1997 Indianapolis 500

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81st Indianapolis 500
Indy500winningcar1997.JPG
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC/IRL
Season 1996-97 IRL season
Date May 25-26-27, 1997
Winner Arie Luyendyk
Winning team Treadway Racing
Average speed 145.827 mph
Pole position Arie Luyendyk
Pole speed 218.263
Fastest qualifier Arie Luyendyk
Rookie of the Year Jeff Ward
Most laps led Tony Stewart (64)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Florence Henderson
"Back Home Again in Indiana" Jim Nabors (recording)
Starting Command Mari Hulman George
Pace car Oldsmobile Aurora
Pace car driver Johnny Rutherford
Starter Bryan Howard
Honorary starter Ronald Fogleman
Estimated attendance 300,000 (Sun.)[1]
200,000 (Mon.)[2]
100,000 (Tue.)[3]
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Paul Page, Tom Sneva, Bobby Unser, and Danny Sullivan
Chronology
Previous Next
1996 1998

The 81st Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana over three days, May 25–27, 1997. It was originally scheduled for Sunday May 25, however, rain washed out all activities for the day. The race was started on Monday May 26, but rain halted the race after only 15 laps had been completed. On Tuesday May 27, the race was resumed, and was run to completion. The rain delay, as well as two controversies (one during time trials, and one during the race), put a damper on the month. Arie Luyendyk won the race from the pole position, his second Indy victory.

It was the second Indianapolis 500 held as part of the USAC-sanctioned Indy Racing League, and was part of the 1996-97 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. It marked the introduction of a new production-based, normally aspirated engine formula as well as a new chassis design. The new engine formula resulted in a substantial drop in speeds compared to the previous year, and the chassis were noticeably different in many aspects - both visually, and mechanically.

A controversy during qualifying saw two additional cars added to the field after the close of time trials. The starting grid was made up of 35 cars. It was only the second time since 1933 that more than the traditional 33 cars composed the starting grid. Despite the expanded field, a crash during the pace lap eliminated three cars. Two other cars failed to start due to mechanical problems, and only 29 cars took the green flag.

With two laps to go in the race, polesitter Arie Luyendyk led teammate Scott Goodyear. A caution came out on the 199th lap, but the pace car did not come out to pick up the field. Drivers and crews expected the race would finish under the caution. Without warning, the green and white flag were displayed at the starter's stand on the final lap, signifying the track was back to racing conditions. None of the cars in the field were prepared for the restart, and yellow lights around the course remained illuminated for many seconds afterwards. Luyendyk held on to win, but controversy erupted regarding the officials' poor handling of the situation. This last-lap incident, along with a major scoring error at the season's next race, the True Value 500, led to the USAC being permanently removed from sanctioning the IRL and Indy 500, in favor of in-house officiating.[4]

The win by Arie Luyendyk marked the milestone 50th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone. It was Luyendyk's second Indy victory (he also won in 1990), as well as Scott Goodyear's second runner-up finish (1992). It was the third time in his career that Goodyear narrowly lost the Indy 500 in the closing stages. Luyendyk became the first driver since A. J. Foyt to win the race with both a turbocharged and a normally-aspirated engine.

Race schedule[edit]

The 1997 race utilized the traditional three week / four weekend schedule that had been in use since the mid-1970s. Practice started on the Saturday 22 days prior to the race, and four days of time trials were utilized. With changes to the schedule in subsequent years, 1997 would be the final year that used the 23-day month of May schedule. It was also the final year that used the traditional four days of time trials, along with the original four-day qualifying format that had dated back to 1952.

A few days before the race, a fire swept through the storage hangar housing the floats for the 500 Festival Parade, and threatened to cancel the parade scheduled for Saturday May 24 downtown. Only four floats were spared, and Buddy Lazier's 1996 winning car escaped the fire only because the museum had decided to wait a few extra days before delivering it to the float staging area. The parade went on as scheduled, but in a slightly retooled format.[5][6]

Race schedule — May 1997
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1
 
2
 
3
ROP
4
ROP
5
ROP
6
Practice
7
Practice
8
Practice
9
Practice
10
Pole Day
11
Time Trials
12
Practice
13
Practice
14
Practice
15
Practice
16
Practice
17
Time Trials
18
Bump Day
19
 
20
 
21
 
22
Carb Day
23
 
24
Testing
25
Indy 500
26
Indy 500
27
Indy 500
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

Background[edit]

New engine and chassis package[edit]

New engines and new cars arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 1997. In 1996, it was announced that all races of the Indy Racing League would switch to a normally aspirated stock block formula starting in January 1997. In addition, a new contingent of chassis rules accompanied the powerplants. All engines for 1997 would be 4.0 L, 32-valve production-based engines. There would be two manufacturers involved, Oldsmobile Aurora (L47) and Nissan Infiniti (VH). The chassis were constructed by Dallara and G-Force. Riley & Scott also was selected as a chassis manufacturer, but they were not yet ready for competition.

The changes were in the interest of cutting costs, lowering speeds, and bringing the racing closer together.[7] After setting an all-time track record of over 237 mph a year earlier, Arie Luyendyk's top lap for qualifying in 1997 would drop to 217 mph. The new chassis had many visible differences, most noticeably the airbox above the engine cowling, larger wings, taller sidepods, and an overall bulkier appearance. The new cars produced more downforce than the previous machines, changing the driving characteristics.

With turbochargers legislated out of the series, the 1997 race was the first since the early 1960s to feature a full 33-car field of piston-powered, normally aspirated powerplants. The new engines were also much louder than their turbocharged counterparts, leading some fans and media to compare them to sound of NASCAR engines.

Track changes[edit]

The track was repaved in the fall of 1995. Following the 1996 Brickyard 400, the apexes of the four turns were breaking up. Over the offseason, track crews repaved the apexes of the turns with a different compound of asphalt. The result was a better surface, but a visibly darker area in the apexes of all four turns.

Continuing split from CART[edit]

The ongoing IRL/CART split continued into its second year. No major teams from the CART ranks entered at Indianapolis. With the new IRL chassis and engine rules for 1997, the two series now had substantially different and incompatible equipment. CART-based teams that wished to enter the Indy 500 would henceforth be required to purchase all new cars and engines, and few if any had the interest or the budget to do so. The alternative U.S. 500, however, was cancelled after only one running. Instead of running another race the same day as the Indy 500, CART teams participated in the Motorola 300 at the newly opened Gateway International Raceway on Saturday May 24, the day before the Indy 500 was scheduled.

The only former CART-based team that raced at Indy in 1997 was Galles Racing, which during the offseason had decided to switch full-time to the IRL. Robby Gordon, a CART regular from 1992–1996, had switched his full-time focus to NASCAR for 1997, driving for Felix Sabates. Sabates arranged for Gordon to race "Double Duty", planning to race at Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. The effort was well-funded, and received considerable media attention.

