Tuesday, May 31, 2022

30 Days in May Bonus: No. 31, John Mahler, 1972 Harbor Fuel Oil McLaren/Offy

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
John Mahler started 29th and finished 22nd in the 1972 Indianapolis 500.

30 Days in May Bonus: No. 31, John Mahler, 1972 Harbor Fuel Oil McLaren/Offy. We wrap up with John Mahler, who was one of eight rookies in the starting lineup for the 1972 Indianapolis 500. He qualified for the 1971 race but was “bumped” by his car owner, Dick Simon.

Mahler had qualified Simon’s back-up car in 1971, becoming the fastest rookie in 500 history in the process. But then Simon was bumped, so he took over Mahler’s ride for the race.

So began what was to be an interesting, colorful Indianapolis 500 career for Mahler, who made four starts from 1972 through 1979. In 1973, he was part of the Champ Carr Enterprises team with Sam Posey. Mahler likely would have made the race had he been allowed to complete either of his two qualifying attempts, both of which were tracking toward an average fast enough to make the field.

Jim McElreath took over Mahler’s car and hustled it into the field, bumping Tom Bigelow late on the final day of qualifying. Posey then was bumped by George Snider.

Mahler’s best finish was in 1977, when he was credited with 14th after getting some relief help from Larry “Boom Boom” Cannon. He almost squeezed into the 1983 lineup, accepting a speed that was some 27 mph off the pole speed with the hope that rain would curtail qualifying. The gamble almost paid off, but Mahler was knocked out by Dennis Firestone, who completed his run as showers hit.

In 1972, Mahler wound up 22nd, sidelined by piston failure after 99 laps. A highlight film produced by Channel 6 in Indianapolis indicates that Mahler had to pull in before the green flag because he forgot his gloves.

 

#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar

Monday, May 30, 2022

30 Days in May: No. 30, Arie Luyendyk, 1990 Domino’s Pizza Lola/Chevrolet

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
Arie Luyendyk was consistently fast in 1990. He started on the front row and won
his first Indianapolis 500 (and first IndyCar race).

30 Days in May: No. 30, Arie Luyendyk, 1990 Domino’s Pizza Lola/Chevrolet. It’s hard to believe that it’s been more than 30 years since Arie Luyendyk won his first Indianapolis 500 (and first IndyCar race) after starting third. Domino’s chose the number 30 as a tie-in to its “30 minutes or less” delivery guarantee, a slogan that eventually was abandoned in the interests of safety. The Flying Dutchman added another 500 win in 1997 and still holds the one-lap and four-lap qualifying records, which he set in 1996.


#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar @ArieLuyendyk

Sunday, May 29, 2022

30 Days in May: No. 29, Pancho Carter, 1987 Hardee’s March/Cosworth

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
Pancho Carter was named rookie of the year in 1974 and also won the pole in 1985.


30 Days in May: No. 29, Pancho Carter, 1987 Hardee’s March/Cosworth. Pancho Carter, the 1974 Rookie of the Year, was a steady presence in the 500 lineup through 1991, missing only the 1988 race. His big day came in 1985, when he won the pole with a Buick-powered machine. The “TT” indicates this car was a backup to a backup, the result of Carter taking a "header" in practice in his primary car, then withdrawing his backup car to qualify this one.

During this time, the Hardee’s restaurants in the Indianapolis area gave out trading cards of IndyCar drivers if you made a certain purchase.

#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar

Saturday, May 28, 2022

30 Days in May: No. 28, Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 DHL Dallara/Honda

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

 

Photo Credit: Doug Mathews/Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
It's a shame Ryan Hunter-Reay won't be in the lineup for the
2022 Indianapolis 500.

30 Days in May: No. 28, Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2014 DHL Dallara/Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay became the first 500’s U.S.-born winner since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006 when he held off Helio Castroneves to cap a thrilling duel. Hard, clean and precise racing in the closing laps made the 2014 race one of the most memorable.

#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar @RyanHunterReay


Friday, May 27, 2022

Front rows of the 1970s: 1979

In addition to the usual Month of May countdown, we’re also recounting the front rows of the 1970s, which included some of the most accomplished drivers in the history of the Indianapolis 500.

 

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
The front row for the 1979 Indianapolis 500: Rick Mears (pole), Tom Sneva (middle)
and Al Unser.

