1985 Indianapolis 500

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69th Indianapolis 500
Indy500winningcar1985.JPG
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC
Season 1985 IndyCar season
Date May 26, 1985
Winner Danny Sullivan
Winning team Penske Racing
Average speed 152.982 mph (246.201 km/h)
Pole position Pancho Carter
Pole speed 212.583 mph (342.119 km/h)
Fastest qualifier Carter
Rookie of the Year Arie Luyendyk
Most laps led Mario Andretti (107)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Robert McFarlin
"Back Home Again in Indiana" The Voices of Liberty
Starting Command Mary F. Hulman
Pace car Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais
Pace car driver James Garner
Attendance 250,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Jim McKay, Sam Posey
Nielsen Ratings 9.7 / 18
Chronology
Previous Next
1984 1986

The 69th Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26, 1985. In one of the most dramatic moments in Indy 500 history, Danny Sullivan took the lead from Mario Andretti on lap 120. But as he was completing the pass, Sullivan's car stepped out, and he lost control. He spun directly in front of Andretti in turn one, doing a complete 360°. Andretti veered to the left and slipped by unscathed, while Sullivan's car somehow did not make contact with the concrete wall. Sullivan continued in the race, and about twenty laps later, managed to re-pass Andretti for good. He went on to score his first and only Indianapolis victory for Penske.

Due to the electrifying spin by Sullivan, and the subsequent recovery, the race became known in auto racing lore as the "Spin and Win".[1] It is largely considered one of the most famous moments in all of Indy car racing history.

The race was sanctioned by USAC, and was included as part of the 1985 CART/PPG Indy Car World Series. The Speedway also celebrated 40 years of ownership by the Hulman/George family.

The 1985 Indy 500 was the breakout race for the "stock block" Buick V-6 engine. Pancho Carter and Scott Brayton swept the top two spots on the starting grid with the pushrod Buick, setting new track record speeds in time trials. However, both cars still had questionable reliability for the full 500 miles, and both dropped out early with mechanical problems on race day.

Background[edit]

Defending champion Rick Mears suffered serious leg injuries in a crash at Sanair Super Speedway in August 1984. He missed the rest of the 1984 season, and would participate only in limited events in 1985. The 1985 Indy 500 was his first race back after recovery.

Danny Sullivan joined Penske Racing for 1985, and Al Unser, Sr., who was filling in for Mears during the rest of the season, took the wheel of the third Penske entry for Indy.

Willy T. Ribbs entered the Rookie Orientation Program in April, hoping to become the first African American driver to qualify for the Indy 500.[2] However, after 20 laps of testing, he managed only 172 mph, and withdrew, citing his inexperience.[3] He would return in 1991

This would be the final Indy 500 broadcast on television in tape-delay. Later in the summer, ABC-TV signed a deal to broadcast the Indy 500 live for the first time starting in 1986. It would also be Jim McKay's final Indy 500 as play-by-play anchor.

A. J. Foyt announced during the month he was planning to retire after the 1987 race,[4] which would be his 30th start. The decision was later retracted. Foyt entered the month of May 1985 with the opportunity to pass the 10,000 mile mark in competition at Indy, and the race would mark his record 300th career Indy car start.

At the conclusion of the race, the Speedway planned to tear down the legendary Gasoline Alley garage area, in preparations for construction of a new, modern garage facility. This would be the final Indy 500 field to utilize the famous landmark green and white "barn-like" garages.

Race schedule[edit]

Race schedule — April/May 1985
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
21
 
22
 
23
 
34
 
25
 
26
ROP
27
ROP
28
ROP
29
 
30
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
Practice
5
Practice
6
Practice
7
Practice
8
Practice
9
Practice
10
Practice
11
Pole Day
12
Time Trials
13
Practice
14
Practice
15
Practice
16
Practice
17
Practice
18
Time Trials
19
Bump Day
20
 
21
 
22
 
23
Carb Day
24
Mini-Marathon
25
Parade
26
Indy 500
27
Memorial Day
28
 
29
 
30
 
31
 
 
Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track activity
was significantly limited due to rain

ROP — denotes Rookie Orientation Program

Time trials[edit]

The Buick V-6 Indy car engine

Pole Day - Saturday May 11[edit]

Pole day was sunny and warm, with temperatures in the low 80s. Mario Andretti (214.285 mph) and Bobby Rahal (214.183 mph) were the fastest cars in practice, and were early favorites for the pole position.

