1992 Indianapolis 500
|Location||Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Date||May 24, 1992|
|Winner||Al Unser, Jr.|
|Average speed||134.477 mph (216.420 km/h)|
|Pole position||Roberto Guerrero|
|Pole speed||232.482 mph (374.144 km/h)|
|Rookie of the Year||Lyn St. James|
|Most laps led||Michael Andretti (160)|
|National anthem||Sandi Patti|
|Back Home Again in Indiana||Jim Nabors|
|Starting command||Mary F. Hulman|
|Pace car||Cadillac Allante|
|Pace car driver||Bobby Unser|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Paul Page, Sam Posey, Bobby Unser|
The 76th Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 24, 1992. The race is famous for the fierce battle in the closing laps, as race winner Al Unser, Jr. held off second place Scott Goodyear for the victory by 0.043 seconds, the closest finish in Indy history.
Cold temperatures and high winds turned the race into a crash-filled, marathon day, dominated by Michael Andretti. Andretti led 160 laps and was 30 seconds in front when his fuel pump suddenly failed with eleven laps to go. The tone for the race was set early when pole position winner Roberto Guerrero crashed on the pace lap. A race-record ten former winners started in the field. Thirteen cars were eliminated in crashes during the race, and several other serious wrecks occurred during practice.
Following the race, sweeping changes came about at the track, largely in the interest of safety. In addition, a noticeable "changing of the guard" followed, as the 1992 race signaled the final race for several Indy legends, including A. J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Tom Sneva, and Gordon Johncock.
Offseason and testing
A busy offseason began at the conclusion of the 1991 PPG Indy Car World Series. The biggest announcement was the return of Ford to the IndyCar ranks. The Ford Cosworth XB was developing quickly into an engine of choice, and for 1992, was the powerplant for Newman/Haas Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing. For 1992, Ilmor introduced an updated motor, badged the "Chevy-B," and it was fielded by Penske Racing. The rest of the Chevrolet teams utilized the existing Ilmor, which was retronymically referred to as the "Chevy-A." Galles-Kraco Racing unveiled their new in-house Galmer chassis for 1992. Truesports also fielded their own chassis for the second year in a row.
After much fanfare of a pending retirement in 1991, A. J. Foyt brushed off the idea, and returned to the cockpit. He raced in the 1992 Daytona 500, and entered as a driver for Indianapolis. It would be his record 35th consecutive Indy 500 start.
Team and driver switches for 1992 included most notably Bobby Rahal and Danny Sullivan, who swapped rides with each other at Galles-Kraco Racing and Patrick Racing respectively. In December, however, Pat Patrick sold the assets of Patrick Racing to Rahal, and it became Rahal-Hogan Racing. Rookie driver Paul Tracy continued into his second year with Penske, and was offered his first attempt at Indy.
Practice - week 1
Saturday May 2
King Racing teammates Jim Crawford and Roberto Guerrero quickly established themselves as the cars to beat during the first week of practice. The two drivers fielded a pair of Lola V-6 Buicks, an engine that many thought was finally beginning to show its potential after years of development. On opening day, Crawford broke the unofficial track record with a lap of 229.609 mph. Several rookies finished their rookie tests, including Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Lyn St. James, and the most noteworthy of the rookies, former Formula One world champion Nelson Piquet.
Sunday May 3
Fabrizio Barbazza crashed in turn 1 midway through the day during a refresher test. he was not injured. Late in the day, Al Unser, Jr., driving the new Galmer chassis, blew a motor. Michael Andretti led the speed chart for the afternoon at 226.187 mph.
Monday May 4
Roberto Guerrero upped the speed for the month, becoming the first driver to practice over 230 mph at the Speedway. His lap of 230.432 mph earling in the session, however, lasted only a couple hours. Teammate Jim Crawford upped the speed, and by the end of the day, posted a 233.433 mph lap. Meanwhile, Nelson Piquet was comfortably getting up to speed, running a top lap of 226.809 mph.