1996–97 IRL season[edit]

For its first season, the IRL schedule was situated such that the Indianapolis 500 would be the final race of the season. That provided that the IRL championship would be crowned at the conclusion of the Indy 500. The arrangement proved unusual, and disruptive. The 1996–97 IRL season was originally scheduled to begin at Loudon in August 1996, and conclude with the 1997 Indy 500.

In October, league officials announced that the league would revert to the calendar-based season. To aid the transition, the 1996-97 season would include the two races run in late 1996, and all races run in 1997. The Indy 500 would no longer serve at the season finale.

25/8 Rule and locked-in entries[edit]

1997 Indianapolis 500 ticket.

For the 1997 Indianapolis 500, 25 (of 33) starting grid positions were set aside for the top 25 cars in 1996-97 season IRL points standings. The arrangement was a controversial rule, known as the "25/8 Rule," introduced during the 1996 IRL season, and had been a key issue that led the CART teams to boycott the 1996 race.

The format (similar in practice to NASCAR's Top 35 rule introduced years later) provided that the top 25 entries in owner points (not drivers) were guaranteed a "locked-in" starting position, and could not be bumped, provided they completed a four-lap qualifying run over a minimum prescribed speed. Officials set 203 mph as the minimum. The grid would still be arranged by speed rank. The remaining eight positions would be filled by non-top 25 entries, and bumping could only occur among those eight positions and the non-top 25 participants.

The #15 and the #74 entries, both raced at the first two races of the 1996-97 season, but never appeared during the month of May. Della Penna Motorsports had left the Indy Racing League at the end of calendar year 1996 to compete in CART, while Tempero-Giuffre Racing stayed away from the track despite entering a Infiniti-powered G-Force. Therefore, only 23 of the 25 eligible "locked-in" entries were present to accept their berth, and ten at-large starting positions were up for grabs at the onset of qualifying.[8]

On April 21, Gary Bettenhausen was announced as the driver of the #81 car, an at-large entry fielded by newcomers Terhune-Barnets Racing and run by LP Racing, in an attempt to make his 22nd Indy 500 start.[9] However, on April 25 he was replaced on the entry list by Mark Dismore,[10] after the Kelley Automotive Group made his sponsorship deal contingent upon having Dismore on the car.[10] The team also parted ways with LP Racing and his crew chief Larry Nash,[10] and made a deal with PDM Racing to run the car as his second entry, the #28,[11] which had a locked-in berth. This move left Tyce Carlson, the driver originally entered for the #28, out of the ride. Tom Kelley became the owner of the car by the time practice had begun and the deal with PDM lasted through the season, after which Kelley Racing became a fully independent entity in 1998.

Practice (week 1)[edit]

Saturday May 3 - Opening Day[edit]

The first day of practice, set aside for Rookie Orientation, was rained out.[12]

Sunday May 4 - Rookie Orientation[edit]

The first day of track activity saw six rookies take laps, with Vincenzo Sospiri leading the speed chart at 211.964 mph.[13] Jack Miller blew an engine, in what was the only remarkable incident of the day.[14]

In a press conference, Team Menard confirmed that Tony Stewart would continue with the team for the remainder of the 1996-97 season year and for 1998. The lengthening of the season, devised to switch to a calendar schedule for 1998, meant a new deal had to be reached in order for Stewart to finalize his NASCAR Busch Series outings. Menard also confirmed a switch from Firestone to Goodyear tires.[13]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 8 Italy Vincenzo Sospiri (R) Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 211.964
2 51 United States Jeff Ward (R) Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile 205.780
3 4 Sweden Kenny Bräck (R) Galles Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 204.997

Monday May 5 - Rookie Orientation[edit]

A very windy day saw minimal activity, with only four cars taking a total of 80 laps before rain closed the track at 4:30 p.m.[15] Kenny Bräck turned the fastest lap at 205.597 mph.[16]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 4 Sweden Kenny Bräck (R) Galles Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 205.597
2 16 United States Sam Schmidt (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 198.325
3 97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile 185.494

Tuesday May 6[edit]

The first full day of practice saw heavy activity. Arie Luyendyk set the fastest lap thus far of the month at 5:24 p.m., at 218.707 mph. The only incident of the day occurred early on, when rookie Jeff Ward blew an engine and spun into the wall in turn 3.[17]

Later on, five rookies (Kenny Bräck, Robbie Groff, Greg Ray, Vincenzo Sospiri and Affonso Giaffone) completed their rookie test, and Sinden Racing Services confirmed that Steve Kinser, a 14-times World of Outlaws sprint car champion, would drive their #44 at-large entry.[17] Kinser had tried to qualify for the race 15 years earlier, when a practice crash ended his chances in 1981.

John Andretti, a seven times-Indianapolis 500 starter between 1988 and 1994, passed the mandatory physical exam. Andretti, who switched to NASCAR Winston Cup in 1994 and was driving for Cale Yarborough Motorsports, had expressed an interest in doing the Double Duty for the second time.[18]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 218.797
2 42 United States Robby Gordon Team SABCO G-Force Oldsmobile 215.569
3 2 United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 214.337

Wednesday May 7[edit]

Arie Luyendyk became the first and only driver to go over 220 mph during the month, with a lap of 220.297 mph. At 4:12 p.m., Scott Sharp crashed in turn 1, heavily damaging his primary car. He had just run a lap of 217.402 mph.[19]

Lyn St. James's 34 laps were her first on a race car since his collision at the previous year's Indy 500, as her broken right wrist had healed improperly. Rain closed the track about 10 minutes early.[19]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 220.297
2 1 United States Scott Sharp A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile 217.402
3 27 United States Jim Guthrie Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 216.076

Thursday May 8[edit]

Rain kept the track closed until 3 p.m., and the final three hours saw average activity. Just minutes after the track opened, Arie Luyendyk spun in the southchute, and tagged the wall, suffering minor nose cone damage. He was uninjured. Later, Luyendyk returned to the track, and once again, led the speed chart at 217.318 mph.[20]

In the later stages of the day, Alessandro Zampedri's car caught fire, having blown an engine coming out of Turn 4.[20] After struggling to compete for the top spots during two days of practice with Goodyear tires, Team Menard switched back to mounting compounds from Firestone.[20] Right away, Tony Stewart and Robbie Buhl were able to challenge Luyendyk's lap times, ending the session just behind him.

