip home.
This was the first time I took I-74 all the way home from the time trials. I did so because of the time factor. It was shortly before 8:00 when we arrived home.
During the week before the race Paul and I got our suitcases packed, and on Saturday morning, May 26, at 10:11 we left home for the beginning of our race trip. Our first stop was the Quick N EZ gas station at Chatham Road and Monroe Street where I filled the gas tank and washed the windows.
A few days earlier Paul had seen a stopwatch at Walgreens Drug Store on North Grand Avenue and decided he wanted it. I didn’t think he needed it, but I yielded to his persistence and stopped at the store. He came out to the car a few minutes later and said they didn’t have any. I was unhappy because I wanted to get on the road, but I told him we would stop at the Walgreens store on Sangamon Avenue since it was on the way out of town. He rushed into the store and returned a couple minutes later with a stopwatch.
At 10:45 we left the drug store and were at last on our way. I continued east on Sangamon Avenue to Riverton and caught old Route 36, which we took all the way to Decatur. We arrived there at 11:30.
As we continued eastward on Route 36, I thought back to the many pleasant trips I had taken with Dad and Bobby on this same road on the day before the big race. It’s always a pleasant trip.
There were no major traffic problems, and at 1:05 we arrived at the Colonial Kitchen restaurant at the Route 1 intersection.
There were several customers there for dinner, but it wasn’t crowded. We decided to eat differently this year. Instead of a sandwich and drink, we ate a regular meal from the buffet area. I had chicken, potatoes and gravy, corn, hot rolls, potato salad, lettuce, and coffee. Paul had chicken, potatoes and gravy, hot rolls, and water. We were both hungry and the food tasted really good.
We used the restrooms, paid our bill, and at 1:44 hit the road again. There didn’t seem to be as much activity as usual in the towns on the way, although there were a few people cutting their grass and visiting with their friends and neighbors.
It was 2:22 when we arrived at the Ramada Inn motel on the east side of Danville. I had already paid for our room, so all I had to do was complete the registration papers.
Our room was on the second level on the north side of the motel. Everything seemed to be in good condition, so we watched television for a few minutes and then Paul went swimming.
About 30 minutes later, I walked to the pool to check on Paul. He was having a good time, but I was surprised to see so few people there. There were less than a dozen people in attendance. I stayed there for a few minutes and then visited the rest of the motel to see what was happening.
There was almost nobody in either the restaurant or the lounge, and the front desk was quiet also. I went back to the pool for a few minutes and then went back to the room where I did some reading and TV viewing.
Paul came back at about 4:30, and we spent some time watching old 500-mile race films on one of the TV stations. Shortly after 5:00 I took my bath, shaved, and got ready for leave for supper.
The first place we stopped at was the Famous Recipe chicken place where I bought an eight-piece box of chicken for dinner tomorrow after the race. From there we drove back to the old Derby gas station and filled the gas tank. The average fuel mileage was 21.09 mpg.
From there I drove a couple of blocks to George’s Buffet for our supper. I had chicken livers, corn, peas, chicken, lettuce salad, chocolate cake, and Pepsi. Paul had chicken, fish, potatoes and gravy, noodles, chocolate cake, and Pepsi. It was a good meal, and both of us felt better when we left. Our three big jobs were done, so we drove back to the motel, arriving there at 7:25.
Paul went straight to the room, but I did some walking before I did that. I went to the front desk area. Business had increased considerably since I was there in the afternoon. Both the restaurant and the lounge were doing a good business, as was the front desk area.
From there I went to the travelers’ rest stop area at the northeast corner of the motel parking area. One of the charity clubs of Danville was offering refreshments to travelers on I-74. The liquid refreshments included coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, and the food included several kinds of cookies and doughnuts. There were open around the clock from Friday night to midnight Monday for the Memorial Day weekend. The cost of the refreshments was covered by free-will offerings. I took a cup of coffee and a small sack of doughnuts and cookies for Paul and me to eat while we were in our room. The people were really hospitable, and I visited with them for a few minutes before leaving. I gave them $3.00, and they were most appreciative of it.
