Foyt exits early, hints of one more year

May 27, 1991|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,The Evening Sun

INDIANAPOLIS -- A.J. Foyt drove down pit road to waves o cheers. He put his red-gloved left hand in the air and waved.

It wasn't the way Foyt had planned it. This is supposed to be hilast Indianapolis 500, and it wasn't victory lane he was heading for.

It was the garage. And the race still had 175 laps to go.

"Well, I thought I'd give those people a salute," he said, after hi28th- place finish. "I saw their signs, 'We love you, A.J.', 'Give 'em hell, A.J.' and this and that. I just felt I owed them a salute. You know, I was fine and I knew I was out of the race, so I just gave 'em a salute."

He was fine. But only just.

A bad pit stop on lap 19, when the air jack wouldn't work, threhim half a lap behind the leaders.

That in itself wasn't so bad, but when Kevin Cogan's GliddePaints Special pushed into the side of Roberto Guerrero's Alfa Romeo on Lap 23, Foyt was in the wrong place.

Debris from the crash flew into the infield and into Foyt's path othe track.

"A piece of suspension or wheel fell right in front of me," Foyt said. "I just had no place to go. I thought at first, it was going to come in the cockpit with me. . . . I'm just glad it hit where it did and didn't hit about two feet farther back. If it had, I probably

wouldn't be talking to you now."

Guerrero could talk after the accident, but Cogan couldn't.

Cogan, an 11-year veteran who has had more than his share omishaps here, suffered serious injuries.

Cogan, who underwent about six hours of surgery late yesterdaafternoon, has fractures of the right upper arm, the right forearm and the right thigh.

Speedway spokesman Bill York said Cogan would remain in post-op recovery until at least 8 a.m. He said each of Cogan's fractures were operated on.

"We were racing side by side for the whole lap," said Guerrero. "left him the same amount of room I had in turns two, three and four. I was a little ahead going into turn one. All of a sudden, I felt a little bump in the back, and that was it. I was just along for the ride."

As for Foyt, who received a call before the race from PresidenBush, he would not talk definitively about the end of his Indianapolis 500 career.

"I've said it's my last and try to stand by it," he said after Mearhad won a fourth 500 to tie Foyt and Al Unser as the all-time winningest drivers here. "But, well, I'm going to talk to my sponsors. Maybe I could just run this big race. I really think I have one more win left in me."

* Rookie Willy T. Ribbs met Vice President Dan Quayle, got a hug from Marilyn Quayle and became the first black to start the Indianapolis 500.

But the ride was a short one.

Ribbs managed six laps before engine failure put him in the pitand out of the race. He finished 32nd out of 33.

"It felt wonderful," said Ribbs immediately after climbing out ohis car. "It was like a dream. It was a dream. All the support I've had from all the people here. I can't tell you how fantastic it has been. This has been the greatest experience of my life."

Ribbs said he and his McDonald's/Walker/Cosby team hope "tgo on to all the Indy Car races . . . and we'll definitely be back next year."

The start, he described as fun, "like a Chinese fire drill."

Later, back in his garage, he talked of the disappointing finish.

"My heart sank when I couldn't get the car up to speed," he said. "But it was something you have to be prepared for. I was prepared for it with all the problems we had all month [five blown engines].

"It was very difficult to take, but it happens in this sport. All kindof things happen. You have accidents, injured players, broken cars, a lot of things go wrong. I'm not the only driver out of the

race."

* Can anyone believe Gordon Johncock? The 55-year-old, whlast won here in 1982, started last yesterday and finished sixth.

Not impressed? Add to it that Johncock spent most of Saturdanight in the hospital suffering with the flu and was a doubtful starter right up to race time, and the performance is even more notable.

"I never thought about pulling out of the race and being sick,Johncock said. "I've felt better, but once I got in the car, I didn't think about it. Who knows, if we could have run another 500 miles today, we might have won."

Pole winners

Here are the drivers who have won the Indy 500 from the pole position:

1922 Jimmy Murphy

1923 Tommy Milton

1930 Billy Arnold

1938 Floyd Roberts

1953 Bill Vukovich

1956 Pat Flaherty

1963 Parnelli Jones

1970 Al Unser

1976 Johnny Rutherford

1979 Rick Mears

1980 Johnny Rutherford

1981 Bobby Unser

1988 Rick Mears

1991 Rick Mears

Note: Mears' victory in 1984 came from outside of front row.

Winners

#

1911: Ray Harroun

1912: Joe Dawson

1913: Jules Goux

1914: Rene Thomas

1915: Ralph DePalma

1916: Dario Resta

1917: No race,

World War I

1918: No race,

World War I

1919: Howard Wilcox

1920: Gaston Chevrolet

1921: Tommy Milton

1922: Jimmy Murphy

1923: Tommy Milton

1924: L.L.Corum

and Joe Boyer

1925: Pete DePaolo

1926: Frank Lockhart

1927: George Souders

1928: Louis Meyer

1929: Ray Keech

1930: Billy Arnold

1931: Louis Schneider

1932: Fred Frame

1933: Louis Meyer

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