Qualifying began promptly at 11 a.m. The first car to take to the track was Scott Brayton in one of the Buick V-6 stock block engines. He set new one and four-lap track records, as well as track records for stock block engines. His four-lap average of 212.354 mph put him on the provisional pole position.

  • Lap 1 - 42.490 seconds, 211.815 mph (new 1-lap track record)
  • Lap 2 - 42.216 seconds, 213.189 mph (new 1-lap track record)
  • Lap 3 - 42.017 seconds, 214.199 mph (new 1-lap track record)
  • Lap 4 - 42.905 seconds, 210.256 mph
  • Total - 2:49.523, 212.354 mph (new 4-lap track record)

Brayton's final lap dropped off due to transmission trouble. Not to be upstaged, less than 20 minutes later, Pancho Carter took to the track, also driving a Buick V-6.

  • Lap 1 - 42.351 seconds, 212.510 mph
  • Lap 2 - 42.309 seconds, 213.721 mph
  • Lap 3 - 42.222 seconds, 213.159 mph
  • Lap 4 - 42.464 seconds, 211.944 mph
  • Total - 2:49.346, 212.533 mph (new 4-lap track record)

Carter could not eclipse Brayton's one-lap track record, but his run was more consistent, and his four-lap average of 212.533 mph was faster overall than Brayton. Carter clinched the pole position, and completed a 1-2 sweep for the Buicks on the starting grid. Only a half hour had passed, but the Buicks had firmly established their dominance of time trials, and distanced themselves from the rest of the competition. After the record-setting run, Brayton picked up the sponsorship of Hardee's during the week.[5]

With the pole position basically out-of-reach, the rest of the field battled out to see who would fill out the front row. Emerson Fittipaldi (211.322 mph) put himself tentatively in third, but Mario Andretti (211.576 mph) later bumped him off the front row. At 1:13 p.m., Bobby Rahal, the last driver with a legitimate shot, turned in a run of 211.818 mph, securing the outside of the front row.

A busy day saw 27 cars qualify. Rick Mears returned from his 1984 leg injuries to qualify 10th. Danny Sullivan put his car in the field in 8th. No driver from 1911-1984 had ever won the race from 8th starting position, and it was often nicknamed the dreaded "8-ball spot."

Second Day - Sunday May 12[edit]

Only two cars, Steve Chassey and Chet Fillip, made qualifying attempts, both late in the day. At the end of the first weekend of time trials, the field was filled to 29 cars.

Third Day - Saturday May 18[edit]

The second weekend of time trials saw cooler weather, and better conditions. Rookie Raul Boesel was the first car to take to the track, and put in a solid run of 206.498 mph.

Late in the day, George Snider continued the trend of stock block engines, putting a Foyt V-6 in the field. In doing so, the field was filled to 33 cars. John Paul, Jr. squeezed in a qualifying run between his IMSA commitments, and bumped Derek Daly from the field.

Tony Bettenhausen bumped out Chet Fillip, who earlier in the day, had wrecked his back-up car, leaving him on the sidelines for the rest of the month. The day ended as Jim Crawford bumped out Kevin Cogan.

Bump Day - Sunday May 19[edit]

The final day of time trials opened with Steve Chassey on the bubble, and about nine cars looking to make the field. Kevin Cogan got in his backup car, and easily bumped his way back into the field to open the afternoon. After Cogan's run, the track went mostly quiet, as drivers awaited better conditions.

