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Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, Runnings 71-80

INDY 500


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The Associated Press has compiled a list of highlights of all past Indianapolis 500 races, as the buildup to the 100th running presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this May 29.

Here are runnings 71-80, from 1987 through 1996. Note the 1996 race was the first to feature the newly formed Indy Racing League, which is now INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Past pieces:


RACE: 71st Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 24, 1987

WINNER: Al Unser Sr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 162.175 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: In one of the biggest upsets in Indy 500 history, Unser won his record-tying fourth 500 despite starting the month of May with no sponsorship and on the sidelines for the first week of practice. But Roger Penske hired him to replace Danny Ongais, who suffered a concussion during a crash. Unser won in a backup car that had been on display in a hotel lobby in Reading, Pennsylvania, just weeks before the race. Mario Andretti dominated the month - he had the strongest car in practices and qualifying - but suffered a mechanical problem while leading with 23 laps remaining.

NOTABLE: There were 25 crashes during practice and qualifying and driver Jim Crawford suffered serious leg injuries. A spectator was killed when an errant tire flew into the grandstands. It was the first spectator fatality at Indianapolis Motor Speedway since 1938.


RACE: 72nd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 1988

WINNER: Rick Mears

AVERAGE SPEED: 144.809 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: It was Team Penske domination as the organization swept the top three starting positions and dominated the month of May. Mears won the pole and was flanked by teammates Danny Sullivan and Al Unser Sr. The Penske drivers led 192 of 200 laps and Mears won his third Indy 500. It was the 50th series victory for Roger Penske.

NOTABLE: Mears set a track record as the first driver to break the 220 mph barrier in time trials. The victory was the first of six consecutive Indy 500 wins by the Chevy Indy V-8 engine, and seven overall by Ilmor-constructed power plants. Race fan Larry Bisceglia of Chicago had grown famous for being “first in line” at the Indy 500 from 1950 through 1987. But he fell ill and missed the 1988 race, then passed away later that year.


RACE: 73rd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 28, 1989

WINNER: Emerson Fittipaldi

AVERAGE SPEED: 167.581 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Fittipaldi, a Brazilian, became the first foreign winner of the race since 1966. He dominated most of the race but was trailing Al Unser Jr. on lap 199. Fittipaldi attempted to pass Unser Jr. by diving underneath him in the third turn. The two cars touched wheels and Unser Jr. spun and crashed into an outside wall. Fittipaldi won for Patrick Racing under caution.

NOTABLE: Fittipaldi was the first Indy 500 winner to earn $1 million in prize money ($1,001,600) from the purse. All three Team Penske cars failed to finish the race a year after they dominated the entire month. Danny Sullivan broke his arm during a crash in practice, and mechanical failures sidelined all three cars on race day. It was the only year in the 1980s and the first time since 1976 that a Penske car failed to finish in the top five (though Fittipaldi won driving a Penske PC-18 chassis that had been acquired from Penske in an arrangement with Patrick Racing). Fittipaldi went on to become the fourth driver since 1979 to win the Indy 500 and CART championship in the same season.


RACE: 74th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 27, 1990

WINNER: Arie Luyendyk

AVERAGE SPEED: 185.981 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Luyendyk, driving for Doug Shierson Racing, took the lead with 32 laps to go to earn his first victory in championship-level competition. The Dutchman was the second consecutive foreign-born winner, the first time since 1965 and 1966 that happened. Luyendyk completed the 500 miles at an average speed of 185.981 mph, making it “The Fastest 500,” a record that stood until 2013.

NOTABLE: Much of the month of May was rained out, including the first weekend of time trials. Defending race winner and pole-sitter Emerson Fittipaldi dominated the first half of the race and was trying to become the first back-to-back winner in 20 years. But a tire issue dropped him a lap down and he finished third. Jeff Andretti tried to become the fourth member of the Andretti family to qualify for the same race, but he was bumped on the final day of time trials. It was the first Indy 500 presided over by Tony George, who was named president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway at the start of the year.


RACE: 75th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 26, 1991

WINNER: Rick Mears

AVERAGE SPEED: 176.457 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Mears joined A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr. as three-time race champions by winning for Roger Penske from the pole. It was Mears’ record sixth pole and started a comeback from a rocky month in which Mears crashed during practice for the first time since his 1977 rookie appearance. He destroyed his car, injured his right foot and later said the pain was so bad during the race he had to cross his legs and push the accelerator pedal down with his left foot.

NOTABLE: Willy T. Ribbs became the first black driver to qualify for the race, and Hiro Matsushita became the first Japanese driver. Most of the pre-race attention was focused on A.J. Foyt, who was expected to retire after the Indy 500. He qualified on the front row for his record 34th consecutive start, but suspension damage prevented him from finishing the race (he did not retire). For the first time in Indy history, four members of the same family qualified for the same race. Mario, Michael, Jeff, and John Andretti all qualified, while Michael, Mario and John finished in the top 10 and Jeff was rookie of the year. Mears went on to win the Michigan 500, sweeping both 500-mile races that season for the final two victories of his career.