When I got back to the room, Paul and I watched TV for a while. I got everything packed into the tote bag for the next day, and before we went to bed we ate some of the cookies and doughnuts.
At about 10:30 we got ready for bed. I made sure the room door was locked and chained and set the alarm clock for 4:00. We had a long day ahead of us and only a few hours to get rested for it.
The alarm clock rang at 4:00. I lay in bed for a couple of minutes, then got up and washed and shaved. I managed to get Paul up, but it took several minutes before he looked that way. At 4:30, we left for the motel restaurant.
The restaurant was open for business but the food was still being brought out for display, so we waited a few minutes. I had scrambled eggs, French toast, hash brown potatoes, orange juice, and coffee. Paul had potatoes, biscuits and gravy, and orange juice. Everything tasted good, and we ate well because it would be a long time until we ate dinner.
There were only four other customers when we arrived, but business increased steadily while we were there. We walked back to our room, brushed our teeth, and made sure we had everything we needed for our trip.
It was 5:33 when we left the motel parking lot to begin our trip. A couple of minutes later we were on I-74 and in Indiana. Radio station WIBC kept us entertained with its reports from the Speedway area. The traffic was about the same as usual for race day morning, and most of it was going where we were. There was no rain, but the rising sun and intermittent fog made driving unpleasant at times.
It was about 6:45 when traffic came to a stop at the I-465 interchange. From there on it moved slowly but better than in some other years, and at 7:00 we parked in the front yard of a house on 20th Street just before the Lynhurst intersection. I paid the attendant the $5.00 fee, and then we got our equipment, locked the door, and started our walk to the Speedway.
The sights along Crawfordsville Road looked much the same as other years. Hundreds of people were carrying tote bags, styrofoam coolers, and other kinds of equipment, while other people were eating breakfast on their outdoor grills or getting a few last minutes of sleep. Vendors were busy selling caps, sweaters, toy race cars, and other items.
When we reached the three-street intersection, we crossed to the south side of 16th Street and watched the huge mass of people converging on the Speedway. It was 7:30 when I handed our tickets to the gate attendant and walked into the Speedway grounds.
Our first stop was a few feet inside the gate where vendors were selling the Speedway souvenir programs. I bought three for myself, Bobby Dalbey, and Fred Fry.
From here we walked a short distance north to the space between Grandstands A and B. The gate in the retaining wall was open, so we walked onto the race track and took some pictures, as did many other people. When we finished, we walked across the track to the infield and the garage area.
It was a good time to be at the garage area. The cars had to be in their pit areas by 8:00, so we saw many of them being pushed from their garages to the pit area. This activity drew a large crowd to the garage area fence.
When all the cars were gone, we went back to the walk area behind the Tower Terrace seats and started walking north. This turned out to be a big mistake. When we reached the entrance to Gasoline Alley, the Speedway patrol wouldn’t let anybody go through because there was a steady line of equipment being taken to the pit area. The crowd increased to several hundred in size and became increasingly impatient to get where they wanted to go. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the patrol opened the area to pedestrian traffic. It was almost a stampede as people pushed and shoved to get going. I kept a tight but not crushing grip on Paul’s arm to be sure we didn’t get separated.
We continued walking, used the underground walkway, and in a few minutes were behind our seating area. I handed our tickets to the attendant, who detached the Tower Terrace stub and returned them to me. A couple of minutes later, we got to our seats and sat down. It was then about 9:00.
The front straightaway was a beehive of activity. On the race track, several high school and college marching bands were giving a fine performance. In the pit area, pit crews were practicing pit stops and making final checks and adjustments on their cars.