Tuesday May 5
Several incidents occurred on Tuesday, during a cool, windy day. Scott Brayton, Buddy Lazier, and Paul Tracy each suffered separate spins/crashes. Rookie Lyn St. James was finding speed difficult, running a 217.097 mph, her fastest lap of the month, nowhere near the top of the charts. Guerrero continued King Racing's dominance, turing in another 230 mph practice lap.
Wednesday May 6
Crawford and Guerrero led the speed chart once again, with Crawford over 233 mph for the second time. The biggest story of the day, however, was the massive crash by Rick Mears. Late in the afternoon, Mears entered turn 2, and a fluid leak sprayed water over the back wheels. The car broke out into a spin, and he crashed hard into the wall in turn two. The car flipped over and slid upsidedown down the backstrech. Mears suffered a minor foot fracture and an injury to his wrist.
Thursday May 7
The second major crash in two days occurred, this time involving Nelson Piquet. In turn four, Piquet's car did a reverse spin, and hit the wall head-on with the nose. Piquet suffered serious injuries to both legs, and was immediately admitted to the hospital for surgery. Piquet withdrew and would require nearly a year of rehabilitation. Guerrero was back at the top of the speed chart, running his fastest of the month, 232.624 mph.
Friday May 8
The final day of practice before the run for the pole position saw four drivers over 231 mph. Mario Andretti led the chart for the day, at 233.202 mph. Arie Luyendyk was second, while Crawford and Guerrero were close behind. Al Unser, Sr. was named as a replacement for Nelson Piquet's entry, and Gary Bettenhausen suffered damage when his engine blew, causing a lazy spin in turn 1.
Time trials - weekend 1
Saturday May 9
Rain kept the cars off the track until noon, and persistent "weepers" plagued the rest of the afternoon. During the first practice session, Jim Crawford's hopes for a pole position were set back when he blew an engine and spun.
Several yellows for wet spots on the track, and for debris dragged out the 60-minute practice session until 3:15 p.m. Roberto Guerrero (232.090 mph) set the fastest practice lap of the day.
Qualifying finally began at 4 p.m. Arie Luyendyk was the first car out, and he did not disappoint. He set a new one-lap track record of 229.305 mph, and grabbed the provisional pole position with a four-lap record of 229.127 mph. A hectic round of time trials followed, as drivers scrambled for their shot at qualifying before the 6 p.m. gun. At 4:50 p.m., Gary Bettenhausen set a one-lap record of 229.317 mph, but his four-lap record was shy of the pole. Among the other drivers securing a starting position were Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Paul Tracy, and Al Unser, Jr.. Scott Goodyear also put a Walker Racing team car in the field, taking a run of 219.054 mph.
At 5:34 p.m., Roberto Guerrero took to the track. He set new all-time one- and four lap track records on his way to the pole position.
Practice - week 2
Tuesday May 12
Rain closed the track early at 2:25 p.m. Jovy Marcelo was the fastest among non-qualified cars, at 216.534 mph.
Wednesday May 13
Increased activity was seen at the track. Lyn St. James was still struggling in the 212 mph range in her Cosworth. St. James' contract for Ford Motor Company had prevented her from driving the more powerful Chevrolet so far during the month.
Thursday May 14
Ted Prappas led the non-qualified cars at 221.212 mph. Dick Simon Racing announced that an agreement had been made for Lyn St. James to utilize Philippe Gache's back up car, a Lola/Chevrolet. St. James was quickly over 218 mph.
Friday May 15
At 4:07 p.m., rookie Jovy Marcelo went low in turn one, and spun into the outside wall. His car suffered major front end damage, and Marcelo was found unconscious. At 4:35 p.m., Marcelo was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital of a basal skull fracture. It was the first driver fatality at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway since Gordon Smiley in 1982. The final full day of practice, meanwhile, saw Tony Bettenhausen run the fastest lap of the week for non-qualified cars, 221.033 mph. Didier Theys was second at 220.146 mph in a John Andretti back-up car.
