Indy 500 Profiles from the Past …

Posted: May 21, 2019 in Uncategorized

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

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