We sat down and rested for a few minutes and then took a walk along the pit area fence all the way to the Gasoline Alley entrance. It’s always interesting to see some famous person being interviewed on the PA system and the pit crews busy at work. There were more people around Tom Sneva’s car than the others, and we saw why. Andy Granatelli and movie star John Travolta were in attendance and were basking in all the attention.
It was between 9:45 and 10:00 when we returned to our seats, and the cars were being pushed onto the race track to their starting positions.
My racing friend from Michigan had arrived while we were gone, so we visited with each other for a few minutes.
The parade of 500 Festival princesses and celebrities took place shortly after 10:00. The most famous celebrity was probably Indiana’s own Dan Quayle, now the United States Vice-President. At about 10:15 my race companion from Central Baptist Church, Malcolm McKean, arrived on the scene and took his seat next to mine.
An interesting part of the parade was being able to see the winning cars of 1940, 1950, and 1960. Wilbur Shaw’s 1940 winner was driven by his son, Bill. The 1950 winning car of Johnnie Parsons was driven by his son, Johnny, an active driver and participant in several 500-mile races. The 1960 winning Ken-Paul Special driven by Jim Rathmann was driven by Jim himself.
Another part of the parade was a quintet of former Chevrolet pace cars from the years 1948, 1955, 1967, 1969, and 1978. I had seen all of them do their jobs except the 1948 car.
At 10:30 Chief Steward Tim Binford and other USAC officials made a final inspection tour of the track and said it was ready for racing.
At 10:40 the jubilant pre-race ceremonies turned solemn as gospel singer Sandi Patti sang The Star-Spangled Banner as the huge crowd rose to its feet.
A few seconds after this, with the crowd still standing, The Most Reverend Edward O’Meara, Archbishop of Indianapolis, delivered a most befitting invocation thanking God for the beautiful weather and for the opportunity to witness the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Immediately after the invocation, the solemn atmosphere of the crowd continued as the Purdue University Band played Taps in keeping with the serious meaning of Memorial Day.
A more jovial mood settled over the crowd as Tom Carnegie introduced Jim Nabors, who sang Back Home Again in Indiana. As Jim was singing, the huge multitude of balloons was released from a tent behind the Control Tower. This is always a big crowd pleaser, and this year’s show was one of the best. The prevailing breeze was almost unnoticeable, so the crowd got an excellent view of the balloons.
When Jim Nabors finished singing, a huge applause arose as the pre-race ceremonies were about to reach their climax. Mary Hulman was introduced to the crowd and issued the order made famous by her late husband, Tony: “Gentleman, start your engines!”
Once again, as happens every year, tears filled my eyes as the roar of the 33 engines coming to life pervaded the air. The three of us clapped and cheered our approval, as did many others.
A couple of minutes later, the Chevrolet Beretta pace car, driven by Chevrolet general manager Jim Perkins, slowly pulled away with USAC stewards Bob Cassady and Rich Coy as his passengers. They were followed by two other complementary pace cars.
All 33 engines started immediately, which isn’t always the case. The tension of the crowd could be cut with a knife as all eyes looked to the fourth turn. Moments later, a loud cheer arose as the pace car came through the turn and, a couple seconds later, the front row of Fittipaldi, Mears, and Luyendyk followed by the remainder of the field. The field was not nearly lined up in eleven rows of three each.
At the end of the second lap, the two complementary pace cars pulled off the track and left the actual pace car by itself. The formation of the field was only slightly better the second time, and I thought they were not ready for the start.
A couple of minutes later the pace car came speeding through the pit area a good distance ahead of the field. A few seconds later the front two rows appeared and came down for the start, but the other nine rows were still in ragged formation. About the time the front row reached the starting line, starter Duane Sweeney waved his two green flags and the race was on.
As they crossed the line Mears jumped ahead of Fittipaldi and Luyendyk, but as they reached the turn Fittipaldi swung to the left and took the lead. As they came by to complete the first lap, the first 10 positions were held by Fittipaldi, Mears, Luyendyk, Rahal, Al Unser, Jr., Mario Andretti, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, AJ Foyt, and Kevin Cogan. Fittipaldi’s speed of 206.8 mph was slower than his leading first lap of last year. It was hard to believe, but for the first time in five years all 33 drivers had completed the first lap.