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 217.318
2 2T United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 215.822
3 3T United States Robbie Buhl Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 215.708

Friday May 9[edit]

The final day of practice before pole qualifying saw heavy action, and cool temperatures. The speed chart was competitive, with Arie Luyendyk, Tony Stewart, and Robbie Buhl trading fast lap for the afternoon. At the end of the day, Luyendyk was fastest, sweeping the chart all four days of veteran practice. His lap of 218.325 mph was a mile per hour faster than Stewart in second place.[21]

Two incidents, however, overshadowed the action. At 12:42 p.m., John Paul, Jr. crashed in Turn 4, and suffered a broken lower right leg and a broken left heel. With 43 minutes left, Scott Sharp also crashed exiting Turn 4, and suffered a concussion. Both Paul and Sharp would be forced to sit out the rest of the month. In another incident, Stéphan Grégoire's car suffered minor damage against the inside guard rail after a spin in the warm-up lane.[21]

During the day, Jack Miller, Steve Kinser and Sam Schmidt passed their final phases of his rookie test,[21] Jeff Ward completed his 20-lap refresher test, and driver-owner Eddie Cheever turned his first laps of the month, having concentrated so far in getting Ward's car up to speed.[22]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 218.325
2 2 United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 217.355
3 3 United States Robbie Buhl Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 216.899

Time trials (weekend 1)[edit]

Pole Day - Saturday May 10[edit]

Pole day time trials took place under mostly sunny skies, but cool temperatures, which forced the Pole Day morning practice to be delayed due to low track temperature for the first time in history.[23] Tony Stewart led the charts at 219.085 mph.

In the morning, Hemelgarn Racing announced that Buddy Lazier would use Oldsmobile powerplants instead of Infiniti's, citing a lack of speed and sponsor deference. Due to contractual obligations on fielding a second Infiniti engine, the team entered Johnny Unser to drive in Lazier's car, renumbered as #90, while Lazier would qualify with his back-up.[24]

The first car out on the track to qualify was Mike Groff. He became the first driver to complete a run in a normally aspirated car since 1987, and the first to qualify one since 1984. His speed also tentatively broke existing normally aspirated, stock block, track records with an average of 208.537 mph.[24]

A total of nine cars went out for runs during the first segment, however, only five were run to completion. Jeff Ward sat on the provisional pole at 214.517 mph. Shortly after 3 p.m., Arie Luyendyk took to the track, and began the second wave of qualifiers. His run of 218.263 mph put him firmly on the pole position, with Tony Stewart close behind at 218.021 mph. Rookie Vincenzo Sospiri surprised many by rounding out the front row at 216.822 mph, beating Robbie Buhl, who qualified on his third attempt.[24]

There were several wave offs during qualifying attempts, and three drivers didn't got to complete theirs. Robbie Groff brushed the wall at the exit of Turn 1 in his second lap and had to wave off, Fermín Vélez blew an engine during his second lap, and Sam Schmidt spun on the warm-up lane, hitting the inside wall. Also, Eliseo Salazar had to wave off his first qualifying attempt after hitting a bird on Lap 3.[24]

At the end of pole day, 21 cars were in the field, with Roberto Guerrero slowest thus far at just over 207 mph. The Colombian qualified with his back-up car, which left him without his locked-in status, but John Barnes, Pagan's team manager, had petitioned for it to become the primary car while the car was already in the qualifying lane. The change was not made before Guerrero took to the track, but USAC allowed it to be considered as a primary car the following day, securing Guerrero's place in the grid.[25] That decision put Alessandro Zampedri in an early bubble among the at-large entries, having qualified at barely 209 mph. A week later, during Bump Day, USAC allowed a similar change to Buddy Lazier's car at the request of Ron Hemelgarn, despite being safely in the field at 214.286 mph.[26]

Pole Day
Pos. No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed Entry status
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 218.263 Locked-in
2 2 United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 218.021 Locked-in
3 8 Italy Vincenzo Sospiri (R) Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 216.822 At-large
4 3 United States Robbie Buhl Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 216.102 Locked-in
5 6 Canada Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 215.811 Locked-in
6 27 United States Jim Guthrie Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 215.207 Locked-in
7 52 United States Jeff Ward (R) Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile 214.517 At-large
8 14 United States Davey Hamilton A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile 214.484 Locked-in
9 7 Chile Eliseo Salazar Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 214.320 Locked-in
10 91 United States Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 214.286 Locked-in1
11 51 United States Eddie Cheever Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile 214.073 Locked-in
12 42 United States Robby Gordon Team SABCO G-Force Oldsmobile 213.211 At-large
13 77 France Stéphan Grégoire Chastain Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile 213.126 Locked-in
14 17 Brazil Affonso Giaffone (R) Chitwood Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile 212.974 Locked-in
15 4 Sweden Kenny Bräck (R) Galles Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 211.221 Locked-in
- 2 90 United States Lyn St. James Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Infiniti 210.145 At-large
16 12 United States Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile 209.564 Locked-in
17 40 United States Jack Miller (R) Arizona Motorports Dallara Infiniti 209.250 Locked-in
- 2 34 Italy Alessandro Zampedri Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 209.094 At-large
18 10 United States Mike Groff Byrd-Cunningham Racing G-Force Infiniti 208.537 Locked-in
19 21 Colombia Roberto Guerrero Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti 207.371 Locked-in1
30 United States Robbie Groff (R) McCormack Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile Waved off Locked-in
33 Spain Fermín Vélez Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Engine trouble Locked-in
16 United States Sam Schmidt (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Crashed At-large
  1. ^ Qualified as an at-large entry, before his status was reversed.
  2. ^ Bumped from the field by other at-large entries on Bump Day.

Second Day - Sunday May 11[edit]

Only three cars started qualifying attempts; two of them were added to the field. Steve Kinser completed a run early in the day, while Robbie Groff finished just before the track closed in his last attempt. The first one was nullified by an engine misfire, and the second, by a cold track surface.[25]

Greg Ray, in an at-large entry, was set for a 215 mph qualifying run before he ran out of fuel in his last lap. In the morning, Dennis Vitolo was assigned to the #54 Beck Motorsports entry.[25]

Second Day
Pos. No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed Entry status
20 44 United States Steve Kinser (R) Sinden Racing Services Dallara Oldsmobile 210.793 At-large
21 30 United States Robbie Groff (R) McCormack Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile 207.792 Locked-in
97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile Out of fuel At-large

Practice (week 2)[edit]

Monday May 12[edit]

Another cool and windy day saw 18 cars practice. Arie Luyendyk continued his dominance, and led the practice chart for already-qualified drivers.[27] Billy Boat, who had been recruited the week prior to drive Foyt's third car,[28] completed his refresher test, and Billy Roe became the ninth driver to pass his rookie test.

