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. My father passed away on September 27, 2022. I continue to post these journals in his honor.
There were several outstanding events which made this a memorable year at the Speedway, including the failure of both Penske owned cars to qualify, the first time since 1962 that a member of the Unser family wasn’t in the race, the great improvement in the Honda engine, the return of Firestone tires, the near-fatal crash of Stan Fox at the start of the race, the strange self-imposed departure of Scott Goodyear from the race when he seemed to have it won, and the winner having to drive 505 miles to win the race.
We left the house at 4:37 Saturday morning, May 13, in our 1984 Chevrolet, to begin our trip to the Speedway. About the time we got to Champaign, we were able to turn off our lights and pick up Indianapolis radio station WIBC. We continued on our way and arrived at the Crawfordsville Holiday Inn motel at 7:15.
We had eaten breakfast at the motel dining room last year and were well pleased with it, so we decided we would do it again this year. We were seated and waited on immediately and because we ate buffet style, we didn’t have to wait to get our food.
There was an outstanding selection of food and we chose scrambled eggs, French toast, bacon, sausage, cereal, muffins, fruit, biscuits and gravy, coffee, and orange juice. Everything tasted fine, and we ate until we couldn’t eat any more.
It was 7:58 when we left the motel. We got back onto I-74 and went east again. It was between 8:30 an 8:45 when we arrived at the I-465 interchange. The traffic became quite heavy and for a long time we seemed to be going nowhere as we sat and fumed while listening to WIBC and watching the people around us. It was about 9:30 when we drove through the Gate 7 tunnel and onto the infield. Speedway patrolmen guided us, and at 9:45 we reached our parking spot.
As he has done so many times in the past, the weatherman was refusing to cooperate by bringing rain to the Speedway.
We walked to the area of the main straightaway and the pit area. As usual there was a lot of activity in the concession stands and the souvenir shops, but there was no activity in the pit area or on the racetrack. From here we went to where we usually sit, in the grandstand on the outside of the track in front of the Control Tower.
There were a lot of people in the stands who, like us, had brought radios, newspapers, or other forms of entertainment to occupy their time while waiting for the rain to stop. The electronic message boards, located at various locations around the Speedway, are a good source of entertainment.
Between 12:30 and 1:00 we ate our lunches of fried chicken, biscuits, and baked beans which we had brought from home. Everything tasted good and there was enough for us to not get hungry before supper.
With dinner completed, we decided it would be a good time to see the Indy Expo. We stopped under the Control Tower to see what was happening there. The Speedway’s chief PA announcer, Tom Carnegie, was killing time by visiting with some of the race fans. I introduced Paul and myself to Tom and asked him if we could have our picture taken with him. He agreed to our request and a man standing nearby took our picture.
From here we walked to the south end of the garage area and then east to the Indy Expo area. It was a busy place. Many people, like us, came to have something to do to shorten the long afternoon. There were many interesting exhibits to see, and we stayed for an hour or so to see them.
As the afternoon went on, the rain finally stopped. Speedway maintenance crews were able to dry the track and the audience roared its approval when the sound of racing engines could be heard and the cars slowly pulled onto the track for practice. It was really a welcome sight and sound for everybody.
To backtrack a little bit, earlier in the day while we were sitting in our seat, the host of the Tonight Show program, Jay Leno, had received a warm reception from the crowd as he walked through the pit area interviewing several of the drivers.
When practice time ended, the drivers returned to the pit area and the cars were lined up for qualifying in the order in which their owners had drawn from them on Friday evening.
The first drive on the track was Dean Hall, driving one of Dick Simon’s cars. After three laps, Dean was displeased and called off the qualification attempt.
For the second year in a row, a rookie was the first qualifying when Alessandro Zampedri qualified at 225.753 mph.
A few minutes later a huge cheer came from the crowd when Tom Carnegie announced that Arie Luyendyk was on the track. His first two laps were in the 230 mph range and his second two laps were in the 231s, but he was more than one mph below the track record with his average of 231.031 mph.
Eddie Cheever and Paul Tracy made their qualification runs, and then Arie Luyendyk’s teammate, Scott Brayton, went out and beat Arie’s speed with a 231.604 mph average.
As the 6:00 deadline approached, activity on the track increased as qualification runs were made by Danny Sullivan, Gil de Ferran, Mauricio Gugelmin, and Michael Andretti.
When 6:00 arrived, eleven cars had qualified with another eleven having to wait until Sunday to finish the first day qualifying.
Now a bi job lie ahead of us – getting out of the Speedway grounds. The pedestrian traffic moved quite well, but the big problem came when we got to the car.
