||[May. 21st, 2017|10:39 pm]
Takuma Sato's starting inside the second row Sunday, with an excellent car, and a strong team behind him. I'd love to see that man win the Five Hundred. He drives like an old-style sprint car driver, which so few still do these days. He's also the only man that I ever saw intimidate Michael Schumacher on the track, a performance that stays with me yet.
Alonso's car is painted McLaren orange :) I'm inevitably reminded of Johnny Rutherford and the Yellow Submarine.
The great Jim McElreath has died. He never won the Five Hundred, but he certainly could have. He and Bobby Unser and Art Malone were the Novi Team for 1964. Back in 1964, I don't think anyone would have bet a nickel that all three men would live to retire.
That leaves, so they say, only seven men who've driven front-engine cars for the Five Hundred. I can think of A.J. Foyt, Johnny Rutherford, Parnelli Jones, and Bobby Unser right offhand. It's interesting, and probably relevant, that those four who survived those cars have eleven Indianapolis wins between them. So, if they're counting people who actually raced a front-engine car in the Five Hundred, that leaves me three short, which is going to bother me.
Gary Bettenhausen did his rookie test in a front-engine car, but didn't drive it in the race. The remarkable Ralph Liguori also drove a goodly number of front-engine cars at the Speedway (including the Kurtis-Novi that McElreath later raced), but never actually qualified for the Five Hundred, despite being an excellent all-around driver. It was like there was a curse on the poor man. It was he who, in 1969, had he not waved off his qualifying attempt, would have taken the pole as the only car to qualify on Pole Day before the downpour began, and would subsequently have been bumped from the field on the last day. That was Ralph Liguori at the Speedway.
Edit: Gordon Johncock drove a front-engine Watson in 1965! I'd forgotten that. So, thirteen victories among those five drivers...
Original posted at http://rain-gryphon.dreamwidth.org/10983.html