INDIANAPOLIS: the race.
- 1985.: The race was won by Rick Mears’ teammate Danny (AP) _ 1985.: The race was won by Rick Mears’ teammate Danny Sullivan, who miraculously survived a spin-out, avoided crashing with Mario Andretti, regained control of his car and went on to victory in a sprint dash to the finish line.
About 300 miles into the race, Sullivan passed Andretti for the lead, but his car suddenly fish-tailed and went into a 360-degree spin just in front of the former winner. Andretti, envisioning a collision for the fourth year in a row, got out of the way and regained the lead temporarily.
Sullivan, who started from the eight position and was not among the early leaders, got the lead back for good with 60 laps to go. A crash by Bill Whittington with 20 miles remaining allowed Andretti to catch up under the yellow caution light, but Sullivan sprinted to victory when the green light came on with three laps left.
He beat Andretti to the checkered flag by 2.477 seconds. Roberto Guerrero, the only other driver on the leader’s lap, was third, and Al Unser was fourth.
- 1986.: Twice postponed by rain and then restarted after a pace-lap crash by Tom Sneva, this race was won by Bobby Rahal at a record 170.722 mph, breaking the mark set two years earlier by Mears.
Michael Andretti beat Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan into the first turn at the start of the race and moved to a solid lead until his first pit stop on the 42nd lap. The final 75 miles turned into a three-way battle between Rahal, Mears and Kevin Cogan. Mears was leading on lap 187 when he was caught behind slower traffic and both Rahal and Cogan roared past.
Rahal led at the end of the lap, but Cogan passed him in the first turn.
The sixth and final yellow flag fell with seven laps to go, apparently locking Cogan in first place. But track crews cleared the debris with two laps remaining and Rahal got a quicker jump on the accelerator and rocketed past Cogan.
Rahal finished 1.4 seconds ahead of Cogan and 1.8 seconds ahead of Mears in the closest 1-2-3 finish in Indy history. Fourth-place Roberto Guerrero also averaged more than 170 mph in the first 500-mile race at Indy run in less than three hours.
Foyt, who became the first driver to surpass 10,000 career miles at the Speedway on his fourth lap was 24th after spinning out in the pits.
The starting field in qualifications averaged 210.358 mph, the fastest 500 lineup in history.
The elder Al Unser came back to Indianapolis the next year without a car but took a 500-mile ride to Victory Lane after Ongais suffered a concussion in practice. Unser stepped into Ongais’ car for the Penske team, qualified 20th and went on to his fourth victory, tying Foyt’s record.
Unser, five days short of his 48th birthday at the time, became the oldest Indy winner in history, breaking his brother Bobby’s former record age of 47 years, 3 months, set in 1981.
- 1987.: Mario Andretti was the runaway leader, dominating through 176 of the 200 laps. But his fuel system failed just 60 miles from the finish, giving the lead to Roberto Guerrero.
But, like Andretti, Guerrero couldn’t hold the lead. His car stalled while leaving the pits after a routine pit stop on lap 183. Unser, down a lap at the time, caught up and roared into the lead for the final 18 laps. Gurerro finished third - his fourth finish among the top four in as many races - and Fabrizio Barbazza was third and was voted rookie of the year.
- 1988 : The race belonged to Rick Mears, who set qualification records of 220.453 mph for one lap and 219.198 for four laps, started from the pole for a record-tying fourth time, overcame early handling problems and a one-lap deficit, blew through a crash-depleted field of survivors, turned the fastest lap in race history at 209.517 and was steadily pulling away over the final 50 miles.
He received a check representing the Penske team’s winning share of $804,853, a record chunk from the a $5.02 million purse, the biggest in auto racing history.
Once Mears’ crew solved the handling problem with a tire change and wing adjustments, his car’s reliability and speed made the race virtually a battle only for second place. Mears got the lead just past the midway point, and only the yellow lights kept his victory margin - seven seconds ahead of Emerson Fittipaldi - from being even wider.
Fittipaldi was elevated from seventh to second with a successful protest of a two-lap penalty. Al Unser was third and Michael Andretti was fourth.
Bill Vukovich III, the only one among the five rookies still running at the end and the first third-generation Indy driver, finished 14th and was named rookie of the year. Twenty years earlier, his father was rookie of the year, and his grandfather won the 500 in 1953 and 1954 and was killed while leading the race in 1955.
Mears’ victory, his third in 11 years at the Speedway, also was a record seventh for car owner Roger Penske.
Dick Simon became the oldest known Indy 500 driver at age 54.
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