1979 Indianapolis 500 front row: Rick Mears (pole), Tom Sneva (middle), Al Unser

How it started: 3 Indianapolis 500 victories (All by Al Unser)

How it ended: 9 Indianapolis 500 victories (Rick Mears 1979, 1984, 1988, 1991; Tom Sneva 1983; Al Unser 1970, 1971, 1978, 1987)

About the 1979 race: The year 1979 was one of transition and controversy in major open-wheel racing. A new group, Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART), sprang up in the off-season. Featuring almost all the big-name drivers and teams, it held events at familiar tracks (like Phoenix and Trenton) that once were the purview of the United States Auto Club (USAC), the sanctioning body of the Indianapolis 500.

The Month of May was basically one giant headache, with lawsuits, shenanigans during time trials and an added session of qualifying – the day before the race, no less – all part of the “fun.” You can read my retrospective here.

From a competition perspective, the big news was Al Unser’s beautiful and futuristic Pennzoil Chaparral/Cosworth, one of the first “ground-effects” cars in Indy racing. No other car looked remotely like it. Not surprisingly, Unser set fast time in qualifying before Tom Sneva, going for a record third-straight pole, nudged him over one spot in his Sugaripe Prune McLaren/Cosworth.

Then, dramatically, Rick Mears, with the final pole run of the day, knocked Sneva off his perch for the first of what would be a record six Indianapolis poles, all with Penske.

Al Unser dominated the first half of the race before retiring with a bad transmission seal after 104 laps. That left it to brother Bobby Unser, who replaced Sneva at Penske. Bobby Unser looked like a sure three-time winner in his Norton Spirit Penske PC7/Cosworth before he broke top gear, which almost never happens.

Unser tried his best to hold on, but faded. Mears, driving the older PC6/Cosworth, rolled home in the Gould Charge for the first of his record-tying four Indianapolis 500 victories.

1979 front-row starters Mears, Sneva and Al Unser all would notch at least one Indianapolis 500 victory in the 1980s. The 1970s were truly a remarkable decade featuring some of the greatest drivers of all time. During this competitive era, all but one of the 12 front-row starters at Indianapolis won an IndyCar race during their careers. The exception was Mike Hiss, who started third in 1974.

 

 

#Indy500 #ThisIsMay @Team_Penske @IMS @IndyCar @IMSMuseum

 

 

30 Days in May: No. 27, Janet Guthrie, 1977 Bryant Heating and Cooling Lightning/Offy

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

 

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
Janet Guthrie made the Indianapolis 500 from 1977-79, with a best finish of
eighth in 1978.

30 Days in May: No. 27, Janet Guthrie, 1977 Bryant Heating and Cooling Lightning/Offy. Janet Guthrie was something of a retread rookie in 1977 after trying valiantly the year before to make the race in a Vollstedt that was, to put it kindly, a bit long in the tooth. She also practiced A.J. Foyt’s backup car briefly, but Foyt decided not to run a second entry.

Updated equipment made a big difference the next year, as Guthrie made the field comfortably on the last day of qualifying. Mechanical woes doomed her to 29th place. She made the race the next two years, with a best finish of ninth in 1978. It wasn’t until 1992 that another woman, Lyn St. James, qualified for the 500.

Bryant has been a sponsor at Indianapolis since the furnace and the air conditioner were invented (just kidding) and has been associated with Tony Kanaan in recent years.

 

#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar

Thursday, May 26, 2022

30 Days in May Bonus: No. 81, Sheldon Kinser, 1981 Sergio Valente Longhorn/Cosworth

Welcome to our monthlong countdown celebrating notable drivers and cars from the history of the Indianapolis 500!

Photo Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway photo
Sheldon Kinser finished a career-best sixth in the 1981 Indianapolis 500.

30 Days in May Bonus: No. 81, Sheldon Kinser, 1981 Sergio Valente Longhorn/Cosworth. Sheldon Kinser was a throwback to how drivers once earned an opportunity to race in the Indianapolis 500. He came up through the ranks, honing his skills on the short tracks across Indiana and the Midwest. A three-time USAC Sprint Car Series Champion (1977, 1981, 1982), the Bloomington, Indiana, native made his 500 debut in 1975, driving the Spirit of Indiana and finishing 12th.

He was in the 500 lineup from 1975-79 before failing to qualify in 1980. Kinser, a distant cousin of Steve Kinser, returned in 1981 with Bobby Hillin’s Longhorn Racing team and Sergio Valente backing. Sergio Valente was definitely a “fancy pants” sponsor as the company produced designer jeans.

The field for the 1981 Indianapolis 500 had several colorful cars, but Kinser’s ride still managed to stand out. He finished an excellent sixth in what proved to be his final Indianapolis 500.

 

#Indy500 @IMS @IMSMuseum @IndyCar