There was a steady stream of cars exiting the grounds, but it took us forever to get into that stream. It was about 7:00 when we got onto 30th Street. When we got to Georgetown Road, I turned and went south to 25th Street, and then went east to the Speedway Shopping Center. Once we got out the Speedway, the traffic moved quite well, considering what the situation was.
Luckily there wasn’t a long waiting line at the MCL Cafeteria, so it didn’t take long to get through the line. Paul had cod fish, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, cornbread, and Diet Coke. I had lettuce salad, beets, macaroni, hot roll, meatloaf, and coffee.
After supper, we left immediately for the motel. After driving about five miles, we came to a detour, the same one as last year. We went east on I-465 and followed the signs. Like last year I didn’t take any wrong turns, and a few minutes later we were back on the north bound lanes of I-65. I took the third Lebanon exit and stopped at the adjacent gas station and filled the gas tank. From here we backtracked about two blocks to the Holiday Inn Motel. It was 8:20 when we arrived.
I had already paid for the room so all I had to do was fill out the registration form and get the from key. When we got to the room, we checked to see that everything looked and worked ok. The bathroom was clean, the eds were made, and the TV set worked fine.
Unlike other years, Paul did not go swimming. He said he was tired and decided to stay in the room. We watched television for a while and then I walked to the Holidome area for a few minutes. From there I came back to the lobby to see what was happening there. I poured myself a cup of coffee and then went back to the room.
Paul watched TV while I got the tote bag ready for tomorrow and did some reading. After we saw the 10:00 news program, Paul went to sleep and I did some more reading until about 11:00 when I went to sleep.
I woke up about 6:30 Sunday morning and tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t do so, so I got up and read for a few minutes. Shortly after 7:00, I walked to the lobby and bought and Indianapolis newspaper at the front desk. I picked up a cup of coffee and returned to the room.
Paul was still sleeping so I watched TV for a short time with the volume down while I looked through the newspaper and did some reading. It was about 8:30 when Paul first opened his eyes. He watched TV for a few minutes and then got up and washed and got dressed.
We ate breakfast in the motel dining room. There was no buffet breakfast, so we had to order from the menu. Paul had pancakes and orange juice, and I had scrambled eggs, toast, ham, coffee, and orange juice.
Both of us felt better with a full stomach. When we got back to our room we brushed our teeth, watched TV, and got ready to leave. I checked to be sure we hadn’t left anything, and then we took our luggage to the car.
Before leaving for home, we walked to the outdoor playground and used some of the equipment. We always have fun doing this although we’re probably too old for the equipment.
When we finished playing on the swings and some of the other equipment, I turned in our room keys and checked us out of the motel.
We took Indiana Route 39, which runs in front of the motel, south for a few miles until it intersected with I-74. We turned right and went west on I-74. While we traveled, we listened to the live broadcast from the garage area of the Speedway on WIBC. It included several interesting reports and interviews.
It was sometime between 12:00 and 12:30 when we crossed the state line and arrived in Danville. We drove around for several minutes trying to find a nice restaurant but didn’t see any, so we stopped at a Hardee’s.
It was now that the funniest incident of our trip occurred. Paul had an urgent need for the use of the men’s room. In his eagerness to get there as quickly as possible, he entered the first room he came to, not knowing it was the ladies’ room. I could see what he had done, and a few seconds later he came out with a strange expression on his face. He said he thought the first door a person comes to in a restaurant is the men’s room, so he just went in. He soon discovered otherwise. If there had been any women in the room, he may have gotten himself into some trouble.
We ordered our food and ate it there. When we finished we left and got back onto I-74. The drive from Danville to Springfield went smoothly, and it was 2:52 when we arrived home, ending another enjoyable but disappointing trip.
During the week before the race, Paul and I got everything packed in our suitcases, and on Saturday morning, May 27, we left the house at 9:34 for our annual trip to the big race. We went east on Madison Street to 9th Street, north on 9th and Peoria Road to Sangamon Avenue, and then east on Sangamon Avenue until we were out of town. We took the old two-lane Route 36 to Decatur. This road in in bad condition, but it still brings back many pleasant memories of my first 20-25 years of going to the race.
It was about 10:15-10:30 when we drove through Decatur. From here we continued east on Route 36 until we arrived at the Kolonial Kitchen Restaurant south of Chrisman at 11:50.