Three-time winner Johnny Rutherford was now on the bubble, the second year in a row he was in danger of not qualifying. At about 5 p.m., Derek Daly (207.548 mph) bumped out Rutherford. A few minutes later, Rutherford got in a backup car, and at 208.254 mph, easily put himself back in the field. Rutherford bumped out Michael Roe in the process.

With a half hour left in the day, Pete Halsmer was on the bubble. He survived an attempt by Tom Bigelow, but Rich Vogler succeeded in bumping him out. Tony Bettenhausen (204.824 mph) was now on the bubble. Michael Roe tried twice to bump him out, but fell short on both attempts.

Race summary[edit]

The front row (L to R): #10 Bobby Rahal on the outside, #37 Scott Brayton in the middle, #6 Pancho Carter on the pole position.

Start[edit]

Going into the race, the top two qualifiers, Pancho Carter and Scott Brayton were considered underdogs, due to reliability issues with the Buick engine. Mario Andretti emerged as the race day favorite.[5]

Race day dawned sunny and warm. Mary F. Hulman gave the command to start engines just before 11 a.m., and the field pulled away for the pace laps. At the green flag, Bobby Rahal got the jump from the outside of the front row, and took the lead into turn 1. Brayton settled into second, but polesitter Carter slipped back to fourth. By turn three, Mario Andretti had picked off Brayton for second, and Rahal went on to lead the first lap.

In the first few laps, Carter slid down the standings, and on lap 6, he pulled into the pits with an failed oil pump. He became the second polesitter to finish last (33rd) after Cliff Woodbury in 1929.

Bobby Rahal led the first 14 laps. On lap 15, George Snider and Josele Garza both suffered blown engine, bringing out the first caution. Mario Andretti had a faster pit stop, and emerged on the track as the new leader on lap 16.

First half[edit]

The Buicks' day came to an end on lap 19 when Scott Brayton stopped on the track with a blown engine from a cracked cylinder wall. After keeping a close margin to Andretti, Bobby Rahal went to the pits on lap 52 with a turbocharger wastegate problem. After several long pit stops, Rahal eventually dropped out with 84 laps.

Mario Andretti continued to dominate, with Danny Sullivan now in second. Also high in contention was Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser, Jr. and Al Unser, Sr.

On lap 61, A. J. Foyt came into the pits with a poor-handling car in 20th place. After a heated exchange with his crew, it was determined that the front wing was broken. An angry Foyt stormed around the car, bumped into the fueler, fuel spilled, and fire started in the pit area. The fire was quickly doused. Foyt was out of the race just one lap short of the 10,000-mile career mark at the Speedway. Al Unser, Sr. was penalized for running over his air hose, which dropped him down the standings, Al Unser, Jr., who was in the top five, drop out on lap 91 with an engine failure.

At the halfway point, Mario Andretti led, with Danny Sullivan second, and Emerson Fittipaldi third.

Danny Sullivan spin[edit]

Shortly after the halfway point, Danny Sullivan got a radio call from his crew, but he misunderstood the message. He thought they said there were only 12 laps to go.[5][6] In reality, there were still over 80 laps remaining. Sullivan quickly turned up the boost, and started closing in on Andretti for the lead. On lap 120, Sullivan pulled to the inside down the frontstretch, and took the lead going into turn 1. Andretti held his ground, forcing Sullivan to make the pass down below the yellow line in the somewhat rough and flat apron.[5] Suddenly, the car slipped as Sullivan came off the apron, and the back end snapped loose. Sullivan did a complete counterclockwise 360° spin directly in front of Andretti in the south shortchute. Andretti pinched his car down to the inside, and slipped by unscathed. Sullivan spun completely around, did not hit anything, and the engine stalled for an instant.[1] When the tire smoked cleared, Sullivan noticed he was pointing in the correct direction, and he proceeded to put the car in gear, the engine caught, and he drove away to resume the race.[1][6]

The spin was immediately considered one of the most electrifying moments in Indy history.[1][5][6] Sullivan considered it 50/50 skill and "dumb luck" that he emerged from the spin unscathed.[1] The yellow flag immediately came out, and both Sullivan and Andretti made pit stops for tires and fuel. Moments later, both cars were back out on the track.

