Archive for May 21, 2019

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No. 71 — Rick Mears – 1978 CAM2 Penske PC6/Cosworth.

After trying unsuccessfully to qualify for the 500 as a rookie in 1977, Mears caught the eye of Roger Penske and was offered a ride in races that Mario Andretti could not compete in due to Formula One commitments. Mears eagerly accepted the offer, which also included the Indianapolis 500. The Bakersfield, Calif., native justified Penske’s confidence by grabbing the outside spot on the front row, setting a rookie qualifying record in the process.

Race day wasn’t great, as Mears forgot to buckle his helmet at the start and then had his engine let go just after halfway and finished 23rd. Still, the outstanding performance in time trials helped Mears earn Co-Rookie of the Year with Larry Rice.

Mears’ number, 71, is rarely used at the Speedway, but I think the reason why Penske used that number is because his other entries were 7 (Andretti) and 1 (Tom Sneva), so he just combined the two. (Dick Simon had 17 that year, in case you were wondering.)

#ThisIsMay#Indy500

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No 89 — John Martin — 1973 Unsponsored McLaren/Offy

John Martin was one of the few drivers capable of working on his car – fairly rare in 1973 and unheard of today.

A fixture in the Indy lineup from 1972-76, the hard-working Martin made the most of his equipment. Like many others, Martin was involved in the first-lap Salt Walther accident, but was able to make repairs and wound up eighth, his best result at Indianapolis.

The next year, Martin actually landed a sponsor, resulting in the tongue-twisting Sea Snack Shrimp Cocktail Special.

#ThisIsMay#Indy500

Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

 

By: Jeff Majeske – Managing Editor

No. 44, Dick Simon, –1973 TraveLodge Eagle/Foyt.

I miss guys like Dick Simon around the Speedway. Energetic and enthusiastic, Simon was an outstanding ski jumper and parachutist before he pursued a career in Indy cars. Had the X Games been around in, say, the 1960s, he probably would’ve been a star.

As for Indianapolis, Simon usually was saddled with marginal equipment that he had to hustle into the show. His 1973 mount was pretty decent, though, and Simon ran up front before piston failure sent him to the sidelines for a 14th-place finish.

Toward the end of his career, Simon obtained better cars and that led to better results – he was sixth and ninth in his last two races in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Simon is bald, but during the 1970s he picked up sponsorship from LAN, maker of hairpieces, so he donned a toupee.

#This is May#Indy500