Scott Goodyear has arguably one of the best resumes among non-winners at the Indianapolis 500 – and unarguably the strangest. The Canadian finished second to Al Unser Jr. by a record .043 of a second in 1992 and was second again in 1997 after a controversial final-lap restart in which track lights flashed yellow while the flagstand showed green and white flags. And then there was 1995, where Goodyear passed the pace car while leading on a late restart and was black-flagged – though he ignored the ruling and kept driving, crossing the finish line before winner Jacques Villeneuve (Goodyear was scored in 14th).
Goodyear, 54, now broadcasts Verizon IndyCar Series events for ABC/ESPN and works as an instructor for the Audi driving experience in Canada. The Toronto native, now living in Carmel, Indiana, was recently inducted into the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame and discussed that honor, how that ’92 finish was even closer and driving in the other direction at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Q: No surprise that the 2014 class in the Ontario Sports Hall of Fame has four hockey players among six inductees. How did a racecar driver end up there?
Goodyear: “I don’t know, that was the thing I said in my speech up there. I said I’m pleased for myself personally, but it’s more gratifying that Sport Canada has recognized motor racing, because I’m the first person inducted into the HOF for motor racing. I go back to when everybody was getting money from Sport Canada for Olympics and things like that, I wrote a letter in my early 20s, they sent a letter back and basically said motor racing is not recognized as a sport, we cannot contribute or help you with any expenses.
“For me to get to this point, it was pretty cool. When you’re a young kid growing up, loving hockey and knowing that you have no chance of playing hockey to make a living, then getting stuck on motor racing … to be able to go there last week and make that full circle, it brings you back to realizing how fortunate you are to make it.”
Q: What was your earliest memory of the Indianapolis 500? To make another hockey parallel, as you were growing up the buildup for the race ran in lockstep with the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Goodyear: “I followed both. I still love hockey so much that I got my Level III USA Hockey coaching certificate and I coached for seven years. I played some goalie when I was kid, so I worked with the goalies and the defense guys a little bit.
“The first time I came to the Speedway was 1974, and my dad surprised me. I was karting at the time, we still lived in Toronto, we were in a kart race in Avon, New York, just outside Buffalo. We got there Friday night, ran on Saturday, then my dad said we’re going to pack everything up. I said ‘why aren’t we going to run on Sunday?’ He goes ‘we have a special treat, we’re going to get in the car and go to a car race. But he wouldn’t tell me what it was. So we drove all night, got there real early in the morning, and I realized when we were in Indianapolis, I saw the signs on the highway. That was pretty cool. I still remember the first day I went in that place – parked in somebody’s front lawn, walked there, going on Georgetown. Still today, even when I go there, I still get a tingle in my spine.”
Q: In 1992, the margin of defeat is mentioned first but it should always be noted that you started 33rd. Did you really think you could get to where you ended?
Goodyear: “A bit of a side note on that – it was actually a little bit closer than the 43 one-thousandths. The car Al Jr. used was a Galmer, and the transponder was not mounted where the transponder was on all the other cars because there was a radiator there and pipes and other stuff, so they had to mount it in a different spot. Maybe it was Brian Barnhart who told me this story, because he was working on the car that year, and it was actually like .027 of a second, maybe even closer. Wherever it was mounted, it was six or eight inches difference.
“We had a very fast racecar, but it would not even go four, five, six laps because it had an oil problem. The car was built late, came over late. So I ended up qualifying in a backup car, the ’91 car, slower, but (owner) Derrick Walker wanted to at least get a car in the field in case it rained the next weekend. So we got a car in the field, fixed the other car, and had to start dead last. “We were doing the race in ’06 when Hornish beat Marco (by .0635 of a second). It’s amazing that (the record) has gone on this long, especially as competitive as the cars are today, as close as they race. In our era, it wasn’t uncommon for somebody to lead by 15, 20 seconds, almost a lap. So from that standpoint, it’s pretty cool. It sort of cements you in history. If we had instead won by .043 of a second, it would have been so cool to come from dead last.”