Off the track, A. J. Foyt announced that he was working on a deal for John Andretti to replace the injured Scott Sharp in the #1 entry, providing that travel and scheduling constraints were arranged with his team owner Cale Yarborough.[27] Johansson Motorsports confirmed they would use an Infiniti engine provided by Hemelgarn Racing,[27] after plans to run an Oldsmobile engine fell through.[29] The team appointed Scott Harrington as their driver.[27]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 217.103
2 6 Canada Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 216.092
3 51 United States Eddie Cheever Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile 215.600

Tuesday May 13[edit]

Arie Luyendyk sat out practice for the day, and would not come back on track until Bump Day practice, which he would also led.[30] Ten drivers turned their fastest laps of the month, including Buddy Lazier, who lead the speed chart, and Billy Boat, the fastest of the non-qualified cars at over 214 mph, 4 miles per hour faster than the others,[31] including Dennis Vitolo, who blew an engine before getting up to speed.[28]

A. J. Foyt conceded defeat in his intentions to bring John Andretti as a driver, as his NASCAR commitment with Cale Yarborough would not provide enough travel time to make it to the Coca-Cola 600. Johnny O'Connell was named to replace Scott Sharp in the #1 car.[31] Also, PDM Racing confirmed Tyce Carlson to replace the injured John Paul, Jr. in the #18 car.[31] Carlson had run two races with the team in 1996, and had intended to make the Indy 500 in the #28 until Mark Dismore's deal came to be in late April.[9][11]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 91T United States Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 217.040
2 51 United States Eddie Cheever Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile 216.909
3 6 Canada Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 216.513

Wednesday May 14[edit]

Buddy Lazier and Billy Boat repeated their efforts from the previous day, as the fastest already-qualified, and fastest non-qualified cars of the day.[29] High winds blew debris onto the track causing several yellow lights throughout the afternoon.[32]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 91T United States Buddy Lazier Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 216.570
2 2T United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 216.466
3 14 United States Davey Hamilton A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile 215.972

Thursday May 15[edit]

Most of the cars that took to the track were among those not yet qualified. Several veterans sat out the afternoon. Sam Schmidt found his way to the top of the speed chart, at over 211 mph. His team, Blueprint Racing, confirmed a third entry for Claude Bourbonnais, who would use Jim Guthrie's back-up car.[33]

Bourbonnais ran laps over 200 mph, like Johnny Unser and Johnny O'Connell, who were also taking to the track for the first time all month, as well as Mark Dismore and his new teammate Tyce Carlson, who passed his refresher test.[33] In a windy day, both drivers got to do laps in the 210 mph range early in the day before parking the cars early, as PDM Racing was out of spare engines.[34]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 16 United States Sam Schmidt (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 211.989
2 14T United States Davey Hamilton A. J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Oldsmobile 211.456
3 42 United States Robby Gordon Team SABCO G-Force Oldsmobile 211.164

Friday May 16[edit]

The final full day of practice saw heavy activity among qualified and non-qualified drivers. With Arie Luyendyk still absent, Tony Stewart led the speed chart. During the first hour, Johnny O'Connell lost an engine and crashed hard in the southchute. He dislocated his left foot, becoming the second Foyt driver to be sidelined during the month. Later that afternoon, Claude Bourbonnais was the tenth and last driver to complete his rookie test,[35] and Scott Harrington finally took his first laps of the month.

In news off the track, the Indy Racing League confirmed the technical specifications for 1998 and beyond, which included the elimination of the 25/8 Rule, that had grown in controversy beyond its implied CART-blocking purposes.[36] During the week, competitors and officials alike were growing apprehensive of the rule, as it was becoming increasingly possible that by enforcing the rule, the "fastest 33 cars", a cornerstone Indy tradition, would not necessarily make the field: at-large entries were expected to have to go at least over 210 mph to make the race, while four locked-in entries had settled with qualifying just over the 203 mph minimum speed required. Also, there had been some disconformity with some teams selling, or trying to sell, their locked-in berths.[37]

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 2T United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 216.388
2 4T Sweden Kenny Bräck (R) Galles Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 215.074
3 97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile 215.069

Time trials (weekend 2)[edit]

Third Day - Saturday May 17[edit]

The third day of qualifying saw sunny skies and warm temperatures. A busy day of time trials saw the field fill to 31 cars. Billy Boat set the early pace with an average of 215.544 mph. Several "locked-in" drivers took runs, and within an hour, eight consecutive time trials were run to completion. Johnny Unser couldn't try to qualify after a piston failed in the morning practice, Greg Ray suffered an engine failure during his warm-up lap and Claude Bourbonnais, looking for speed to qualify on the later stages of the day, damaged his car after tagging the wall twice.[38]

When the track closed for the day, only two positions were unfilled. 22 of the 23 original "locked-in" entries were already in the field. The only original "locked-in" entry yet unqualified was the #1 of A. J. Foyt Enterprises. After the injuries suffered by Scott Sharp and Johnny O'Connell, the car had no driver currently named. Foyt had previously discarded using that berth for Boat [37] and told reporters he would not sign another replacement driver.[39]

Third Day
Pos. No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed Entry status
22 11 United States Billy Boat (R) A. J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Oldsmobile 215.544 At-large
23 16 United States Sam Schmidt (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 215.141 At-large
24 50 United States Billy Roe (R) EuroInternational Dallara Oldsmobile 212.752 At-large
25 28 United States Mark Dismore Kelley Racing - PDM Dallara Oldsmobile 212.423 Locked-in
26 18 United States Tyce Carlson (R) PDM Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 210.852 Locked-in
27 22 Brazil Marco Greco Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 210.322 Locked-in
28 54 United States Dennis Vitolo Beck Motorsports Dallara Infiniti 207.626 Locked-in
29 33 Spain Fermín Vélez Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 206.512 Locked-in
97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorports Dallara Oldsmobile engine trouble At-large

Bump Day - Sunday May 18[edit]

Going into the final day of qualifying, two positions were open. One final "locked-in" position was available (Foyt's #1), as 22 of the 23 eligible cars had already completed their runs. Once the field was filled to 33 cars, the ten "non-exempt" positions were all up for grabs amongst the at-large entries.[26] On the morning of Bump Day qualifying, several non-exempt teams were uneasy about their chances of making the field, despite having speeds amongst the fastest 33.

In the first hour of qualifying, the at-large entries of Johnny Unser and Greg Ray filled the field to 33 cars.[26] Since 22 of the cars were locked-in, the move put Alessandro Zampedri on the bubble. Zampedri had qualified 19th on Pole Day with a 209.09 mph, and was the 28th-fastest car in the field at the time, but those five slower cars were "locked-in".

At 12:21 p.m., Paul Durant climbed for the first time into the #1 Foyt car, the final entry eligible for a locked-in position.[26] Durant had secured the ride at 11:30 a.m.,[39] and those were his first laps of the entire month. By 1:09 p.m., he was safely in the field at 209.149 mph. His run bumped Zampedri from the field of 33.

