It was 35 years ago today that Tom Sneva became the first driver to officially break the 200mph barrier at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, en route to winning the pole for the 61st running of the Indianapolis 500.
Sneva's first two laps of his four-lap qualifying run both rewrote the record book – 200.401mph and 200.535mph, respectively – after his Penske Racing teammate Mario Andretti first topped the mark in practice. Sneva's McLaren-Cosworth (Penske wouldn't build its own chassis until the following year) sloughed off a full 3mph in his final two laps, as its right-rear tire lost it edge, but he still wound up with a four-lap average of 198.880mph – still good enough to put Sneva comfortably on the pole by 1.2mph over Bobby Unser's Lightning-Offenhauser. Click here to read Sneva's recollections of that 200mph breakthough, as related to RACER editor David Malsher in the May 2011 issue of the magazine.
The field spread that year from Sneva to the slowest qualifier – Bubby Jones in an Eagle-Offy – was 14mph, or 107.5%. Last year it was less than 4mph, or 101.6%. Any bets about this year?