Second half[edit]

After Sullivan's spin, the top five shuffled slightly. On the restart, Emerson Fittipaldi now was in the lead, and Tom Sneva was second. Going into turn 1 on lap 124, Rich Vogler and Howdy Holmes tangled, sending Vogler hard into the wall right in front of the leaders. Andretti and Sullivan avoided the wreck, but Tom Sneva locked his brakes and was caught up in the crash. Sneva was not injured, but Vogler had to be airlifted to the hospital.

After the cleanup, the race again reverted to Mario Andretti leading, and Danny Sullivan second. On lap 140, Sullivan tried for the second time to get by Andretti, in nearly exactly the same place as he attempted 20 laps before. This time, he made the pass cleanly, and started to pull away.

Danny Sullivan started to pull away at will in the final 50 laps. Mario Andretti was starting to struggle, and was passed by Emerson Fittipaldi for second place for several laps.

Finish[edit]

After being a factor nearly all afternoon, Emerson Fittipaldi dropped out of the race with low oil pressure and a broken fuel line with only 12 laps to go.

Mario Andretti caught a break on lap 175 when John Paul, Jr. crashed in turn 2. Paul lost a wheel, and spun nearly head-on into the outside wall near the Turn Two Suites. He was not seriously injured. Andretti, meanwhile, bunched up behind Sullivan, and made the race close over the final laps.

On lap 192, Bill Whittington crashed in turn 3. The crash set up a restart with three laps to go. Andretti lined up three cars behind Sullivan, and as the green came out, he was able to quickly pick off both lapped cars. With two laps to go, Sullivan had a comfortable 2.4-second lead. Andretti was not able to close the gap, and Sullivan won his first Indy 500 by 2.477 seconds over Mario Andretti.

Starting grid[edit]

The cars of the seventh row: #33 Howdy Holmes, #61 Arie Luyendyk, #14 A.J. Foyt
Row Inside Middle Outside
1 United States Pancho Carter United States Scott Brayton United States Bobby Rahal
2 United States Mario Andretti (W) Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi United States Don Whittington
3 United States Al Unser (W) United States Danny Sullivan Australia Geoff Brabham
4 United States Rick Mears (W) United States Al Unser, Jr. United States Bill Whittington
5 United States Tom Sneva (W) United States Dick Simon United States Michael Andretti
6 Colombia Roberto Guerrero United States Danny Ongais Mexico Josele Garza
7 United States Howdy Holmes Netherlands Arie Luyendyk (R) United States A.J. Foyt (W)
8 United States Ed Pimm (R) Brazil Raul Boesel (R) United States John Paul, Jr. (R)
9 United States Chip Ganassi United States Johnny Parsons United Kingdom Jim Crawford (R)
10 United States George Snider United States Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. United States Johnny Rutherford (W)
11 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly United States Kevin Cogan United States Rich Vogler (R)

Alternates[edit]

Failed to qualify[edit]