Johnny Unser now found himself on the bubble. His qualifying speed of 209.344 mph was the 26th-fastest car in the field, but as the slowest at-large entry, he was first in line to be ousted. Shortly after 2 p.m., Claude Bourbonnais took to the track for a qualifying attempt. His speed of 210.523 mph easily bumped Unser, and put Lyn St. James on the bubble. She had qualified 16th on Pole Day, and her speed of 210.145 mph was the 25th-fastest in the field, as well as the fastest by an Infiniti-powered car, but as an at-large entry, the eight cars below her were all locked-in.[26]

Immediately after Bourbonnais's attempt, and with rain approaching, Alessandro Zampedri took his back-up car for a second chance to qualify. His run of 211.757 mph was enough to bump St. James, putting Bourbonnais on the bubble. Rain started falling and closed the track for the next hour.[26] Despite being bumped, Lyn St. James made no effort to bring her car back onto the track. Rumors began circulating the garage area that USAC officials were considering reinstating bumped cars to the field.

Scott Harrington was the lone car yet to make an attempt after the rain. Having been unable to go over 200 mph on Saturday practice, Johansson Motorsports took possession of Foyt's back-up chassis for Davey Hamilton, and renumbered it as #36 to make it their primary car.[39] With just 25 practice laps in the car, Harrington got out to qualify at 5.51 p.m, but after a quick first lap of 214.061 mph, he crashed heavily in Turn 2. Harrington, who was extricated from his car, remained conscious and was uninjured.[26]

Post-qualifying controversy[edit]

When the gun sounded at 6 p.m., Lyn St. James and Johnny Unser, teammates at Hemelgarn Racing, were the two drivers bumped out of the Indianapolis 500. Alongside Alessandro Zampedri, bumped earlier before making his way back into the field, they had posted qualifying speeds faster than eight of the "locked-in" entries.

USAC officials expressed their concern that, due to the soon-to-be-abandoned 25/8 Rule, the fastest 33 cars were not going to start the race, and a decision was made to reinstate any at-large entries that were bumped, if they were among the "fastest 33". The ruling added St. James and Unser back to the field. They were placed in the 34th and 35th starting positions, respectively.[26]

It was the first time since 1979 that more than the traditional 33 cars constituted the field. The debacle was a public relations black-eye, but the officials were applauded in the media for rightfully adding the cars back to the grid.

Bump Day
Pos. No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed Entry status
30 97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile 213.760 At-large
31 34 Italy Alessandro Zampedri Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile 211.757 At-large
32 72 Canada Claude Bourbonnais (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile 210.523 At-large
33 1 United States Paul Durant A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile 209.149 Locked-in
Reinstated
34 90 United States Lyn St. James Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Infiniti 210.145 At-large
35 9 United States Johnny Unser Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Infiniti 209.344 At-large
Failed to qualify
36 United States Scott Harrington Johansson Motorsports G-Force Infiniti Crashed At-large

Carburetion Day[edit]

Final practice[edit]

The final scheduled practice session was scheduled for Thursday May 22. Robby Gordon blew an engine, while Dennis Vitolo, Marco Greco and Paul Durant experienced mechanical trouble. Tony Stewart turned the fastest lap of the day, at 215.502 mph.[40]

Polesitter Arie Luyendyk completed only two laps at speed, using the session mostly as a system check exercise.

Top practice speeds
Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Speed
1 2 United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile 215.502
2 97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile 214.807
3 6 Canada Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile 212.972

Pit Stop Contest[edit]

The Coors Indy Pit Stop Challenge featured eight teams competing for a $40,000 top prize. The Indianapolis 500 pole sitter (Treadway's #5) was automatically qualified, and four entries were selected through an Indy Racing League program at Walt Disney World (Scandia's #22 and Blueprint's #27) and Phoenix (Foyt's #14 and Chastain's #77).[41]

The last three places were determined in a preliminary round on May 12. Galles's #4 (with a time of 12.597 seconds), SABCO's #42 (13.721 seconds) and Team Cheever's #51 (14.409 seconds) gained access to the competition, defeating Sinden's #44 (14.721 seconds), Team Cheever's #52 (15.447 seconds), Arizona's #40 (17.245 seconds) and Pagan's #21, which did not register a time.[27] However, Chastain and Foyt withdrew from the competition, allowing the #44 and #52 cars to take part in the event.[41]

Galles Racing and driver Kenny Bräck defeated Team Cheever with driver/owner Eddie Cheever in the finals.[40]

Quarterfinals Semifinals Finals
         
Team Scandia (Greco) 16.863
Sinden Racing Services (Kinser) DQ
Galles Racing (Bräck) 17.096
Team Scandia (Greco) 20.833
Galles Racing (Bräck) 13.330
Team SABCO (Gordon) 14.274
Galles Racing (Bräck) 14.284
Team Cheever (Cheever) 15.133
Team Cheever (Cheever) 15.247
Treadway Racing (Luyendyk) 17.521
Team Cheever (Cheever) 17.305
Team Cheever (Ward) DQ
Team Cheever (Ward) N/A
Blueprint Racing (Guthrie) Withdrew

System check runs[edit]

On Saturday May 24, the day before the race, arrangements were made for a special practice session. Due to the new engine package, some teams had requested additional track time for system check runs. A very brief green light period, with a 190 mph speed limit, was conducted for five cars.[42]

Starting grid[edit]

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 Netherlands 5 - Arie Luyendyk (W) United States 2 - Tony Stewart Italy 8 - Vincenzo Sospiri (R)
2 United States 3 - Robbie Buhl Canada 6 - Scott Goodyear United States 27 - Jim Guthrie
3 United States 52 - Jeff Ward (R) United States 14 - Davey Hamilton Chile 7 - Eliseo Salazar
4 United States 91 - Buddy Lazier (W) United States 51 - Eddie Cheever United States 42 - Robby Gordon
5 France 77 - Stéphan Grégoire Brazil 17 - Affonso Giaffone (R) Sweden 4 - Kenny Bräck (R)
6 United States 12 - Buzz Calkins United States 40 - Jack Miller (R) United States 10 - Mike Groff
7 Colombia 21 - Roberto Guerrero United States 44 - Steve Kinser (R) United States 30 - Robbie Groff (R)
8 United States 11 - Billy Boat (R) United States 16 - Sam Schmidt (R) United States 50 - Billy Roe (R)
9 United States 28 - Mark Dismore United States 18 - Tyce Carlson (R) Brazil 22 - Marco Greco
10 United States 54 - Dennis Vitolo Spain 33 - Fermín Vélez United States 97 - Greg Ray (R)
11 Italy 34 - Alessandro Zampedri Canada 72 - Claude Bourbonnais (R) United States 1 - Paul Durant
12 United States 90 - Lyn St. James United States 9 - Johnny Unser  
     Green indicates the two cars reinstated to the field by the officials after the close of time trials
     Yellow indicates the driver dropped out during the pace laps, and did not start the race

Alternates[edit]

Rain delay[edit]

Sunday May 25[edit]

The race was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. EST on Sunday May 25. Rain in the morning delayed the activities, but the skies appeared to lighten, and the cars were placed in the grid at 11:45 a.m. At 12 p.m., the skies opened up, and heavy rain began to fall. The cars were wheeled back to the garage area. At 1:30 p.m., track officials rescheduled the race for Monday.[43]

Robby Gordon, driving for Felix Sabates' Team SABCO, had planned on driving the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 "Double Duty." At 1:45 p.m., Gordon left the grounds, and flew to Charlotte. The Coca-Cola 600 also suffered a rain delay, but did eventually see the green flag fall. Gordon wrecked out on lap 186, and finished 41st.