Emmo’s second lap speed increased to 215+, and after nine laps he had passed the six bottom cars being driven by Rocky Moran, Bill Vukovich, Al Unser, Jim Crawford, Dean Hall, and Roberto Guerrero.
At about this time the #97 of Stan Fox pulled into the pits and was the first car out of the race. The problem was a broken gear box. He was credited with 10 laps.
Emmo was steadily increasing his lead as the 50-mile mark approached, but on the 20th lap the yellow flag came out. Danny Sullivan, driving the #7 Marlboro car of Roger Penske, crashed into the first turn wall. The car was seriously damaged, but Sullivan wasn’t injured. The accident was caused by a broken rear wheel bearing. He had completed 19 laps.
The green flag returned on the 25th lap, and Fittipaldi again took his place at the head of the field.
At 20 laps, the first 10 positions were held by Fittipaldi, Rahal, Luyendyk, Mario Andretti, Unser, Jr., Michael Andretti, Mears, Foyt, Cogan, and Raul Boesel.
Rahal remained in second place, but Mario Andretti had moved to third and Al Unser, Jr. had passed Luyendyk for fourth.
A question on everybody’s mind was “What’s wrong with Mears?” He was expected to be a contender for the lead, but he was steadily losing ground and was in seventh position.
At 40 laps, 100 miles, Fittipaldi was still safely in first place with Rahal four seconds behind him. They were followed by Unser, Jr., Michael Andretti, Luyendyk, Mears, Foyt, and Cogan.
As the leaders were completing their 45th lap, the yellow flag made its second appearance of the day when Tony Bettenhausen stalled on the track and had to be towed in. This brought on a series of pit stops, and once again Fittipaldi was able to pit without giving up the lead.
At about this time Gary Bettenhausen was forced out of the race after 39 laps with wheel bearing trouble.
After 60 laps the first 10 leaders were Fittipaldi, Rahal, Unser, Jr., Michael Andretti, Luyendyk, Foyt, Mario Andretti, Mears, Boesel, and John Andretti.
On the 64th lap, action started taking place at several locations. Mario Andretti’s car had blown its engine and was coasting through the north end of the track. At the same time, Raul Boesel’s engine expired as he was going down the back straightaway. Pancho Carter, coming through the fourth turn, lost control and crashed into the outside wall. It was discovered that his CV joint had broken. Tom Sneva’s car was also having engine trouble, and he was out of the race.
The yellow flag came out and remained there for seven laps. The official finish for positions 30-27 was Sneva, Carter, Boesel, and Andretti.
On lap 70 the green flag returned and Fittipaldi picked up the pace, although his lead over Rahal, Unser, Andretti, and Luyendyk had decreased somewhat.
After 80 laps, 200 miles, the top 10 drivers were Fittipaldi, Unser, Rahal, Andretti, Luyendyk, Foyt, Mears, John Andretti, Cogan, and Eddie Cheever.
On lap 92, Fittipaldi and Rahal came in together for their fourth pit stops. This was Andretti’s chance to take the lead, but once again the Andretti misfortune came to the forefront. As he came through the fourth turn, blue smoke was coming from the right rear of his car. He came into his pit and his crew went to work, first putting out the fire and then changing the right rear half shaft, axle assembly, brake rotor, and caliper.
While this was happening, Luyendyk came by and went into the lead. For the first time since the start of the race, Fittipaldi was not leading. Arie led for two laps and had to make a pit stop, which gave the lead back to Emmo.
Rocky Moran was the next driver forced out of the race. Rocky was a last-minute qualifier on the last day of time trials and had the slowest qualifying speed this year. Now he was finished after 88 laps with an expired engine.