RACE: 76th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 24, 1992

WINNER: Al Unser Jr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 134.477 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser had a thrilling battle with Scott Goodyear in the closing laps and held on by 0.043 seconds for the closest finish in Indy history. Unser, driving for Galles-Kraco Racing, became the first second-generation driver to win the Indy 500 and the third member of the Unser family to win the race. It was a crash-filled race from the start as pole-sitter Roberto Guerrero crashed on the pace lap and 13 cars were ultimately eliminated during crashes.

NOTABLE: Michael Andretti led 160 laps and had a 30-second lead in the debut of the Ford Cosworth XB engine when his fuel pump failed with 11 laps remaining. Nelson Piquet suffered serious leg injuries in a crash during practice, while Pancho Carter and Hiro Matsushita were both injured in their own crashes. Jovy Marcelo, a rookie, was fatally injured in a practice session. The race marked the final Indy 500 for A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Tom Sneva and Gordon Johncock. A race-record 10 former winners started in the field.


RACE: 77th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1993

WINNER: Emerson Fittipaldi

AVERAGE SPEED: 157.207 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Fittipaldi won for the second time in a race that included reigning Formula One champion Nigel Mansell, who drew a huge international media contingent to the race to cover the Englishman. Mansell was leading on lap 184 but on the restart his inexperience on ovals showed as he misjudged the speed and was passed by Fittipaldi on the mainstretch, Fittipaldi, Arie Luyendyk and Mansell finished 1-2-3 for the first foreign-born podium since 1915. Fittipaldi then drank orange juice instead of milk in victory lane in a stunt to promote the orange groves he owned in his native Brazil.

NOTABLE: A. J. Foyt practiced the first week but when Robby Gordon, driving another Foyt car, crashed on the morning of qualifying, Foyt reconsidered and called an end to his 35-year career. The race was also the final competitive Indy 500 for Mario Andretti and Al Unser Sr. Both led laps during the race, and both retired the next year. Bobby Rahal, the defending CART champion, was bumped from the field on the final day of time trials. Raul Boesel led 18 laps but two pit stop penalties dropped him to the back of the field. He recovered to finish fourth and later complained the race had been stolen from him, saying “in my mind, this race is mine.”


RACE: 78th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 1994

WINNER: Al Unser Jr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 160.872 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser won from the pole to claim his second Indy 500 victory. Roger Penske’s three entries showed up in a secretly built Mercedes-Benz pushrod engine capable of nearly 1,000 horsepower. It had reliability issues, but the Penske contingent of Unser, Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy dominated the month and the race. Fittipaldi led 145 laps but hit the wall with 15 laps to go. Unser joined his father, Al Sr., and uncle, Bobby, as winners of multiple Indy 500s.

NOTABLE: It was the final Indy 500 for Mario Andretti, who retired at the end of the season. Unser Sr. and Johnny Rutherford also retired in the days leading up to the race. It was also the second and final Indy 500 for Nigel Mansell. John Andretti had left CART for NASCAR and became the first driver to race in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600 in the same day doing “The Double.” Track improvements were made during the offseason as the pit area was repaved, individual pit boxes were changed to concrete, and the entrance and exit lanes were widened and repaved to asphalt. A new scoring pylon was erected to replace the famous landmark originally built in 1960.


RACE: 79th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 28, 1995

WINNER: Jacques Villeneuve

AVERAGE SPEED: 153.616 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Villeneuve won in his second start in controversial fashion. Scott Goodyear was the leader with 10 laps remaining but he passed the pace car in the fourth turn before a restart. Goodyear was given a penalty, which he refused to serve. Officials stopped scoring him on lap 195 and Villeneuve was handed the lead. Villeneuve had his own issues that day and was penalized two laps for passing the pace car during a caution period early in the race. Strategy and luck got him back on the lead lap.

NOTABLE: Stan Fox crashed on the opening lap and suffered career-ending head injuries. Team Penske cars had dominated the year before but failed to even qualify for the race as defending Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. was too slow and Emerson Fittipaldi was bumped from the field. Indianapolis Motor Speedway celebrated its 50th anniversary of the Hulman/George family owning the facility, and track operator Tony George had already announced the formation of the Indy Racing League for 1996. It led to a cloud of uncertainty and it was the final Indy 500 with a field of CART-based drivers and teams.


RACE: 80th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 26, 1996

WINNER: Buddy Lazier

AVERAGE SPEED: 147.956 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Lazier won in the first Indy 500 contested by the Indy Racing League. The race was surrounded by months of controversy as most of the top teams and drivers chose to boycott the race because the IRL had split from the CART Series. The CART teams instead participated in the U.S. 500 at Michigan on the same day as the Indy 500. It left many inexperienced rookies at the Indy 500, with Arie Luyendyk the only former winner in the field. There were no former national champions in the field for the first time since 1928.

NOTABLE: Pole-winner Scott Brayton was killed in a crash testing a backup car and the schedule was disrupted as 1996 marked the fourth-wettest month in Indy 500 history. Three-time NASCAR champion Tony Stewart started on the pole after his teammate Brayton’s death. The race was Firestone’s first Indy 500 victory since 1971.