From the start, Indy takes on odd spin Pole sitter Guerrero begins parade of mishaps, going out before first lap

May 25, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indianapolis 500 made a spectacle of itself yesterday.

It started with pole sitter Roberto Guerrero spinning into the inside wall on the back straight on the parade lap, and it continued throughout the race.

"It wasn't racing," said Eddie Cheever, who was driving one of 12 cars running at the finish. "It was just stop-and-gos, yellows, accidents. It was terrible, terrible, terrible. It was just very difficult heat up the tires."

Rookies and 20-year veterans, no one was safe yesterday in the 52-degree temperatures that prevented tires and engines from warming up.

"I don't know what to say," said Guerrero. "There is no describing how I feel right now -- I'm disappointed beyond belief. I'd had a perfect month until now. It hurts really bad to see it end like this."

His car was handling well when the parade lap started, he said.

"I was ready to get started,"

Guerrero said. "I believe it was a combination of cold tires, cold track and too much power."

When he spun and crashed himself out of the race, it meant the Indianapolis 500 would start without a pole sitter for the first time.

No one had crashed on the parade lap before, though Tom Sneva, who was starting seventh, crashed on the pace lap in 1986, just before taking the green flag.

Most of May had been warm here. The last practice session had been run Thursday on a humid, 90-degree day. But Saturday night was cold, and, yesterday, the temperatures never got above 52.

"The tires were rock hard," said race winner Al Unser Jr. "I saw Guerrero's accident. He was warming up his engine and gave it a little too much. On a hot day or a normal day, the car would have stuck fine. . . . After I saw that, I was extremely careful."

When a series of early crashes kept the cars running under caution, drivers began telling their pits they were having trouble warming their engines and tires, and even themselves.

"I can't remember a race day this cold ever," said Al Unser Sr., who has been part of 26 years of racing here. "The tires did what they were supposed to do. But hard racing and the cold took its toll."

By race's end, the Turn 4 wall displayed an eerie graphic: a series of perfect imprints of tire wheels followed by long, black streaks of rubber.

Fourteen drivers were involved in crashes yesterday. Three of them -- Mario Andretti (crushed toes), Jeff Andretti (concussion and injuries to both ankles and feet) and Jimmy Vasser (fractured right thigh bone) -- were taken to Methodist Hospital and were to have undergone surgery last night.

There were 13 caution flags, one short of the 1988 record.

Yesterday, during those 13 cautions, the green and yellow flags appeared on the same lap six times. Three times, the yellow appeared as cars still were coming out of Turn 4, approaching the green flag at the start-finish line.

Cheever expressed little sympathy for those who blamed the cold weather for problems.

"There are two pedals in the car: one on the right makes you go fast, the one on the left helps you go slower," he said. "It's your choice how fast you want to go. . . . It wasn't that cold. You had to decide the option how you wanted to start. It was very tricky, and it caught a lot of people out. It almost caught me out, too."

Crunch time

8,

Crashes yesterday during the Indy 500:

Driver .. .. .. .. .. Lap Description .. .. .. .. .. Injury

Roberto Guerrero .. .. 0 Spun into infield .. .. .. .. None

Tom Sneva .. .. .. .. 11 Hit wall at Turn 4 .. .. Bruised feet, hip, chest

Philippe Gache .. .. 64 Hit wall at Turn 1 .. .. .. .. Bruised foot

Stan Fox .. .. .. .. 64 Hit Gache .. .. .. .. .. .. .. None

Jim Crawford .. .. .. 76 Hit wall at Turn 1 .. .. .. Fractured foot

Rick Mears .. .. .. ..76 Hit Crawford .. .. .. .. .. Cut on knee

Emerson Fittipaldi .. 76 Hit wall at Turn 1 .. .. Puncture wound on knee

Mario Andretti .. .. 79 Hit wall at Turn 4 .. .. .. Five broken toes*

Jimmy Vasser .. .. .. 95 Hit wall at Turn 1 .. .. .. .. Broken thigh*

Brian Bonner .. .. .. 98 Hit wall at Turn 4 .. .. .. .. Bruised foot

Jeff Andretti .. .. .. 110 Hit wall at Turn 2 .. .. .. Broken feet, ankles* Gary Bettenhausen .. ..113 Hit wall at Turn 2 .. .. .. .. None

Arie Luyendyk .. .. .. 136 Hit wall at Turn 4 .. .. .. .. Bruised ankle

*-Requires surgery

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