Lap 199 of the 1989 Indianapolis 500:
Fittipaldi has caught a big slide, Unser
has caught the wall in the biggest possible
manner, and a sensational chapter in the
history of Indy – and al Jr. – has been
written. (INSe T) Victim applauds victor –
not what most onlookers expected.
believe, was my best drive in my 19 starts at Indy. The Indy 500 is all about going fast enough to stay on the lead lap, but also protecting your equipment, making sure you don’t run into anybody and no one runs into you, and fine-tuning the handling for the final stint. As the race went on, that’s what I was doing. I was just running the laps, probably just made one or two wing adjustments the entire race. I ran with the turbo boost turned down, so I was also making great fuel mileage and not taking any chances. In fact, I remember at one point during the race, I was running about 10sec ahead of Michael [Andretti] and Emmo who were the leaders, and they were really going at it and Rick Galles came over the radio and said, “Al, the leaders are getting a little close to putting you down a lap.” So I hit the radio button and said, “You want me to pick it up a bit?” and Rick said, “Yeah, let’s see some more room there.” So in just three laps I extended that gap to 20sec, and radioed, “Are you happy now?” “Oh yeah, oh yeah, we’re happy now” was the reply. BH So you were well aware of what you had underneath you,
and what you had in reserve.
AU Yeah, exactly. So we had worked it to where I had made my
final stop, and I was in second, about 20sec behind Emmo. Had
it gone green all the way to the end, he’d have come in, and I’d
have been the one in the lead by about 20sec. But right before
Emerson’s stop, there was a yellow, and there was no closing of
the pits in those days. It happened just as Emerson was going
into Turn 3 and so he got in, made his stop and came out right
in front of me. I thought, “Oh hell, now I have to race this guy,”
and I wound up the boost.
We were about fourth and fifth in line, with lapped cars in
“every other race I did was to make me
a better driver at Indy.” (BeLOW) On
his way to his first IrOc title in ’86.
front of the pair of us, and when we got
the green, he went through them
bang-bang-bang, real quick. I was a little
slower, but then with five laps to go I
caught up and just flat passed him and I
think it surprised him. I started pulling
away but then we came up on lapped
traffic, the thing I was dreading the most.
I timed it pretty good for taking them
down the back straight, but coming out
of Turn 2, Emerson came back at me.
I didn’t even look in my mirror to see if
he was there, and he was so close that
when I whipped out from behind the
backmarker, Emmo and I almost touched.
BH Yeah, I remember. And there were no
spotters in those days.
ISC archives/Getty Images
AU Right. So he’s alongside me, but as we
pass the lapped traffic, I start pulling in
front of him again. I had one more
backmarker still to clear, but if I’d stayed
in the throttle and done that, I’d have
had to pass him on the outside of the
short chute between Turns 3 and 4, and
I thought that was a risk too far. So I got
out of the throttle and when I did that,
it was Emerson’s chance to attack.
He went down low, and when I got out
of the gas, he appeared on my left. I went,
“Oh s***!” and straightened up a little
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