Unser Jr. holds on...just. (IMS photos)
The 76th Indianapolis 500 was held 20 years ago today – and many of those who were there still shiver at the memory. That could be from the unseasonable cold, or for the improbable, spectacular finish in which Al Unser Jr. held off Scott Goodyear for the victory by just 0.043sec.
The icy temperatures and high winds prevented the cars from developing heat in their tires on starts and restarts – as polesitter Roberto Guerrero demonstrated by crashing out on the pace lap! Numerous additional wrecks slowed the proceedings into a marathon, yet there seemed little doubt of who would win as Michael Andretti dominated with his Newman/Haas Racing Lola.
Andretti, who had led 160 of the first 189 laps, was 30 seconds in front when his fuel pump suddenly failed with 11 laps to go. That handed the lead to Unser Jr., with Goodyear – who had started next to last after withdrawing his qualified car in favor of a back-up – right behind him.
Little Al was driving a Galmer – his Galles Racing team's one and only attempt at building its own car which had proved fast but temperamental, especially on ovals. Goodyear's similar Chevy V8-powered Lola appeared to have the speed to pass Unser, but the New Mexican battled him relentlessly through a spectacular final lap to claim his long-awaited first Indy 500 win. Click here to read Unser Jr.'s and Goodyear's recollections of their amazing finish.
That 1992 race proved to a changing of the guard at Indy, as it was the final race for several Indy legends, including A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Tom Sneva, and Gordon Johncock.