Time trials - weekend 2
Saturday May 16
The third day of time trials saw three cars added to the field. Tom Sneva joined as a third driver for Menard Racing, and Pancho Carter's month came to an end when he broke his arm in a turn 2 crash.
Lyn St. James ran her fastest laps of the month and became the second female driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Her third lap of 220.902 mph was also a closed-course record for a female racing driver. Brian Bonner and Mike Groff (a teammate to Scott Goodyear) also completed runs, filling the field to 30 cars. Tom Sneva and Gordon Johncock were among those who waved off attempts.
Sunday May 17
The final day of qualifying saw heavy track action. Several cars went out early on to qualify, but only Kenji Momota and Dominic Dobson finished their runs. At 2:45 p.m., in his third and final attempt, Tom Sneva put his car safely in the field at 219.737 mph. At that point, the field was filled, with Jimmy Vasser (218.268 mph) on the bubble.
At 3:50 p.m., Gordon Johncock bumped Vasser, which put Kenji Momota on the bubble. Vasser turned right around and re-qualified in a back-up car. Vasser's speed of 222.313 mph established him as the fastest rookie qualifier. The move put Scott Goodyear (219.054 mph) on the bubble.
In the final hour, after showing promise during practice, Didier Theys' third and final qualifying attempt ended with a blown engine. Likewise Tony Bettenhausen could not get up to speed and waved off. With six minutes left until the 6 o'clock gun, Ted Prappas took to the track. He bumped Scott Goodyear out by 0.089 seconds. Johnny Rutherford made one last futile attempt to qualify, but was too slow to bump his way in.
Failed to Qualify
During the week leading up to the race, Walker Racing announced that Scott Goodyear would replace Mike Groff in the team's qualified car. Goodyear, the team's primary driver, was bumped on the final day of time trials. The switch required the #15 car to be moved to the rear of the field, and Goodyear would start 33rd on race day.
The final practice session saw the Ford Cosworth drivers take the top speeds. Bobby Rahal was the fastest Chevrolet driver, and polesitter Roberto Guerrero was only 5th fastest. Al Unser, Jr. practiced a disappointing 25th speed rank. No incidents were reported.
A cold front entered the Indianapolis area the evening before the race, bringing misty rain and cold temperatures. Race morning dawned at 50°F, with a windchill of 36° Mary F. Hulman gave the starting command at 10:51 a.m., and the pace car, driven by Bobby Unser led the field on the way to the first parade lap. John Paul, Jr.'s car suffered a mechanical failure on the starting grid, but at the last minute, he hastily pulled away to join the field. The cold weather made for precarious conditions for the drivers, as it would be increasingly difficult to warm up the slick tires.
As the field entered the backstrech on the second parade lap, polesitter Roberto Guerrero gunned his machine to warm up the tires, but the back end whipped around, and the car spun into the inside wall. The suspension was damaged enough that he could not continue, and he was out of the race before the green flag. Moments later, Philippe Gache lost control on cold tires, and spun lazily into the apron of turn 4. The incidents delayed the start by five minutes.
Without the polesitter in the race, second place starter Eddie Cheever was charged with leading the field to the green flag. In turn one, Michael and Mario Andretti split Cheever on the inside and outside and took the lead. Michael Andretti blistered the track to set a new record for the first lap at 210.339 mph. After only four laps of green flag racing, however, Eric Bachelart blew an engine, and brought out the yellow.
The field went back to green on lap 11. In turn four, Tom Sneva lost control with cold tires, and crashed hard into the outside wall. A long caution followed to clean up the debris. On lap 21, the race finally got going, with Michael Andretti the early and dominating leader.