At 100 laps, half the race, the first 10 drivers were Fittipaldi, Unser, Rahal, Luyendyk, Foyt, Mears, John Andretti, Cheever, Cogan, and Scott Brayton.
Fittipaldi continued to set a record pace, but on the next series of pit stops Rahal took the lead for five laps before giving it back to Emmo.
In the pit area, Bill Vukovich was the next entry out of the race when his turbocharger quit working. Michael Andretti was leaving the pits after being there for 17 minutes.
At 120 laps, 300 miles, the first 10 leaders were Rahal, Luyendyk, Fittipaldi, Unser, Mears, Foyt, Brayton, John Andretti, Cogan, and Cheever.
Fittipaldi continued to set a torrid pace but then pitted on his 135th lap having been on the track only 18 laps since his last stop. Rahal and Luyendyk moved into the first two positions.
Just as Rahal finished his 141st lap, the yellow flag appeared again. John Andretti’s car hadn’t been handling well for several laps, and suspension trouble caused him to lose control and spin off the track in turn one.
The next departing from the race after Bill Vukovich was Roberto Guerrero. His #20 Patrick Racing machine was forced out when the drive pins in the right rear broke and fell off.
Dominic Dobson’s #86 Texaco Havoline car was out after 129 laps with engine trouble.
On Rahal’s 147th lap, the green flag appeared again as racing speed resumed.
On his 152nd lap Fittipaldi made another pit stop having been out for only 17 laps. Something had to be wrong, and a short time later it was announced that Emmo’s tires were blistering because he was running at a faster speed than they were made for. He returned to the track, but Rahal and Luyendyk were getting away from him.
At 160 laps, 400 miles, the first 10 leaders were Rahal, Luyendyk, Fittipaldi, Unser, Mears, Foyt, Brayton, Fabi, Cheever, and Cogan.
Rahal continued to lead, but his advantage over Luyendyk was getting smaller and smaller. As the two went into turn three on their 168th lap Arie ducked under Bobby, and when they came by again Arie had almost a one-second lead.
Meanwhile, Michael Andretti was having more problems. He came into the pits after 143 laps with handling problems. He went back out, but he came back in three laps later. This time his pit crew decided it was too big of a problem to solve, so Michael was finished for the day. The Andretti misfortune had struck again. He was given 20th position, one ahead of his cousin, John.
On his 171st lap Rahal made a 17-second pit stop, and two laps later Luyendyk made a 19-second stop without losing the lead.
Fittipaldi and Unser were both on the lead lap, but they lost that advantage when they made pit stops a few minutes later. Emmo was running at full speed, but it wasn’t fast enough to catch Rahal or Luyendyk.
Teo Fabi was the next driver out of the race when his Porsche car had to leave after 162 laps with clutch failure after only having been in the top 10 for a few laps.
Rookie Dean Hall came in for a routine pit stop on his 165th lap. He came in too fast, slid into one of his new tires, and then hit the pit wall, damaging his suspension too much to continue.
As the remaining laps ticked away, Luyendyk’s lead over Rahal increased slightly. Unser pitted on the 188th lap, giving third place back to Fittipaldi.
On the 192nd lap, John Paul, Jr. pitted and was forced out of competition with radiator trouble having completed 175 laps.
The fastest car on the track at that point was Fittipaldi. As the leader completed 198 laps Fittipaldi passed him in the first turn, putting him back on the lead lap.
Arie’s speed had decreased slightly, but two laps later he received the checkered flag to win. Rahal finished second, 10.87 seconds behind. Several other cars received the flag before Fittipaldi came by to complete his 200th lap, the last driver to do so.
On his last trip around the track, Arie was given a warm reception by the huge crowd. He was a really popular winner.
For the first time since 1987 the race finished under the green flag, and for the first time since 1984 there was no yellow flag during the last 10 laps of the race.
There were the usual victory lane ceremonies, and then Arie, his wife, and car owner Doug Shierson were driven around the track in the Chevrolet Beretta pace car.