The restaurant was doing a good business, but there were still several empty tables. We decided to have the buffet meal, so we joined the other customers in line. Between the two of us we had mashed potatoes, corn, dressing, new potatoes, peas, hot rolls, lettuce, vegetable soup, fried chicken, noodles, Diet Pepsi, and coffee.
As I was walking back to my table, I was surprised to see Sue Westray, a postal colleague of mine, sitting in the booth along the south wall. I think she was just as surprised to see me. She was there with her parents and a nephew. I talked with them for a few seconds and ate my meal.
Everything tasted good and we went back for seconds on about everything. While we were eating, we happened to look out the window and saw that it was raining. After eating, I talked to Sue Westray and her family for a couple minutes, and then we used the men’s room, paid the bill, and at 12:28, in a steady rain, left and started driving north on Route 1 to Danville.
Because of the rain there wasn’t a lot of activity in the towns along Route 1, but there were still a few people on the streets. It was about 1:00 when we got onto I-74, and it was 1:09 when we arrived at the Ramada Inn Motel on the east side of Danville.
I had already paid for the room, so all I had to do was fill out the registration form and get our keys. Our room was on the upper level on the east side of the motel.
Upon entering the room, Paul made some coffee, and I checked the bathroom facilities and the TV set to see if they were working okay, which they were. Because of the rain, Paul couldn’t go swimming, so he watched 500-mile race programs on ESPN while I watched the programs and did some reading.
An hour or so later, I decided to take a walk around the motel to see what was happening. Business in the lounge and restaurant was slow, but a wedding reception was being held in one of the big dining rooms. The off-track better parlor was also doing a good business.
I returned to my room and watched TV for a while. Sometime and 4:00, it stopped raining, and about 5:00 or so, I took a bath, shaved, and combed my hair.
When I finished, we drove into town to do the three usual jobs we had to do. The first pace we stopped the Famous Recipe Chicken place where we bought some chicken and biscuits to eat at the Speedway tomorrow.
From here we went back the same way we came and stopped at a gasoline station and filled the gas tank. Then we drove a couple blocks to George’s Buffet.
There were only a few people in the serving line, so our waiting time was real short. Between the two of us we had mashed potatoes, cabbage, corn bread, chicken livers, corn, lettuce, fish, beets, hot rolls, roast beef, cake, coffee, and Pepsi-Cola. Everything tasted fine and we were back for second helpings on some of the items.
When we felt full, we left and returned to our motel room. It was 7:10 when we arrived at the mote.
Paul turned on the TV set and watched it while I did some reading and TV viewing. About 8:00, I went to the car to check on something. We had the window shades pulled shut and the TV sound on so that we could hear it, so I was surprised at the thunder, lightning, and rain I encountered.
When I got back to the room, we watched a program about Elvis Presley that was narrated by him. It was an interested program that both of us enjoyed watching. Later on, we watched the evening news. While we watched TV, I put all of our equipment that we would need at the Speedway into the tote bag so that we would be ready to go in the morning.
Paul dozed off to sleep about 10:30. I made a final check of the weather to see if it was raining, which it was, and then I locked and chained the door, set the alarm clock for 4:15, turned off the lights, and went to sleep. Wake up time would come early.
It was about 4:10 when I woke up and heard the alarm clock ringing. I lay in bed for a couple minutes and got up and washed, shaved, and combed my hair. While I was doing this, I woke up Paul so he could be getting ready. We watched TV for a few minutes, and then about 4:55, we walked to the motel restaurant.
The hostess seated us immediately, but we had to wait a couple minutes before the food was ready to be served.
We ate the buffet breakfast and had French toast, sausage, corn flakes, potatoes, scrambled eggs, orange juice, biscuits and gravy, and coffee. Everything tasted fine, and we had second helpings of everything. It would be a long time until lunch.
As we were eating, several other Indy-bound fans came in and ate their breakfasts before leaving for the Speedway.
When we finished eating, we quickly returned to our room, brushed our teeth, got our tote bag, and walked to the car. It was 5:40 when we left the mote and started our trip to the race.
The sun was just coming up and as so often happens there was a lot of fog and mist in the field along the highway. WIBC radio had its usual fine coverage of the race day activity, and at 6:00, we heard our first news and weather report. As we continued on and got close to Indianapolis, the traffic increased a little bit, but when we got to the I-465 interchange, the traffic moved amazingly well, and it took only a few minutes to get to our 20th Street turnoff location.
A woman directed us to a parking area, and we followed her directions. It was 6:55 when we stopped and ended our trip.
I paid the lady the $10 fee and then we made sure we had our equipment, checked to see the windows were rolled up and the doors locked, and then started our walk to the Speedway.