Box score[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 8 5 United States Danny Sullivan 210.298 8 200 67 Running
2 4 3 United States Mario Andretti (W) 211.576 4 200 107 Running
3 16 9 Colombia Roberto Guerrero 208.061 17 200 0 Running
4 7 11 United States Al Unser (W) 210.523 7 199 0 Flagged
5 26 76 United States Johnny Parsons 205.778 28 198 0 Flagged
6 30 21 United States Johnny Rutherford (W) 208.254 15 198 0 Flagged
7 20 61 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk (R) 206.004 26 198 0 Flagged
8 15 99 United States Michael Andretti 208.185 16 196 0 Flagged
9 22 98 United States Ed Pimm (R) 205.723 29 195 0 Flagged
10 19 33 United States Howdy Holmes 206.372 22 194 0 Flagged
11 32 18 United States Kevin Cogan 206.367 23 191 0 Flagged
12 31 29 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly 207.548 18 189 0 Flagged
13 5 40 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi 211.322 5 188 11 Fuel Line
14 12 12 United States Bill Whittington 209.006 12 183 0 Crash T3
15 24 43 United States John Paul, Jr. (R) 206.340 24 164 0 Crash T2
16 27 34 United Kingdom Jim Crawford (R) 205.525 31 142 0 Electrical
17 17 25 United States Danny Ongais 207.220 19 141 0 Engine
18 23 23 Brazil Raul Boesel (R) 206.498 21 134 0 Radiator
19 9 7 Australia Geoff Brabham 210.074 9 130 0 Engine
20 13 2 United States Tom Sneva (W) 208.927 13 123 0 Crash T1
21 10 1 United States Rick Mears (W) 209.796 10 122 0 Linkage
22 25 84 United States Chip Ganassi 206.104 25 121 0 Fuel Line
23 33 60 United States Rich Vogler (R) 205.653 30 119 0 Crash T1
24 6 20 United States Don Whittington 210.992 6 97 0 Engine
25 11 30 United States Al Unser, Jr. 209.215 11 91 0 Engine
26 14 22 United States Dick Simon 208.536 14 86 0 Oil Pressure
27 3 10 United States Bobby Rahal 211.818 3 84 14 Waste Gate
28 21 14 United States A.J. Foyt (W) 205.783 27 62 0 Front Wing
29 29 97 United States Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. 204.824 33 31 0 Wheel Bearing
30 2 37 United States Scott Brayton 212.354 2 19 1 Cylinder Wall
31 18 55 Mexico Josele Garza 206.677 20 15 0 Engine
32 28 44 United States George Snider 205.455 32 13 0 Engine
33 1 6 United States Pancho Carter 212.583 1 6 0 Oil Pump

Additional information[edit]

Carter - Buick engine. Valvoline sponsorship.
Brayton - Buick engine. Hardee's sponsorship.
Rahal - Cosworth engine. March chassis. Truesports team, Budweiser sponsorship.
Mears - Penske Racing team, Pennzoil sponsorship.
Sullivan - Penske Racing team, Miller American beer sponsorship.
Unser, Sr. - Penske Racing team.
Sneva - Dan Gurney Eagle (All American Racers) team, Skoal sponsorship.
Mario Andretti - Newman/Haas Racing team. Lola chassis. Beatrice Foods sponsorship.
E. Fittipaldi - Patrick Racing team. March chassis. 7-Eleven sponsorship.
Foyt - Gilmore team, Copenhagen sponsorship.
Unser, Jr. - Shierson Racing team, Domino's Pizza sponsorship
Reference: Additional information gathered from 1985 telecast of Indianapolis 500.

Legacy[edit]

The '"Spin and Win" result went down in Indy 500 lore as one of the most famous moments in the history of the race. Mario Andretti considered the 1985 race his "best chance to win,"[5] and his subsequent failure added to the Andretti curse. A disappointed Andretti refused to speak with Sullivan for almost a year after the race.[1] In post-race interviews, the experienced Andretti claimed he baited the younger Sullivan during the pass, and deliberately pinched him down to the apron.[5]

Sam Posey reflected the win as a "changing of the guard" on the Indy car circuit,[5] as the young 'hot-shot' Sullivan beat the established and long-experienced Andretti. Likewise Indy legends such as Foyt was not a factor, and Johnny Rutherford, despite a strong finish, struggled to qualify.

With the victory, Danny Sullivan thrust into a superstar on the CART circuit. He guest-starred on an episode of Miami Vice[1] ("Florence Italy") as well as a soap opera.[7]

Broadcasting[edit]

Radio[edit]

The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Paul Page served as the chief announcer for the ninth year. It was Page's twelfth year overall as part of the network crew. Lou Palmer reported from victory lane. The 1985 broadcast marked the final time the network featured exclusive live coverage of the race. The following year, ABC Sports would begin covering the race live on network television. Thus, Palmer's live interview with the winner in 1985 was the final time the network was granted exclusive live access to the winner's first interview in victory lane. Veteran Luke Walton introduced the starting command during the pre-race, but did not report during the race itself.