The remaining drivers and pit crew members were unwinding and having some fun with each other. Although some of them didn’t finish near the top, all of them were happy to be running at the end of the race.
A few minutes later the three of us got out our box lunches and had a late dinner. I went to the concession stand behind our seats and bought Cokes so that we would have something to drink. The chicken and rolls tasted good although they were cold.
Most of the people in our immediate area had left, and an eerie quietude settled over the Speedway where only a short time earlier the constant roar of race engines was heard.
It was about 3:00 when we got everything put away and decided it was time to leave. When we left the Speedway grounds we said goodbye to Malcolm and started our walk to the car. The sights and sounds along Crawfordsville Road were much like every other year after the race. Many of the people were sunburned, fatigued, and drunk. The sounds of profanity and obscenities pervaded the air.
It was a long walk for both of us, and we were really pleased to get to the car and sit on a soft seat for a few minutes. It was 3:50 when we left the parking lot and started our trip back to the motel.
It took a couple of minutes to get onto Crawfordsville Road, but the traffic wasn’t as bad as it had been in many other years. Once we got past the High School Road stop light, traffic moved in a normal pattern.
We drove a few miles and stopped at the first rest area location. It was doing a good business, and almost everybody there had been at the race. The cold water from the water fountain felt really good on our hot, sweaty skin. We walked around the area for a couple of minutes and then got back in the car and continued on our way.
It was 5:20 when we arrived at the motel. Paul changed his clothes and went to the swimming pool, while I stayed in the cool room and relaxed for a few minutes. A short time later I walked to the pool to check on Paul, and I was surprised to see only four other persons there. I stayed a few minutes and then went back to our room. It was about 6:30 when Paul came back.
We got cleaned up a little bit and watched TV until 7:15 when we left for the motel restaurant. As it had done for several years, the motel was showing a video tape of the race at 7:30, so we wanted to see that.
The movie was being shown in the lounge area, and the folding curtain dividing it from the dining area was open. The serving area was in the middle of the room. We were shown to our table by the hostess, and we ate buffet style instead of from the menu. We had fish, roast beef, chicken, noodles, potatoes and gravy, lettuce, beets, slaw, coffee, and water. Everything tasted fine and there was a large crowd in attendance, most of whom had been to the race.
While we were eating, we got to talking to the couple sitting next to us. They not only had been to the race, but they were from Springfield as well. The man asked where I worked, and when I told him I worked at the Post Office he asked if I knew a man named Chick Bean. When I answered yes, he said he had known Chick a long time from his church. They were a cordial couple, and we talked throughout our meal as we watched the race film.
The film lasted until 10:30, and by that time both of us were not only full of food but were ready for a good night’s sleep. The film was a video tape of the ABC telecast of the race.
When we returned to our room, we didn’t watch TV but got undressed and went to bed. It had been a long day.
It was about 6:00 when I awoke to begin my day after the race. I tried to sleep a little longer but was unable to do so, so I got up and did some reading for a few minutes. Then I got dressed and went to the highway rest stop station. I chatted with the attendants for a few minutes and then bought some coffee and doughnuts. I ate one doughnut and took the other one back to Paul.
Paul was still sleeping when I returned to the room, so I did some more reading and watched TV for a little while. At about 8:30, I took a warm bath and washed off the dirt and grime that had been on me since I left the Speedway. When I finished bathing I brushed my teeth, shaved, and combed my hair. Then I put on clean clothes. Doing all of this made me feel more alert and energetic.
By that time Paul had woken up. He lay in bed for a few minutes and then took a bath and got dressed.
It was then between 9:00 and 9:30 and we were ready for breakfast, so we walked to the motel restaurant.
We decided to have the buffet breakfast. Paul had looked forward to having biscuits and gravy, but as he pulled the biscuit from the warmer one of his knuckles touched the hot warmer and caused an immediate, painful burn, which made him cry for a while. I put an ice cube on it for a few minutes, but it took a few minutes before the pain and crying subsided.