The area on both sides of Crawfordsville Road was busy with people eating their outdoor breakfasts, vendors selling their merchandise, and race fans walking to the Speedway. The intersection of Crawfordsville Road, Georgetown Road, and 16th Street was a busy area as police moved the traffic as fast as they could.
It was 7:30 when we entered the Speedway grounds and handed the attendant our tickets. From there, we walked to the first site where Speedway souvenir programs were being sold and bought two of them.
From here, we joined the large crowed of race fans and walked to the track entrance on the outside wall at the beginning of the first turn. We, along with other people, took some pictures and enjoyed the excitement of standing on the race track and the scenery we could see.
We walked east and stopped along the fence enclosing the garage area. Several race cars were being pushed out to the pit area, and we recognized some of the people walking around the area.
From the garage area, we walked to the Indy Fan Fest. There was a large crowd and the exhibits, presented by various car sponsors, were interesting to see. There was a booth sponsored by WIBC radio and we stopped and talked to the men who were there. One exhibit we saw was a simulated trip around the track in the Chevrolet Corvette pace car driving by Jim Perkins. He also did the narration of the film.
We wanted to spend more time at the Fan Fest, but because of the time factor, we had to leave. We walked around the east side of the garage area and past the tent that houses the balloons that are released at the start of the race.
It was about 9:30 when we handed the attendant our tickets and got to our seats. I sat in my seat for a few minutes and watched the parade of bands on the race track and the activity in the pit area. Paul didn’t want to go walking with me by the pit area fence, so I went by myself.
Pit crews were busy making final checks on their cars while hundreds of spectators, some of them famous people, were walking through the area. PA announcer Tom Carnegie conducted some interviews, some with famous former drivers. Among these people I recognized were Mari Human and Leo Mehl. Mehl is the racing director for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company.
At 9:45, “On the Banks of the Wabash” was played by the Purdue University Band. This was the signal for the pit crews to start pushing their cars into their starting positions on the race track.
I slowly worked my way through the crowd and got back to my seat about 10:00. A few minutes, our yearly race companion, Malcolm McKean, arrived on the scene to watch the day’s activities.
Memories of the past were brought back to life for a few minutes when Bill Shaw, some of three-time race winner Wilbur Shaw, drove his dad’s winning Boyle Maserati around the track for everybody to see. Shortly after that, veteran car builder and crew chief AJ Watson drove the 1946 winning Thorne Engineering Special around the track to the delight of the crowd.
Between 10:00 and 10:30, the parade of stars and celebrities were driven around the track in Chevrolet Corvette Corvertibles.
At 10:30, Chief Steward Tom Binford made an inspection trip of the track and gave his approval for racing.
About 10:40, the immense crowd stood in silence as Florence Henderson, accompanied by the PU band, sang the National Anthem.
While the crowd was still standing, the Reverend Daniel Buechlein spoke the benediction and asked God to watch over the 33 drivers and bring them home safely. He said “Godspeed” in several languages in recognition of the many foreign drivers in the race and ended the benediction by asking God to bless the Indiana Pacers in the NBA playoffs.
The solemnity of the moment continued as the PU band played “Taps.” Near the end, a formation of four P-51 Mustangs, led by former pace car driver Chuck Yeager, flew south directly over our heads. They banked to the right and circled twice overhead, and then they were joined by a B-17 bomber. It was a real impressive sight and was well received by everybody.
Shortly after the aerial demonstration, crowd favorite Jim Nabors stepped to the microphone and once again sang “Back Home Again in Indiana” as the solemnity subsided considerably.
The excitement was reaching its climax when Mary Hulman delivered the famous command, “Lady and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines.”
The crowd burst into applause as the engines came to life. At the same time, the B-17 bomber flew overhead again and was accompanied by two P-51 Mustangs.
A couple minutes later, the Chevrolet Corvette pave cars slowly pulled away, three of them in formation in front of the real pace car. Thirty-two cars were pushed away from their starting positions, the exception being Buddy Lazier in the middle of the eighth row. He finally got away as the three pace cars came through the fourth turn and through the pit area.
A big grown was heard from the crowd when the seventh place starter Robby Gordon came rushing to his pit. Malcolm McKean said his radio wasn’t working and his throttle was sticking.
The field was in ragged formation as it came by us and wasn’t much better the second time around, although the first few rows looked better. A couple minutes later, the pace car came speeding through the pit area, and a few seconds later, the field came through the fourth turn as another cheer came from the crowd.
Scott Brayton set the pace as Duane Sweeney waved two green flags and the race was on.