Gordon Johncock, who abruptly retired from driving during the month, joined Rodger Ward and the broadcast featured two driver experts. In addition, the reporting location on the backstretch was eliminated, due to the increasing speed of the cars, and the fact that the Turn 2 and Turn 3 reporters had a sufficient view of the straightaway. Bob Forbes spent the first segments of the race reporting from the center pits, then in the second half of the race, concentrated on the garage area and hospital.

Doug Zink, who had joined the network in 1966, left the crew. Howdy Bell took over Zink's vacant spot in turn 2, which was also Bell's longtime former position. The number of pit reporters was reduced back to four, and Sally Larvick was reassigned back to interviews and features.

This would be the final 500 in broadcasting (radio or television) for Rodger Ward, as well as the final appearance for Ron Carrell as a turn reporter. Carrell's final race reporting from turn one included his call of Danny Sullivan's famous spin on lap 120. In addition, the turn one vantage point was moved from the deck of the Southwest Vista to a platform suspended from the E Stand Penthouse.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Paul Page
Driver expert: Rodger Ward
Driver expert: Gordon Johncock
Statistician: John DeCamp
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Ron Carrell
Turn 2: Howdy Bell
Backstretch: not used
Turn 3: Larry Henry
Turn 4: Bob Jenkins

Luke Walton (pre-race)
Sally Larvick (interviews)
Jerry Baker (north pits)
Chuck Marlowe (center pits)
Bob Forbes (center pits/garages)
Lou Palmer (south pits)

Television[edit]

The race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. This would be the final time the race was shown in tape-delay, as in 1986, the race would move to a live broadcast. Jim McKay served as anchor, and the separate "host" position was eliminated, in favor of McKay serving as both host and announcer.

With only five individuals serving as on-air talent, it was ABC's smallest crew of the decade. The race earned a rating of 9.7 (18 share), the lowest such rating in the tape-delay/prime time era. Less than three months later on August 19, 1985, ABC Sports signed a long-awaited, initial three-year deal to cover the Indianapolis 500 live flag-to-flag starting in 1986. The 1985 race would be final time Jim McKay would anchor the broadcast. For 1986, he would be moved to the host position.[8]

The broadcast has re-aired numerous times on ESPN Classic since 2000.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host/Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Sam Posey

Bill Flemming
Jack Arute
Jim Lampley

Quotes[edit]

"The Indianapolis 500 has a new champion, as Danny Sullivan has won the 69th Indianapolis 500" - Paul Page described the finish of the race for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network

"The Old American Hero will lose the race [Mario Andretti], the New American Hero is Daniel John Sullivan III of Louisville, Kentucky who has won the Indianapolis 500." - Jim McKay called the finish during the ABC Sports broadcast.

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ryan, Nate (2010-05-21). "Danny Sullivan's Indy 500 win still has spin 25 years later". CART (USA Today). Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  2. ^ Rollow, Cooper (1985-04-25). "Ribbs plans to make Indy history". Beaver County Times. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  3. ^ "Timing Not Right For Ribbs At Indy". Times-Union. 1985-05-01. Retrieved 2012-04-10. 
  4. ^ Harris, Mike (1985-05-21). "A. J. Foyt to retire in 1987". Sports (The Madison Courier). Retrieved 2012-02-07. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h 1985 Indianapolis 500 Telecast - ABC Sports, May 26, 1985
  6. ^ a b c "The Greatest 33 Profile: Danny Sullivan". Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 2011. Retrieved 2012-02-08. 
  7. ^ 1986 Indianapolis 500 telecast - May 31, 1986
  8. ^ Donaldson, William R., ed. (May 1986). "ABC Sports Live". 1986 Indianapolis 500 Official Program (IMS Corporation): 83. 

Works cited[edit]


1984 Indianapolis 500
Rick Mears
1985 Indianapolis 500
Danny Sullivan
1986 Indianapolis 500
Bobby Rahal