Paired – last front engine to win, first rear engine to win

Published On February 23, 2011 » 4323 Views» By Donald Davidson » Blogs, Gasoline Alley Unplugged
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Paired – last front engine to win, first rear engine to win

Paired – last front engine to win, first rear engine to win

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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.
17 comments
David Marxer
David Marxer

If you compare the photos of roadsters from the late 50s and early 60s with Foyt's '64 winner, you can see how they tried very hard to squeeze the last ounce of speed out of the front engine design---note the width of the tires and how low the car sits. My all time favorite race cars side by side---just like my models in the display case!

Ron
Ron

I was at both races. I'll never forget the sound of that rear engine (Ford V8 I believe) Clark was driving. Very high pitched wine. You knew when he was coming around the corner.

Dennis Johansen
Dennis Johansen

and the methods of cleaning up debris has changed as well as the procedure for extracating drivers. Used to simply grab the driver and drag him out. No back board, no neck collar...just pull him out. Couldnt work today but it fit the bill back in the day racenut....Progress....Danica with Juds arms.....ROFLMAO.....both her legs together arent that big.....back when tires were skinny and drivers were ...lets say wide track :)

Racenutdon
Racenutdon

Danica with Jud Larson's arms is NOT a pretty picture. I'm sure that carbon fiber clean ups can be more tedious and time consuming than picking up sheet metal.

Dennis Johansen
Dennis Johansen

Steve: The YELLOW waved in 1965....... Only one, maybe two times. Tinglestad crashed and the yellow did come out. I do remember ALL of our pit stops were under the green.

Dennis Johansen
Dennis Johansen

RACENUT....Better drivers equalled fewer yellows...just kidding. With roadsters, it was easier for drivers to "save " as they could feel the car getting loose and were able to respond....Today, the cars simply "SNAP" and the drivers do not have as much time to react. Drivers used to drive the S*#t out of those old dirt cars and roadsters but today it is like being on a string stretched to the limit and when it snaps...there is no saving it...unless your lucky. I believe drivers from the past were tough, runner down in there as hard as you could and wrestle it through whether or not it was working good or not...many a driver "scared" it into the 500..Todays drivers do noy have that option as much...Its like they are on a string. One thing for sure...Danicant, Sarah, and the other two could not have done it simply due to the physical aspect. Can you imagine Danica with arms as big as Jud Larsens? It was REALLY GOOD back then. I miss those days and especially those people. Primadonnas were not allowed!!!!

Racenutdon
Racenutdon

The race I was thinking about in the above post was the 2000 event. The first caution didn't come out until the 67th lap. The pole winners finished last in 2000 and 2001. Greg Ray followed by Scott Sharp. Greg Ray drove farther than any last place finisher ever. Sharp didn't make it through turn #2 of the first lap.

Rick Wampler
Rick Wampler

2 great cars....... What a great photo...........the Yard of Bricks, winner's circle, a little bit of the Pagoda, the white start / finish line along with last year's Brickyard 400 burnout celebration rubber still on the track. Tower Terrace seating section with the 100th Era decals on the windows of the Media Center........ GOSH, I LOVE THIS PLACE. They should be announcing what this year's tickets will look like soon, oh yeah.......loved your information too Donald along with reading all of the other postings and I agree with Dennis about 33 offy's heading toward that start line......however I am grateful to be able to be standing at my seat on the start / finish line and watch, feel and hear those 33 Honda engines heading toward that start line..... I JUST LOVE THAT PLACE !!!! rick

Racenutdon
Racenutdon

On this website many of the box scores from years ago show zero cautions. That must be an oversight. I appreciate the insightful answers. Is it May yet? I think in'98 the race when past 50 laps before the first caution. I had high hopes of a caution free event.

Steve
Steve

Good question racenut, that speed is pretty impressive. I looked up the stats for '65 and Clark qualified at 160mph and there were no yellows during the race! I never knew that ever happened in the 500 well, since yellow flags and yellow laps were used and recorded). I did know that there has never been a race where at least one driver was eliminated due to accident (there were in fact many races where only one or two cars dropped out from wrecks) and '65 was no exception as Bud Tinglestad is listed as dropping out due to an accident on lap 115. How that's possible without a yellow flag, heck if I know- ask Donald!

Chris Blackwell
Chris Blackwell

Yellow flag rules were very different in those days compared to now. I think in 1965 specifically there were only 2 caution periods, both for minor incidents, so they were very short as well. When the yellow did come out, the cars only had to slow down to somewhere in the 100-120 mph range, and more importantly keep their distance from the car directly ahead of them. There was no packing up behind the pace car like there is now, that only began in 1979. Also, if a car stalled on the track, it simply pulled off into the grass and parked while the green flag stayed out. That policy changed after an accident in 1971 in which Mike Mosley plowed into some parked cars next to the inside wall coming out of turn 4. That's why average race speeds were so consistently high back then compared to qualifying speeds-- the winner's 500-mile average would typically be only about 10 mph slower, give or take a few. After the rules were changed in the 1970s as mentioned above, the race averages began to fluctuate more wildly from year to year.

Racenutdon
Racenutdon

How was it possible that just 2 years after Parnelli went 150mph in qualifying that Jim Clark AVERAGED over 150mph for the race distance? Indy Cars have been running north of 200mph for over 30 years and the fastest Indy 500 ever run is 185mph. I know that if a mouse farts on the backstretch they wave the yellow these days. Were cautions that much more infrequent "back in the day?" I know there were cautions, but what was the threshhold?

Dennis Johansen
Dennis Johansen

I feel sorry for those who never got to see the roadsters run at the Speedway. There is nothing like the sound of 33 offy s comming down the staightawy for the green. A car doent know where the engine is placed in the car, front or reat engine, just as the motor doesnt know if it is sideways, upside down or.... If the technology of today were to be used , a front engine car would be just as fast as a rear engine. Foyts winning car, a Watson was driven in 63 by Ebb Rose. I still wish more american oval track drivers, midgets, sprint cars and champ cars, had more opportunities to run the Speedway. It would make oval short track racing more popular and maybe get car owners to give more drivers from the United States to run. PLUS..it would bring back the attitude of the American short track driver to be more fan friendly and not "hide" from the public in their plastic enclosed golf carts. I guess I m just one of those as my old friend called us, "old sillies" who remember how good it was.....right..my old friend???? I love the Speedway,,,its in my heart and soul.

Dean
Dean

The Ford-Lotus 38 (pictured) is very important to the Indy 500 for its win, but so is the Ford-Lotus 29 also driven by Clark to a 2nd place finish in '63, providing serious consideration, IMO, to foment the switch to rear engine cars we see today.

DJ Blythe
DJ Blythe

Never thought I'd see these two bookends in the same frame. Thanks to all who made it happen!

Ken
Ken

I love all these historical background stories

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