Scott Brayton and Scott Goodyear race each other to the first turn with Goodyear getting there first. Luyendyk passed Brayton and they were followed by Michael Andretti, Mauricio Gugelmin, and Jacques Villeneuve.
As they were approaching the second turn, a huge crash occurred a short distance behind them.
Stan Fox started to turn left, then turned sharply right and hit the outside wall head on. As he crossed the track, he hit Eddie Cheever, who also crashed into the wall. Fox’s car disintegrated, came airborne, and crashed back to the track, leaving his legs exposed. Somehow Cheever wasn’t injured and immediately got out of his car and check about Fox. Pieces from the two cars were scattered all over the first turn area.
Several other cars were damaged by the flying debris. In addition to Fox and Cheever, Carlos Guerrero and Lyn St. James were out of the race, while Gil de Ferran completed one lap and Eric Bachelart finished six laps. Danny Sullivan’s car was also damaged, but he was able to stay in the race.
At the end of the first lap, the first ten positions were held by Goodyear, Luyendyk, Andretti, Brayton, Gugelmin, Villeneuve, Scott Pruett, Jimmy Vasser, Paul Tracy, and Hiro Matsushita.
During the caution period, Robby Gordon continued having problems with his car. He had to pit three consecutive laps for a stuck throttle, a new set of tires, and topping off his fuel tank.
After 19 minutes and 9 laps, the green flag was waved again. Luyendyk and Andretti both passed Goodyear before the next lap was completed.
The first three leaders remained Luyendyk, Andretti, and Goodyear until the 17th lap when Andretti passed Luyendyk.
At 20 laps, the first ten positions were held by Andretti, Luyendyk, Goodyear, Brayton, Villeneuve, Gugelmin, Tracy, Vasser, Pruett, and Andre Ribeiro.
Michael slowly increased his lead, and at 26 laps, Goodyear passed Luyendyk for second place. Arie became the first of the leaders to make a regular stop when he came in on the 28th lap. He received our tires and fuel, but then misfortune struck when he stalled the engine. It was 53 seconds before the engine would restart, and when he got away, he was two laps down.
Brayton, Goodyear, and Andretti made their first pit stops, and Villeneuve became the race leader on Lap 36.
About this time, the yellow flag came out again. Apparently Jacques didn’t know he was leading and didn’t let the pace car got in front of him, consequently bringing a two-lap penalty for passing the pace and dropping him to 27th position.
The green flag came out on the 44th lap and Michael continued to lead the field.
On the 49th lap, Brayton made his second pit stop and Raul Boesel was forced to pit to comply with a stop and go penalty for passing during a caution period.
At 50 laps, ¼ of the race, the first ten leaders were Andretti, Goodyear, Ribeiro, Gugelmin, Stefan Johansson, Danny Sullivan, Tracy, Boesel, Bobby Rahal, and Brayton.
Michael remained the leader through his 66th lap when he made his second pit stop. He came out in 3rd position with Goodyear and Gugelmin being the only drivers able to get around him.
Scott Goodyear led for one lap and pitted, yielding the lead to Gugelmin.
Mauricio led through the 76th lap and then made his second pit stop. As he entered the pit area, Andretti, driving directly behind Gugelmin, made a wide turn and made contact with the outer wall. He then made a sharp left turn and drove to his pit. His pit crew said the right side suspension was too damaged to continue. The Andretti bad luck had struck again.
About the same time, Scott Sharp, driving one of AJ Foyt’s cars, hit the fourth turn wall and was out of the race, although he wasn’t injured.
Before Michael and Scott had been forced out of the race, Buddy Lazier, teammate of Brayton and Luyendyk, was out after 45 laps because of a fuel pump failure.
At 80 laps, 200 miles, the first ten leaders were Goodyear, Gugelmin, Tracy, Ribeiro, Sullivan, Teo Fabi, Gordon, Vasser, Christian Fittipaldi, and Boesel.
Gugelmin became the leader on Lap 82. The green flag came out but only for a couple laps. The yellow flag came out again when Stefan Johansson spun in the fourth turn. It remained out until the 95th lap, when racing speeds resumed.
Pole driver Scott Brayton was forced to slow down because of electrical problems and had to pit to have a new electronic box installed.
At 100 laps, ½ the race, the first ten leaders were Gugelmin, Ribeiro, Goodyear, Gordon, Sullivan, Fittipaldi, Vasser, Rahal, Salazar, and Boesel.
Gugelmin continued to lead the race and kept a distance of several seconds between himself and the 2nd and 3rd place drivers, Ribeiro and Goodyear.