Q: With 1995, I can only imagine what that would have been like in this era, with people going on Twitter and debating in real time. How crazy was it in the immediate aftermath?
Goodyear: Complete disbelief. I still remember Steve Horne, who ran the team, calm, cool and collected, he gets on (radio), ‘Scott, they say that you passed the pace car and you need to come in for a drive through.’ I pushed my finger on the radio button, ‘I’m not coming in.’ It takes me back to karting days – if you got a penalty, if you were deemed to have done something wrong and you came in for the black flag, back then they didn’t give stop-and-go (penalties), you stopped. If you were leading, winning, you were 24th or how many karts were in there, you’re dead last. So to me, there was no sense in coming in because, first off, I didn’t think I did anything wrong, and second off, if I did and go back out, then where I am going to finish? If you’re not winning, there’s no sense in second or third, you’re not there. When you’re only there for one purpose, it absolutely makes no sense. Steve calmly pushed the button, ‘OK, then.’ We were all calm, cool collected. Just in disbelief.
“The confirmation for the disbelief was coming down, leading the race in the last lap and then coming up to the flagstand and them not waving the checkered flag, then coming in, not going in victory circle. Didn’t agree with it then and don’t agree with it now. I like to always say in ’92 I finished second because I raced to second, in ’97 I finished second because I raced to second, Arie was faster, I’m not sure I would have passed him. And ’95 is the one I don’t agree with and probably never will, but it’s all in the history books now.”
Q: Do you still have this grill?
Goodyear: “No, no, I don’t (laughs). And Eddie, that is ironic. Eddie and I arrived at Indianapolis in 1990, and the way he would drive, in Formula One manner, if he drafted you and passed you, he’d pull in front of you and take the air off you and you’d be going like this (jerking the wheel). Everybody talked to him about it, I talked to him about it, and it continued on.
“In 1990, after Indy we went to Detroit a couple weeks later and we’re leaving the pit lane, Friday morning, first session, nobody’s been on the track, I go down and am going around a turn and here he comes in full Formula One manner, turns it sideways and goes across in front of me and drives across my front wing and breaks it. So I go around, up a hill a little bit, make a right and then another right, and here he is over to the side with a flat tire. After practice I talk to him, ‘dude, what is with that?’ ‘What’s with what?’ ‘You ran over my wing and you broke my wing.’ ‘That wasn’t me, you must have hit something.’ ‘No. How do you get a flat tire?’ ‘I must have run over something on the track.’ I go, ‘yeah, that was my wing!” and at that point onwards, we didn’t talk to each other for seven years, until we started racing IRL in 1997 at Texas, the high banks over there. He comes up to me, ‘hey, I know we don’t like each other, but we need to be nice to each other or at least respectful of each other around this place or we’re going to kill each other.’ I remember it. I put out my hand, ‘so you’re admitting you were wrong?’ he goes (pulls hand back) and I go, ‘that’s fine.’ Then we started being able to talk. “The end result, he approached me to drive for him at Indy in 2001, through his team manager, Dick Caron. Lo and behold, now I’m with him in television. We still get on each other’s case.”
Q: You drove earlier this year at Indianapolis in the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational pro-am. How much fun was that?
Goodyear: It was fun, but I realized how out of shape I am. It was weird – I came to Brian Barnhart and said, I just want to go out on the track, see the lefts and the rights and all that stuff while they were doing the IndyCar Grand Prix. I’m doing television for it, I just said I want to see where this is. So I’m driving the pace car, out of Gasoline Alley, and I automatically go left. He reached over, ‘no, go right,’ – so that was a first. So I turn right, going north, going up the wrong way, to me. To come out of Turn 4 and see the stands over here and the Pagoda and the pylon (on the passenger side) when you’ve been doing it for so long, was real weird. But had a lot of fun.”