Monday May 26[edit]

The pace cars leads the field through turn one on Monday during the parade lap.

On Memorial Day, Monday May 26, the race was scheduled for 11 a.m. EST. Skies were partly cloudy in the morning, but there was no rain at the time. The pre-race ceremonies were held on-time, but some subtle changes were made. The Purdue Band was unable to return for Monday, and therefore Florence Henderson's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was done a cappella. In addition, "Taps" was played by a local musician as a substitute. The most noteworthy change, however, was the absence of Jim Nabors. He had left the grounds Sunday night, and was not present to sing the traditional "Back Home Again in Indiana." At his request, a recording from a previous year (1993) was played for the fans. Mari Hulman George followed, officially taking over the family tradition (from her mother Mary F. Hulman) of delivering the starting command. Mary F. Hulman had been inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame earlier in the month, but was in declining health. Also absent was longtime Speedway public address announcer John Totten, who had fallen ill.

On the first parade lap, Dr. Jack Miller got sideways with cold tires and nearly spun in turn 4. He continued, and rejoined the field. On the final pace lap, all three cars of the fifth row, Stéphan Grégoire, Affonso Giaffone, and Kenny Bräck came together, and crashed in turn 4. The crash delayed the start by five extra pace laps. Meanwhile, Sam Schmidt and Alessandro Zampedri ducked into the pits with mechanical trouble, and Robbie Groff stalled on the backstretch, being restarted in the pits. In total, five cars were out of the race before the green flag.

Tony Stewart took the lead when the race finally got underway. On the 10th lap, the yellow came out due to a blown engine by Claude Bourbonnais. Moments later, a light drizzle started falling around the track. On lap 15, the rain was falling harder, and the race was red flagged. With rain continuing to fall, the cars returned to the garage area at 12:30 p.m., and fans began to leave the grounds.

The race had to go at least 101 laps to be considered official. With only 15 laps completed, the race would have to be resumed when the officials deemed appropriate. After negotiations between Speedway officials, series officials, and television executives, the decision was made at 2:15 p.m. to resume the race at lap 16 the following day, Tuesday May 27 at 11 a.m. The arrangement differed from a similar situation during the 1986 race. Many expected the conclusion of the race to be postponed until Saturday (May 31). However, officials agreed that due to the upcoming race at Texas, and the good forecast for Tuesday, it was in the best interest to finish the race as soon as possible.

Tuesday May 27[edit]

With skies finally clearing, the race finally was able to get underway. Mari Hulman George delivered the "re-start" command at 11 a.m., and the race resumed at lap 16. Of the 35 qualifiers, 29 cars lined up single-file for the restart. The grandstands were only partially full, and it marked the first time since 1973 that the race was held mid-week. ABC-TV made a special arrangement to cover the race live as planned.

Race running[edit]

Davey Hamilton (left) and car owner A. J. Foyt (right) walk through the pit area on Tuesday after the race.

Re-start[edit]

The race picked up single-file from the pits at lap 16. The first two laps were run under caution as warm-up laps, however, they counted towards the race total. On lap 18, the green flag came out with Tony Stewart resuming the lead.

On the first green lap of the day, Robby Gordon was racing down the backstretch and suddenly veered to the warm-up lane in turn three. He stopped the car, which was on fire. Gordon jumped out of the car with his driver's suit burning, and began rolling vigorously in the grass to put the fire out. The caution came out as crews put out the fire, and towed the car back to the pits. Gordon would drop out of the race.

On lap 23, as the field lined up for the restart, four cars tangled in turn 4. Steve Kinser tagged Eliseo Salazar from behind, and Roberto Guerrero rear-ended Mark Dismore. All four cars suffered cosmetic damage. Dismore was eliminated immediately; Guerrero and Salazar both retired before halfway. The first significant green flag racing of the week finally began at lap 28.

First half[edit]

Tony Stewart led Robbie Buhl leading up to the 40-lap (100-mile) mark. Also in the top five were Arie Luyendyk, Buddy Lazier, and rookie Jeff Ward. The first series of green flag pit stops began on lap 50. After the field shuffled through pitting, Stewart was back in the lead with Luyendyk second.

Jim Guthrie brought out the yellow on lap 59 due to an engine failure. On the restart, Arie Luyendyk got the jump and passed Tony Stewart for the lead.

Another sequence of green flag pit stops around laps 85-90 saw Arie Luyendyk and Tony Stewart again emerge as 1-2. Another caution flag waved when Eliseo Salazar stopped in turn 2 on lap 93.

By the halfway point, thirteen cars had dropped out. Greg Ray and Eddie Cheever were out with mechanical failures, and Roberto Guerrero was sidelined with a damaged suspension.

Second half[edit]

The 5th caution was displayed on lap 114 after a collision between Billy Roe and Paul Durant in turn 3. Durant sustained a fractured pelvis and a concussion, and had to be transferred to Methodist Hospital, where he was reported to be awake and alert. The lead was trading among Arie Luyendyk, Tony Stewart, and Robbie Buhl. Rookie Jeff Ward and defending Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier were also in contention. On lap 137, Mike Groff and Jack Miller wrecked in the south chute to bring out the 6th caution. On the restart on lap 142, Ward moved into the lead. He pulled out to a 4-second lead over Luyendyk over the next 20 laps.

Tyce Carlson spun and Johnny Unser blew his engine in turn 2 on lap 164, bringing out the 7th caution. The yellow sent the leaders to the pits. Tony Stewart stalled his engine, and fell down to in the standings. Ward came back out in the lead, with Buddy Lazier second. Scott Goodyear had worked his way up to third, and Luyendyk remained in the top 5.

With 20 laps to go, Ward continued to lead, and Stewart had climbed back up to second. With a 13-second lead, Ward was in need of one final splash-and-go fuel stop before the finish.