Ribeiro pitted on his 114th lap, and a couple laps later Gugelmin did likewise, allowing Goodyear to lead for three laps until he came in. Bobby Rahal led for a lap and then Boesel for two laps.
The yellow flag came out on the 123rd lap when Ribeiro, driving such an outstanding race, had to stop on the backstretch because his throttle linkage had broken. He had to be towed in for repairs, and this killed his position in the standings.
Gugelmin returned to the lead on the 124th lap as the green flag came out on Lap 126. It remained out for ten laps until Paul Tracy was forced out of the race with a broken throttle cable.
The caution period that followed brought about several pit stops as Goodyear was credited with leading the 139th lap.
On the 140th lap, a new race leader came on the scene as Jimmy Vasser put his No. 12 Target-STP machine at the front of the field.
On the next lap, the green flag came out again. Vasser remained in first place, but behind him some positions changed as Scott Pruett was steadily moving up.
At 150 laps, ¾ of the race, Vasser had a five second lead over second place runner Jacques Villeneuve. He remained in the lead until the 156th lap when he pitted. This moved Villeneuve and Pruett to first and second. Goodyear was third, with less than two seconds between the three of them.
At 160 laps, 400 miles, the top ten leaders were Villeneuve, Pruett, Goodyear, Gordon, Gugelmin, Rahal, Boesel, Fittipaldi, Salazar, and Vasser.
On his 163rd lap, Villeneuve started slowing down to pit, but changed his mind when the yellow flag came out. The reason for the yellow was Davy Jones spinning in the second turn and crashing into the wall, talking him out of the race.
Villeneuve’s brief slowdown allowed Pruett and Goodyear to pass him. Pruett led for three laps and Robby Gordon one as the drivers started making their last scheduled stops.
Robby came in the next time around, giving the lead back to Vasser. Jimmy led for four laps until Pruett passed him in the third turn. When this happened, Jimmy lost control and crashed into the wall, putting him out of the race and bringing out the yellow flag again.
During this caution period, Bobby Rahal was issued a stop-and-go penalty for speeding through the pit area. Despite the yellow conditions, he fell five positions in the standings. The green flag came out on the 176th lap and Goodyear passed Pruett to take the lead spot.
The two drivers proceeded to put on a great battle for the lead as Villeneuve, in the third position, fell eight seconds behind at 180 laps.
In the meantime, Adrian Fernandez, running in 15th position, had to drop out after 176 laps with engine failure.
The Goodyear-Pruett battle continued until the 184th lap when Pruett crashed upon leaving the second turn. He hit the inside wall and the force of the impact broke the car into two pieces. Scott had been among the leaders most of the race, but now his race was done.
While the yellow flag was out, Raul Boesel, in fourth position, also dropped out of the race with engine failure.
Also, during the caution period, Robby Gordon came in for tires, only to find out that one of his tires was not deflating as he had thought.
On the leaders’ 190th lap, the pace car picked up speed on the backstretch as it prepared to leave the track. Goodyear also took off with a burst of speed and passed the pace car before it came off the track. Villeneuve, aware of what could happen in this situation, slowed slightly to stay behind the pace car.
By the time he reached the start-finish line, Goodyear had a 3.5 second lead over Villeneuve and gained another second the next time around.
As he came down the main straightaway to complete his 193rd lap, he was shown the black flag, which meant he would have to make a pit stop. The next time around, instead of coming in, he continued at full speed with the black flag still out.
The next time around, he still didn’t come in, and it was then that USAC officials decided to discontinue scoring him.
This moved Villeneuve into the lead, and several drivers behind him also advanced a lap.
Goodyear continued at full speed and finished the 200 laps about 2.5 seconds ahead of Villeneuve, although it meant nothing in the scoring process.
In the meantime, there was an intense battle going on for the positions behind Villeneuve. Bobby Rahal, in third place, was less than a second behind Fittipaldi, and Robby Gordon passed Gugelmin to take the 5th position.
Arie Luyendyk was immediately behind Villeneuve, and as Jacques came by to receive the checkered flag, Arie moved to the inside and beat Jacques to the line by a fraction of a second, thereby assuring himself of finishing all 200 laps.
As Jacques came slowly through the pit area, he was given a standing ovation by the large crowd.
The remaining seventeen cars slowly returned to their pits. The drivers shut off their engines for the last time and got out of their cramped quarters after 3.5 hours. Scott Goodyear started for Victory Lane but was redirected to the pit by Speedway safety patrolmen.