A compassionate lady employee of the restaurant saw what had happened and brought a cold, wet towel and wrapped it around his hand.
When he quit crying, he took his plate and went back to get more to eat. As he was holding his plate and reaching for a food item, he somehow lost hold of his plate and it went to the floor, breaking into several pieces and making a loud noise. This brought on another crying spell but from embarrassment, not pain. He went back to our table and hid his face in his hands as he cried. The sympathetic hostess came to our table and consoled him for a few seconds and told me he could have more food at no extra cost. This time, I held the plate and put the food on it as he told me what he wanted.
We managed to eat our breakfast without any more unpleasant incidents. The food was fine, but I’m sure Paul was ready to leave as soon as he finished eating. When the hostess took our money, she smiled at Paul and told him not to be upset about what had happened.
We went back to our room, brushed our teeth, watched TV, and got everything packed and ready to leave. I checked to be sure we hadn’t left anything. We put our equipment in the car and then checked out of the motel. It was 11:55 when we left.
I decided we would do something a little different this year instead of going straight home. We went north to the US 136 intersection and turned right, and a couple of minutes later we were in Covington. For several years I had seen the arrow for Covington at the 136 interchange and wondered about the town. It was a quiet place, but we had to remember it was a holiday. We saw more people at an ice cream parlor than anywhere else. We drove around a little more and went back to Illinois.
There was another place I wanted to see. I had seen on the road map a town called State Line. It looked as if it was in both states, and I wanted to see if it was. I drove north on Route 1 for several miles until I came to Rossville. Both of us had been looking for signs to the town and hadn’t seen any, so I turned around and came back. A short time later we were on the familiar Danville to Chrisman route. It was 2:00 when we arrived at the Colonial Kitchen.
Paul had a grilled cheese sandwich and 7-Up, and I had a BBQ and coffee. I finished eating before Paul did, so I paid the bill while I was waiting. The cashier was really friendly. When I told her where we had been and where we were going, she told me she grew up in Springfield and had graduated from Lanphier High School in 1956. When she said her married name was Compton, it really sparked my interest. Her husband was Gale who is the son of Lila Compton, a close friend of my mother. The Dalbeys and Comptons have known each other for over 40 years. Gale and his wife live in Paris, Illinois, about 10-15 miles south of the Colonial Kitchen on Route 1. It was really a coincidence that we would meet so far from Springfield and discover we were so close to each other. The two of us talked for several minutes.
When Paul and I had gone to the time trials two weeks earlier, he’d bought a cap at the Speedway gift shop. He wore it when we left home for the race. I didn’t pay much attention to it until Sunday morning when we were driving to the Speedway and didn’t see it. He said he must have left it at the motel. When we got back from the race, it wasn’t there. I knew he’d had it when we stopped for dinner on Saturday. As soon as we came in I saw it on the hat shelf above the coat hanger. Both of us were greatly relieved to see it and glad somebody hadn’t stolen it.
It was 2:57 when we left and started our trip on Route 36. There was a lot of activity at Lake Decatur because of the annual Memorial Day boat races. We took old Route 36 from Decatur to Springfield and arrived at the house at 5:30. It was the end of another safe, enjoyable trip to the big race. It was a trip to remember for several events, few of which we knew were going to happen or had anything to do with the race itself.
On Monday morning, USAC announced the official results of the race. By winning, Arie Luyendyk wrote his name into Speedway history. In all honesty, it must be admitted that luck played an important part. The outcome may have been different if Rahal, Fittipaldi, Unser, and Mears had not had trouble with their cars, but luck has always been an important factor in auto racing. He ran the 500 miles in 2:41:18.404 for an unbelievable average speed of 185.981 mph, 15 mph faster than Bobby Rahal’s 1986 winning speed. The main factor responsible for the tremendous increase in speed was the unusually small amount of caution time.