Controversial finish[edit]

With eleven laps to go, Steve Kinser crashed, and collected Lyn St. James. The ensuing caution flag saw leader Jeff Ward, who knew he could not make it to the finish on fuel, head to the pits. The restart order with 8 laps left was Scott Goodyear, his teammate Arie Luyendyk, Buddy Lazier, Ward and Tony Stewart. They were the only five drivers on the lead lap.

The green flag came back out on lap 194. Luyendyk passed Goodyear on the backstretch to take the lead. Just two laps later, the yellow was brought out again for a piece of debris (Lazier's right-side rear-view mirror broke in turn 2). Luyendyk still led as the green came back out at the conclusion of lap 197, with three laps to go.

As Luyendyk and Goodyear crossed the start/finish line to complete lap 198, Tony Stewart brushed the wall in turn 4. The car was not seriously damaged, and Stewart continued. However, USAC still brought out the yellow. The pace car did not enter the track to pick up the leader, as was the normal procedure.

Luyendyk guided his teammate Goodyear (second place), and the rest of the field around at a slow pace. As the cars came out of turn four, they anticipated seeing the white flag, and it was clear to them the race would finish under caution, as did IMS Radio Network announcer Bob Jenkins. Without any warning, USAC officials suddenly displayed the white and green flag at the starter's stand, and the race was back underway. A startled Luyendyk, running about 85 mph, hastily dropped a gear, and punched the throttle to accelerate. The entire field was caught off-guard, and to make matters worse, the yellow caution lights around the track remained illuminated. The confusion made some drivers unsure if the green flag was an error, and if the conditions were safe to race.

Most of the cars, including Goodyear, hesitated, and the yellow lights around the track did not go off until the leaders were on the backstretch. The botched restart prevented any significant challenge by Goodyear, and Luyendyk cruised around the final lap to take the victory. It was Luyendyk's second Indy 500 win, and he became the 16th driver to win from the pole position.

Arie Luyendyk was emotional in victory lane as he stated:

"I saw the green and white flag wave and I thought 'Hell they better know what they're doing' and I will keep doing what I've been doing. This is a lot better than my first in 1990."

His teammate Scott Goodyear was satisfied but still disappointed at the outcome:

"That's the key lap of the whole race obviously because you want to get a draft, get the guy going and lead coming out the backstretch. I don't think Arie even expected it. Overall a 1-2 finish for Treadway is a bonus but...disappointed that I didn't win."

Box score[edit]

Pos No. Driver Team Chassis Engine Tyre Laps Time/Retired Grid Laps Led Pts.
1 5 Netherlands Arie Luyendyk (W) Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile Firestone 200 3:25:43.388 1 61 37
2 6 Canada Scott Goodyear Treadway Racing G-Force Oldsmobile Firestone 200 + 0.570 5 2 33
3 52 United States Jeff Ward (R) Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 200 Running 7 49 32
4 91 United States Buddy Lazier (W) Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 200 Running 10 7 31
5 2 United States Tony Stewart Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile Firestone 200 Running 2 64 31
6 14 United States Davey Hamilton A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 199 + 1 lap 8 0 29
7 11 United States Billy Boat (R) A. J. Foyt Enterprises Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 199 + 1 lap 22 1 28
8 3 United States Robbie Buhl Team Menard G-Force Oldsmobile Firestone 199 + 1 lap 4 16 27
9 30 United States Robbie Groff (R) McCormack Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 197 + 3 laps 21 0 26
10 33 Spain Fermín Vélez Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 195 + 5 laps 29 0 25
11 12 United States Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 188 Half shaft 16 0 24
12 10 United States Mike Groff Byrd-Cunningham Racing G-Force Infiniti Firestone 188 + 12 laps 18 0 23
13 90 United States Lyn St. James Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Infiniti Firestone 186 Accident 34 0 22
14 44 United States Steve Kinser (R) Sinden Racing Services Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 185 Accident 20 0 21
15 54 United States Dennis Vitolo Beck Motorsports Dallara Infiniti Firestone 173 + 27 laps 28 0 20
16 22 Brazil Marco Greco Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 166 Gearbox 27 0 19
17 8 Italy Vincenzo Sospiri (R) Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 163 + 37 laps 3 0 18
18 9 United States Johnny Unser Hemelgarn Racing Dallara Infiniti Firestone 158 Oil pressure 35 0 17
19 18 United States Tyce Carlson (R) PDM Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 156 Accident 26 0 16
20 40 United States Jack Miller (R) Arizona Motorsports Dallara Infiniti Firestone 131 Accident 17 0 15
21 1 United States Paul Durant A. J. Foyt Enterprises G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 111 Accident 33 0 14
22 50 United States Billy Roe (R) EuroInternational Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 110 Accident 24 0 13
23 51 United States Eddie Cheever Team Cheever G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 84 Timing chain 11 0 12
24 7 Chile Eliseo Salazar Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 70 Accident 9 0 11
25 97 United States Greg Ray (R) Knapp Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 48 Water pump 30 0 10
26 27 United States Jim Guthrie Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 43 Engine 6 0 9
27 21 Colombia Roberto Guerrero Pagan Racing Dallara Infiniti Goodyear 25 Steering 19 0 8
28 28 United States Mark Dismore Kelley Racing - PDM Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 24 Accident 25 0 7
29 42 United States Robby Gordon Team SABCO G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 19 Fire 12 0 6
30 72 Canada Claude Bourbonnais (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 9 Engine 32 0 5
31 77 France Stéphan Grégoire Chastain Motorsports G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 0 Accident 13 0 4
32 17 Brazil Affonso Giaffone (R) Chitwood Motorsports Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 0 Accident 14 0 3
33 4 Sweden Kenny Bräck (R) Galles Racing G-Force Oldsmobile Goodyear 0 Accident 15 0 2
34 16 United States Sam Schmidt (R) Blueprint Racing Dallara Oldsmobile Firestone 0 Engine 23 0 1
35 34 Italy Alessandro Zampedri Team Scandia Dallara Oldsmobile Goodyear 0 Oil leak 31 0 1
Tire participation chart
Supplier No. of starters
Goodyear 20 
Firestone 15*
* - Denotes race winner

Aftermath[edit]

After the 25/8 qualifying controversy, rain delays, and bungling of the final lap by the officials, as well as the scrapping of the split-calendar IRL schedule, the 1997 Indy 500 represented a relative low-point for the then-fledgling IRL. The high attrition exposed growing pains for the new chassis and engine formula. The battle of the engine suppliers was completely one-sided, as Oldsmobile dominated, taking the top 11 finishing positions. Infiniti saw no cars in contention during most of the race.

The race also marked the end of the IRL's lucrative initial exclusive contract with ABC Sports, which was not renewed in its entirely. While the Indy 500 itself would remain on ABC, only a handful of other races would stay on the network for several years to come.

