Highlights from the 75th running of the Indianapolis 500
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.