As the huge crowd began its exodus from the grounds, the three of us got out box lunches out and ate our midday meals. The chicken and biscuits tasted good as we listened to interviews over the public address system and watched the pit crews push their cars back to the garage area.
It was about 3:00 when the three of us decided it was time to leave. We walked through the ground fllor of the Control Tower and then south to the first turn area. From there we crossed the track at the same place as we did before the race. Before leaving the Speedway grounds, we used the men’s room and then said goodbye to the Speedway for another year.
We said goodbye to Malcom as he crossed the street to get his bus at Main Street. As we walked along Crawfordsville Road, Paul stopped at several concession stands, but didn’t buy anything. The scenery along the road looked the same as in other years with bumper to bumper traffic and loud, obnoxious, young people making fools of themselves.
It was shortly before 4:00 when we got to the car. I opened the windows to let out some of the hot air, and at 4:00 we left to start our trip back to the motel.
It took several minutes to get to Crawfordsville Road, but when the traffic moved pretty well. When we got to the first rest stop, we pulled off the highway and joined many other race fans to use the bathroom and have a cold drink of water. Upon leaving, we each bought a can of soda pop to drink during the rest of the trip.
As we traveled, we listened to the after race program on WIBC. It was 5:40 when we arrived at the motel.
The first thing we did when we walked in our room was to make some coffee and lay on the bed for a few minutes and watch TV.
Shortly after 7:00 we left to go to the motel dining room for supper. The VCR telecast of the race began at 7:00, and we wanted to see that.
For supper, we had cube steak, potatoes, corn, carrots, broccoli, and a carrot and cauliflower combination. Everything tasted fine and we went back for more food as often as we wanted to. It was enjoyable to watch the race as we ate.
There was a large, but not capacity, crowd for the meal. Some of the people watched the race telecast while others watched the horse races from the off-track better room.
It was about 10:00 when we decided to return to our room. When we got back we watched TV for a few minutes and then went to bed. It was the end of a long day.
Shortly after 6:00, I opened my eyes for the start of another day. I didn’t want to wake Paul, so I read some of the magazines I had brought with me. Shortly after 7:00 I got dressed and walked to the motel lobby. There were a few early birds at the restaurant but not many. There was a coffee pot of free coffee for anybody who wanted some, so I poured a cup for myself and then returned to my room.
I turned on the TV set and watched it for a few minutes and then did some more reading. Paul woke up about 8:30. We watched TV for several minutes and then I took a bath, shaved, and put on clean clothes.
We were both getting hungry, so between 9:00 and 9:30, we walked to the motel restaurant for breakfast. We ate the buffet breakfast and had French toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, potatoes, Wheaties, orange juice, and coffee. Unlike yesterday morning, we weren’t rushed for time, and it was nice to eat at a leisurely pace.
When we finished eating, we went back to our room and got our supplied packed while we watched TV. About 11:15, I checked to be sure we hadn’t left anything and then we took the suitcase and tote bag to the car. I stopped at the front desk to turn in our room keys and make a reservation for next year. It was 11:30 when we started our trip home.
We took I-74 west to its intersection with Route 1. From here we went south to Westville, where we stopped at the home of the lady who sells Granny Goose clothes.
She greeted us at the door and seemed real pleased to see us. She remembered us from the previous two years and was wondering if we would be stopped by this year. We looked at her selection of clothes and decided on two outfits. I gave her the money and then we visted for several minutes before leaving.
From Westville, we continued south on Route 1. When we reached the Route 36 intersection, we made a change in our yearly routine. Instead of turning right and going west on Route 36, we continued south on Route 1 to Paris.
This was the first I had been to Paris. Because it was a holiday, there was almost nothing going on. As we were leaving the city, we took Route 150, east and a few minutes later we were in Indiana. As we traveled on, we saw signs for Rose-Hulman Institute and Lake of the Woods College. The Hulman name is common in Terre Haute and of course at the Speedway. A few minutes later we found ourselves in downtown Terre Haute.
As we drove down Wabash Avenue, we saw the Hulman Grocery Company store. We drove the downtown area for several minutes and then continued east on Wabash Avenue until we were almost out of town. We turned and went south and stopped at a large convenience store, where we got some drinks and used the men’s room.
When we left, we got onto I-70 and went west back into Illinois. I drove to the Route 1 turnoff and went north to Paris, and from there I took Route 133.
About an hour later we came to I-57. From here, it was about 10 mile trip to the Route 36 intersection and the Dixie Truck Stop Restaurant.