The first move to make amends was to drop the 25/8 rule permanently. Two weeks later at Texas Motor Speedway, during the inaugural True Value 500, the increasing dissatisfaction with USAC's officiating hit the boiling point. A malfunction in the electronic scoring system scored Billy Boat as the winner of the race. Meanwhile, Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk stormed in victory lane, claiming he was robbed of the victory. The following day, the error was discovered, and was another black mark on USAC's record. Two weeks later, USAC was officially relieved of the duty of sanctioning the IRL, and was replaced by an in-house effort.

On the competition side, Arie Luyendyk became the first, and to-date only, driver to win an Indy 500 both before and after the open wheel "split." Luyendyk had previously won in 1990 Indianapolis 500, at a time when most of the field consisted of CART series regulars. Luyendyk also had the distinction of winning the race with both a turbocharged (1990) and a normally aspirated (1997) engine, as well as winning a race with Goodyear and Firestone tires.

Broadcasting[edit]

Radio[edit]

The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Bob Jenkins served as chief announcer for the eighth year. Johnny Rutherford served as "driver expert," and at the start of the race, also drove the pace car. The race was heard on roughly 500 affiliates.

The crew for the 1997 race remained the same from 1996. The broadcast featured rain delay coverage on Sunday, live coverage of the start on Monday, and live coverage of the conclusion on Tuesday. All members of the crew participated on all three days. After serving as a guest booth analyst the previous two years, Chris Economaki spent all three days in the pits as a roving reporter. Economaki conducted interviews and offered observations at various points during the race. In the pit area, Mark Jaynes covered the north pits, Mike King began the race in the center pits, and Vince Welch began the race in the south pits. In the second half of the race, King and Welch shared duties in the south and center pits, focusing on the race leaders.

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

Chief Announcer: Bob Jenkins
Driver expert: Johnny Rutherford
Statistician: Howdy Bell
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Jerry Baker
Turn 2: Ken Double
Turn 3: Gary Lee
Turn 4: Bob Lamey

Chuck Marlowe (garages/hospital)
Chris Economaki (interviews/roving reporter)
Mark Jaynes (north pits)
Mike King (center pits)
Vince Welch (south pits)

Television[edit]

The race was carried live flag-to-flag coverage in the United States on ABC Sports. Paul Page served as host and play-by-play announcer. Tom Sneva joined the crew, and served as booth analyst. Bobby Unser (turn 2) and Danny Sullivan (turn 4) served as turn reporters, and this would be the final 500 on ABC for both Unser and Sullivan.

The race was scheduled for Sunday May 25, but rain postponed the start. ABC stayed on as scheduled on Sunday, and the broadcast was filled with highlights, interviews, and talk. On Monday May 26, ABC returned to broadcast the race live, preempting regularly scheduled programming. The broadcast came on-air live at 11 EDT, and featured a one-hour pre-race, mirroring the traditional Sunday broadcast format. The race started, but was halted again on lap 15 due to rain. When it was announced that the race would be postponed again, ABC signed off and returned to their regularly scheduled lineup.

On Tuesday May 27, ABC returned once again to air the remainder of the race live. Unlike a similar situation in 1986, officials decided to resume the race on Tuesday, rather than wait until Saturday. ABC again preempted their afternoon lineup, and carried the entire conclusion.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host/Announcer: Paul Page
Color : Tom Sneva
Color/Turn 2: Bobby Unser
Color/Turn 4: Danny Sullivan

Jack Arute
Gary Gerould
Dr. Jerry Punch

Practice and time trials were carried over three networks: ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2.

  • Live Daily Reports (ESPN2): Paul Page, Dave Despain, Jon Beekuis, Dr. Jerry Punch, Gary Gerould, Mike King
  • Time trials (ABC): Paul Page, Tom Sneva, Jack Arute, Gary Gerould
  • Time trials (ESPN): Dave Despain, Tom Sneva, Jack Arute, Dr. Jerry Punch, Gary Gerould
  • Time trials (ESPN2): Paul Page, Tom Sneva, Dr. Jerry Punch, Jon Beekuis, Mike King
  • Carb Day (ESPN): Dave Despain, Jon Beekuis, Dr. Jerry Punch, Mike King
  • RPM2Day at Indy (ESPN2): Kenny Mayne, Marlo Klain

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Benner, Bill (May 26, 1997). "Fans, Speedway are big losers when skies open up above track". The Indianapolis Star. p. 38. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  2. ^ Miller, Robin (May 27, 1997). "The decision not to run race on Saturday adds to the disappointment at the track". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  3. ^ Miller, Robin (May 28, 1997). "A Furious Finish". The Indianapolis Star. p. 2. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  4. ^ "IRL: Sanctioning duties assumed by IRL". Motorsport.com. 1997-06-16. Retrieved 2015-11-15. 
  5. ^ "Challenge at hand: saving the parade (part 1)". The Indianapolis Star. May 22, 1997. p. 1. Retrieved March 8, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  6. ^ "Challenge at hand: saving the parade (part 2)". The Indianapolis Star. May 22, 1997. p. 10. Retrieved March 8, 2017 – via Newspapers.com. open access publication – free to read
  7. ^ Indy Review: Complete Coverage of the IRL Racing Season. IMS Corporation: Motorbooks International Publishers & Wholesalers. 1997. ISBN 0-7603-0531-5. 
  8. ^ 1997 Daily Trackside Report for the Media. Indy 500 Publications/IMS Corporation. 1997. 
  9. ^ a b "IMS: 81st Indy 500 Entry List". Motorsport.com. 1996-04-21. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  10. ^ a b c "Dismore delighted; Bettenhausen bitter". The Indianapolis Star. 1996-04-25. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  11. ^ a b "Bettenhausen bumped... before May?". The Kokomo Tribune. 1996-04-26. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  12. ^ "Daily Trackside Report - Saturday May 3, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-03. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  13. ^ a b "Daily Trackside Report - Sunday May 4, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-04. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  14. ^ "The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 4". The Auto Channel. 1997-05-04. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  15. ^ "The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 5". The Auto Channel. 1997-05-05. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  16. ^ "Daily Trackside Report - Monday May 5, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-05. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  17. ^ a b "Daily Trackside Report - Tuesday May 6, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-06. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  18. ^ "Andretti on Andretti". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-09. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  19. ^ a b "Daily Trackside Report - Wednesday May 7, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-07. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  20. ^ a b c "Daily Trackside Report - Thursday May 8, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-08. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
  21. ^ a b c "Daily Trackside Report - Friday May 9, 1997". Motorsport.com. 1997-05-09. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
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  23. ^ "The Callahan Report from Indianapolis, May 10". The Auto Channel. 1997-05-10. Retrieved 2017-12-27. 
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Works cited[edit]

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1997 Phoenix 200
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1996 Indianapolis 500
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