Ask Donald Davidson: Stacked Indianapolis 500 fields and room on the Borg-Warner

Published On November 12, 2014 » 4654 Views» By Donald Davidson » Ask Donald Davidson, Blogs, IMS, IMS History, Indy 500

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I say the 1993 “500” had the most driver talent of any before or since. What is your opinion of the best drivers in a single race? – Michael Grant, via Facebook

Obviously that is a matter of opinion and we have always tried to be careful not to offend anyone with ours, especially on something like this because of it simply being just that – a matter of opinion. And any views we might have personally on this particular issue are pretty much based on accomplishments rather than assessment of talent, because we have long felt that only the drivers, and perhaps the crew chiefs, are in any position to judge raw talent. The drivers have a perspective and an understanding that we don’t and I have always been fascinated by some of the views expressed privately, most drivers not caring to “go public” out of respect for their colleagues.

Former winners Al Unser (center) and Tom Sneva (right) were among the 10 former champions in 1992. Gary Bettenhausen (left) made his 20th start in 1992.

Former winners Al Unser (center) and Tom Sneva (right) were among the 10 former champions in 1992. Gary Bettenhausen (left) made his 20th start in 1992.

Having said that, we would respectfully suggest that, in terms of accomplishments on the track, the 1992 field might have the edge over 1993 for while 1993 did have six former winners – including four-time victor Al Unser in his final start – 1992 boasted a record ten former winners – nearly one-third of the entire field – with A.J. Foyt and Rick Mears joining Big Al to present all three of history’s four-time winners in the same lineup. Not only that, but there were three future winners in there as well. One unique aspect of the 1993 field is that it included no less than four former World Champions, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet joining Mario Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi from previous years. In terms of the accomplishments of drivers past present and future in any year, we would also respectfully offer up 1967. Not only did we have Foyt, Andretti, Parnelli, Al and Bobby Unser, Rutherford, Ruby, Johncock, McCluskey, Dallenbach, Leonard, McElreath and others, but also Gurney, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Graham Hill, Jochen Rindt and Denis Hulme (all at their peak), plus even Cale Yarborough and Lee Roy Yarbrough. We feel that one takes some beating, but appreciate the fact that not everyone will agree.

How many spots are left on the Borg-Warner Trophy for winners’ heads? Will they add another platform to it to accommodate?—Doris Patton Frisse, via Facebook

In fact, the trophy itself filled up in 1986, after which a base was built for further faces to be affixed. When the final space on the base was filled in 2004, a larger one was created to take its place, this one having enough spaces to take us up through 2034!

Bobby Rahal was the last "500" champion to be placed on the original Borg-Warner Trophy, after his 1986 win. Subsequent winners' faces were placed on bases below the trophy.

Bobby Rahal was the last “500” champion to be placed on the original Borg-Warner Trophy, after his 1986 win. Subsequent winners’ faces were placed on bases below the trophy.

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Donald Davidson

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Historian Donald Davidson, based at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, developed a passionate interest in the Indianapolis 500 as a teenager in England. Arriving at IMS in 1964, he delighted the racing community with his ability to recite year-by-year accounts of participants’ careers. Returning permanently in 1965, he was invited by Sid Collins to join the worldwide IMS Radio Network and was hired by Henry Banks as USAC statistician, remaining at USAC for almost 32 years. He was named Indianapolis Motor Speedway historian in 1998. Along with numerous television and radio assignments, raconteur Davidson has played host to the popular call-in radio show “The Talk of Gasoline Alley” on 1070 AM in Indianapolis during the month of May continuously since 1971. His writing credits include countless historical articles and columns, a pair of “500” annuals in 1974 and ‘75 and co-authorship with Rick Shaffer of the acclaimed “Autocourse Official History of the Indianapolis 500,” published in 2006.
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