Bobby Rahal was second, 10.8 seconds behind Luyendyk. Bobby had an excellent day, being no lower than third at any of the 10-lap intervals. He was in a good position to win, but he ran into handling problems in the late stages of the race and couldn’t overtake Luyendyk. He drove the #18 Galles-Kraco machine.
As in the previous year’s race Emerson Fittipaldi was the dominant driver of this race, but unlike the year before Lady Luck worked against instead of for him. He joined the Roger Penske team this year, set one- and four-lap qualifying records in the time trials, and then broke a 63-year old record by leading the first 92 laps of the race. He led a total of 127 laps, but his tire troubles forced him to slow his pace and he was unable to pass Luyendyk and Rahal.
For the fourth time in the last five years Al Unser, Jr. finished among the top five finishers, this time coming home fourth. He had the fastest practice lap of the month at 228 mph on May 11, but when it counted at qualifying time he could run only 220.920 mph for his four-lap average. In the race he encountered tire blistering problems that adversely affected his car’s handling and caused him not to finish higher.
Probably the biggest disappointment among the top drivers during the race was Rick Mears. This was Rick’s 13th year at the Speedway, and he has driven every year for the Roger Penske team. This was the 10th year he started on the front row, and that is a Speedway record. His car didn’t handle well from the start, and his fifth-place finish was his highest position in the race. The car was particularly poor handling in traffic.
The grand old man of the Speedway, AJ Foyt, finished in sixth position this year. At 55 years of age he was the oldest driver to ever start the race, and his 33 consecutive starts is also a track record. His 220.425 mph qualifying run was good for eighth starting position, but during the race he had trouble with his car bottoming out in the turns. He was in the top 10 positions at all 10-lap intervals during the race, and for the 17th consecutive year he drove #14 for car owner Jim Gilmore.
In his ninth year at the Speedway, Scott Brayton finished seventh in the #22 Amway car owned by Dick Simon. He finished six laps behind the winner, but his car had the best finish of any Cosworth-powered car.
Rookie Eddie Cheever finished eight, and in doing so he won the Rookie of the Year award. He was consistently the fastest rookie when the month opened for practice, and he drove a steady, consistent race in the #25 Target Stores machine.
After his horrifying crash of the previous year, Kevin Cogan made a strong comeback by driving the #11 Vince Granatelli–owned and Buick-powered car to ninth position. He finished 191 laps, but poor handling left him physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of the race. This was Kevin’s 10th race and his fourth top-10 finish.
Another rookie, Canadian Scott Goodyear, finished 10th in the #29 MacKenzie-O’Donnell car. His finish is more impressive when it is remembered that he had a 1989 Lola chassis and a Judd engine.
In addition to the new Tower Terrace section that Paul and I went through on the first day of time trials, the Tower Terrace area north of the Control Tower had the wooden seats removed and replaced by metal seats just like the ones south of the Control Tower. This was something that had needed to be done for several years. The Tower Terrace area now looks like one unit instead of two units placed next to each other.
There was also a new handicapped seating area on the infield by the second turn. This is the first handicapped seating section the Speedway has built.
A big change also took place in the management of the Speedway since the previous year’s race. On December 11, president Joe Cloutier died of heart failure. Tony George, grandson of deceased Speedway owner Tony Hulman, became the new president, thus keeping the Speedway ownership in the Hulman family.
Another record was set when the Speedway distributed $6,325,803 in prize money, with the first-place team receiving $1,000,940.
This year will be remembered for several events, both on the personal side and at the Speedway. Next year, I plan to be in attendance again at the greatest event in auto racing — the Indianapolis 500.
Pace Car – Chevrolet Beretta
500 Festival Queen – Vanessa Baird
One thought on “Indy journal: 1990”
I love reading these journals. What a gift that your dad kept such a wonderful record of your trips. I appreciate the details and can hear in his words how special this time was for him.