A fairly long strech of green flag racing saw Andretti starting to lap the field up through 12th place. Andretti was running race laps in the high 220 mph range. Andretti was being chased primarily by Arie Luyendyk, Scott Brayton and Eddie Cheever. Mario Andretti, however, required an unscheduled pit stop to cure an electrical problem. By lap 60, Andretti held a 30-second lead, and only three cars were on the lead lap. The average speed at lap 60 had climbed to 161.458 mph
Andretti's blistering pace was halted on lap 62 when Gordon Johncock blew an engine. The caution bunched the field for a restart on lap 67. Moments after the green, rookie Philippe Gache spun and hit the outside wall. The car slid into the path of Stan Fox, and Fox plowed into the wreck. The crash was blamed on cold tires, and Gache's inexperience.
The green came back out on lap 75. In turn one, Jim Crawford lost control, and collected Rick Mears. Both cars crashed hard into the outside wall. Further up the track, Emerson Fittipaldi slammed into the outside wall. All three drivers were sent to Methodist Hospital for relatively minor injuries.
On lap 84, the green came out once again, but as the field headed down the mainstrech, Mario Andretti crashed in turn four. The car lost the back end due to cold tires, and slammed nose-first hard into the wall. Andretti went to Methodist Hospital with broken toes.
The green came back out on lap 90, but was short-lived when Scott Brayton blew an engine on lap 94. The caution was followed by another when Paul Tracy also blew an engine on lap 97, and Jimmy Vasser subsequently smacked the wall in turn one. The field went back to green on lap 103, but cold tires struck again, as rookie Brian Bonner lost control and crashed in turn 4.
The field restarted on lap 110, and appeared to safely circulate the track. Five laps later, a major crash occurred. Jeff Andretti's car broke a wheel hub in turn two. The car immediately turned around, and Jeff Andretti crashed head-on into the wall near the Turn Two Suites. The front of the car was demolished, and Andretti suffered severe leg injuries. Gary Bettenhausen ran over some debris, and was also caught up in the crash. It took 18 minutes to extracate Jeff Andretti from the car, and he was immediately transported to Methodist Hospital for surgery. Meanwhile, Jeff's older brother Michael Andretti was still leading. Michael, however, had just seem both his father and brother crash and be sent to the hospital.
From lap 62-122, only nine laps of green flag racing were turned in. Eight cautions slowed the race for almost 90 minutes. The race finally got back underway at lap 123.
Michael Andretti took over where he had left off, and pulled away from the competition. The dwindling field was down to 17 cars, and six were on the lead lap. Among the cars still in contention were Ganassi teammates Cheever and Luyendyk. Al Unser, Jr. and Al Unser, Sr. had moved up into the top five, and Scott Goodyear had climbed from last starting position to the last car on the lead lap (6th place). A. J. Foyt had worked his way into the top 10, and Lyn St. James was the only rookie left running by lap 135.
The green resumed on lap 144, with Al Unser, Jr. in the lead after a sequence of pit stops. Michael Andretti charged towards the front, but Al Unser, Sr. passed him for second momentarily. The dicing was halted when Buddy Lazier blew an engine and brought the yellow back out.
With 50 laps to go, only 15 cars were running, and only five cars were on the lead lap.
With 45 laps to go, the green came out and the field began the race to the finish. Michael Andretti once again, began to easily pull away from his competitors. On the 166th lap, he ran a record race lap of 229.118 mph, en route to a 15-second lead.
On laps 171-177, the field began circulating through a series of green-flag pit stops. It would be the final stops of the day. During the sequence, Al Unser, Sr. passed his son Al, Jr. and led for four laps. After the field shuffled through their stops, Michael Andretti was back in the lead, by 23 seconds.
With the majority of crashes happening in turn 4, the safety crews had an extensive workout for the entire race. They were rewarded with a standing ovation from the grandstands after what turned out to be the final wreck of the day.