The restaurant was doing a good business, but we were seated almost immediately. The service was good, and the food tasted fine. Before leaving, we used the restrooms and browsed through the gift shop.
We continued our drive west and when we got to Lake Decatur, we could see some of the boat races participants. It was a busy area as it is every year on Memorial Day.
As we were leaving Decatur, I got off the main road and took old Route 36 back to Springfield. It was 5:50 when we pulled into our driveway to end another memorable trip to the 500 Mile race.
When the official race results were released, they showed that Jacques Villeneuve had won the race in 3 hours, 15 minutes, 17.561 seconds, about 35 minutes slower than Arie Luyendyk’s record of 1990. Because of the two-lap penalty, he actually drove 505 miles.
The total purse for the race was a record $8,063,550, of which Jacques’ share was $1,312,019, which was less than Al Unser’s winning share of last year.
Although Emerson Fittipaldi failed to qualify for this year’s race, there was still a Fittipaldi in the race. His nephew, Christian Fittipaldi, qualified the #15 Marlboro-Chapeco Special at 226.375 mph for 27th starting position. He moved up steadily during the race and his excellent finishing position won his Rookie of the Year honors.
For the second year in a row, Bobby Rahal took 3rd place honors. He qualified the No. 9 Miller Genuine Draft car at 227.081 mph and started 21st. He might have won the race if it hadn’t been for two pit stop mishaps. On the second of the two pit stops, he was called back for a stop and go penalty for speeding in the pit area. He finished less than half a second behind Christian Fittipaldi.
Fourth place went to another rookie, Eliseo Salazar, from Chile. He started in 24th position with the slowest qualifying speed of the thirty-three starters, 224.023 mph. His Cristol-Mobil-Cooper car was one of the Dick Simon entries, and he was in the top ten positions for the last 250 miles of the race.
Another driver who finished in the same position as he did last year was fifth place finisher Robby Gordon. Driving the No. 5 Valvoline-Cummins entry, he had to make four pit stops before the 5th lap and then made an unnecessary stop on the 187th lap. Had it not been for these problems, Robby may have finished higher.
Second year driver Mauricio Gugelmin both started and finished sixth. He drove the No. 18 Hollywood car from the PacWest team and had the distinction of leading the most laps in this year’s race – 59. He may have finished higher, but when he pitted on the 138th lap, his car picked up a big push and he couldn’t overcome it.
One of the big names at the Speedway this year was Arie Luyendyk. He and Scott Brayton were teammates on the John Menard team, and they were consistent the two fastest running cars during practice and qualifying.
Brayton’s qualifying speed earned him the pole position, and Arie’s 231.031 mph qualifying speed was 2nd fastest. During the race, he had trouble with his popoff valve, but at the end he was running stronger and was the last car to complete 200 laps.
For the third consecutive year, Teo Fabi finished in the top 10 positions. This year, he drove the No. 33 ABB-Indeck car from the Forsythe Racing Team. He started in 15th position and drove a steady race, although he was never a contender for the lead.
After missing last year’s race, Danny Sullivan returned to finish in the 9th position in the No. 17 Visa-Bank of America car from the PacWest racing team. During the race, he ran as high as 5th position, but handling problems late in the race caused him to drop to 9th place.
Japanese drive Hiro Matsushita drove the No. 25 Panasonic-Duskin-YKK machine to the 10th finishing position. This was his 4th race, and for the 3rd year in a row he completed more than 190 laps.
The biggest news this year, besides the race itself, had to be the failure of the Roger Penske drivers, Al Unser, Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi, to make the race. It was hard to believe that the team that sets the standard for excellence in Indy Car racing was unable to qualify either of its cars.
Unlike past years there is not the usual excitement and anticipation as the 1996 race approaches. Speedway Tony George has formed the Indy Racing League, and some of his actions have not been well received by people in Indy Car racing. The main point of contention concerning next year’s race is George’s insistence that 25 of next year’s 33 starters be from the Indy Racing League, leaving only eight positions for Indy Car drivers.
As a result of this action, Indy Car racing has scheduled a race of its own on the day of next year’s race. It will be called the US 500 and will be held at Michigan International Speedway. Many of the big name drivers will be there instead of at Indianapolis.
There are some racing officials and fans who think the US 500 won’t happen, but that remains to be seen. As the date for next year’s race gets closer and closer, the prospects for an amicable resolution of the controversy seems remote.
It is my hope that the stalemate will be resolved, not by greed and egotism, but by common sense and consideration of possible consequences.
Pace Car – Chevrolet Corvette
500 Festival Queen – Misty Livengood