During the long, heroic and sometimes
heart-breaking history of “The Greatest
Spectacle in Racing” there had never been
anything like this. The white flag is flying,
the grandstands are shaking, the ABC
announcers are screaming and the 66th
Indy 500 has come down to the last lap.
Gordon Johncock, the hard-driving
veteran who lived on the limit, and Rick
Mears, the cool, calculating assassin who
always knew when to pounce, were
side-by-side as they barreled into Turn 1
to decide the most pulsating finish ever.
And that had been a highly unlikely
scenario with just 14 laps left...
Johncock owned an 11-second lead over
Mears, thanks to their final pit stops in which
the former got a quick splash of fuel after
Mears got balked and lost valuable time.
Even though Mears had won the pole
and led the most laps in Roger Penske’s
sleek PC- 10, he found himself hopelessly
behind the 1973 Indy winner. But then
Johncock picked up a push and “The
Rocket” picked up the pace. He was
gaining a second a lap on the leader and,
with four laps to go, Jim McKay and Sam
Posey suddenly raised their voices.
“Mears is catching and closing fast, he’s
ONE WILD FINISH
only two seconds behind,” yelled McKay as
you could hear the crowd’s roar on TV.
As they crossed the yard of bricks to
begin the final lap, Mears pulled alongside
Johncock to complete his amazing
comeback. But Gordy never lifted going into
Turn 1 and Rick, low on the apron, lost the
front end and skated toward the wall. He got
his Penske under control and made a last
gasp drafting attempt as they stormed to
the line – but lost by a car length, or 0.16sec.
“I wasn’t sure what was going to happen,
but I wasn’t backing off,” said Johncock
after the closest, wildest and most riveting
Indianapolis 500 finish ever.
(TOP) Nine years after his first win, Johncock
celebrates again. (ABOVE) A lengthy last fuel
stop left Mears 11sec back with 14 laps to go.
66th Indianapolis 500
Rick Mears, 207.004mph
Gordon Johncock, 138.767mph
Second: Rick Mears
Winning margin: 0.16sec
Lead changes: 16 among 6 drivers
(MAIN) Gordon Johncock
takes the checkered flag to
win his second Indy 500 as
Rick Mears spectacular
fightback falls just short.