With 12 laps to go, Michael Andretti held a 28-second lead of Scott Goodyear. A lap later, Al Unser, Jr. passed Goodyear for second place. On lap 189, Michael Andretti pulled alongside Al Unser, Sr. and put him a lap down in turn two. Down the backstretch, however, Andretti suddenly began to slow. His fuel pump had failed, and the car coasted to a stop in the north short chute. Andretti had dominated the entire race, and had led 160 of the first 189 laps.
With 7 laps to go, the green flag came out, and the race was down to a tense two-man battle between Al Unser, Jr. and Scott Goodyear. With four laps to go, Unser held a 0.3-second lead. The cars battled nose-to-tail around the entire track, with the savvy Unser holding Goodyear off thus far. On the final lap, Goodyear drafted Unser down the backstretch, and tucked closely behind through the final turn. Out of the final turn, Goodyear zig-zagged behind Unser, and dove his nose inside over the final few hundred yards. Goodyear pulled alongside, but Unser held him off officially by 0.043 seconds, the closest finish in Indy 500 history.
Al Unser, Sr. edged out Eddie Cheever for third place. A. J. Foyt brought his car home in 9th, while John Paul, Jr., who nursed his car all day with a broken fuel cable, avoided all the crashes to finish 10th. Lyn St. James clinched the rookie of the year award, as she was the only rookie left running, in 11th place.
Scott Goodyear's charge from 33rd place to second marked the second time a driver had done so in Indy history. The winning margin of Unser over Goodyear was later deemed to be closer than published. Unser's Galmer-Chevrolet placed its timing transponder nose of the car rather than the sidepod, the standard location in all the other cars. Goodyear's Lola lagged behind due to its placement of the transponder in the sidepod. USAC officials estimated an unofficial winning margin of 0.0331 seconds.
The exciting finish of the 1992 Indy 500 was largely overshadowed by the vast number of serious crashes during the month, including the fatal crash of Jovy Marcelo and the devastating injures suffered by Nelson Piquet and Jeff Andretti. The crash-filled race saw 13 cautions for 85 laps, and the slowest average speed since 1958. Several drivers spent time in the hospital, while others required lengthy rehabilitation. At the next Indy Car race at Detroit, several drivers required substitute drivers, including Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Hiro Matsushita.
In the aftermath of his serious practice crash, followed by the crash during the race, Rick Mears raced only a partial schedule for the remainder of the 1992 season. He dropped out of the Michigan 500 due to the nagging injured wrist he suffered in his practice crash and abruptly retired from driving in December. The 1992 race was also the final start for A. J. Foyt, who would retire from the cockpit before the 1993 race.
During the summer of 1992, the track would be reconfigured for safety reasons. The apron at the bottom of the track was removed and replaced with a new warm up lane. The outside retaining wall was also replaced. These improvements were completed in time for the 1993 race.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
" Al Unser, Jr. has the lead, one more turn to go...here they come, coming to the finish line, Bob Jenkins, who's gonna win it?!"
- - Bob Lamey, calling the fourth turn of the final lap of the race.
"The checkered flag is out...Goodyear makes a move!...Little Al wins by just a few tenths of a second!...perhaps the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500!"
- - Bob Jenkins, calling the final straightaway of the race.
"They make the turn for home now! On the mainstretch, Scott Goodyear closes in...he looks for a place to come by! Scott Goodyear tries it...but no!"
"I believe that's the closest finish in Indy history, closer than the race ten years ago when Gordon Johncock beat Rick Mears!"
"Ten years ago, when Little Al was new to this track...And now, Al Unser, Jr. is a winner at the Indianapolis 500..."
- NYTimes: SPORTS PEOPLE: AUTO RACING; Indy 500's Finish Was Even Closer July 3, 1992
- Video of Michael Andretti's break down with 11 laps to go
|1991 Indianapolis 500 |
|1992 Indianapolis 500 |
Al Unser Jr.
|1993 Indianapolis 500 |
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