Accidents in restarts miff Rahal Indy 500 notes

May 26, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS -- A day after one of the most accident-ridden Indianapolis 500s in history, driver Bobby Rahal voiced embarrassment at the performance of his peers.

"If I was chief steward Tom Binford, I'd ask these guys why they couldn't restart a race," Rahal said, as he headed toward his garage to oversee the packing of equipment.

There were 13 caution flags during Sunday's Indianapolis 500. Six of them saw the green flag given for a restart, followed by a yellow caution flag, denoting an accident before the entire field had made it to the starting line.

"It's kind of embarrassing, frankly, to my profession," said Rahal, who finished sixth. "It couldn't be exciting for the fans watching cars roll around at 40 mph. The cold weather didn't help, but they [the drivers] should know the situation exists."

Sunday's 500 was run in the coldest temperatures in race history, around 52 degrees throughout.

Many drivers attributed the numerous accidents to cold weather preventing the race tires from warming up and gripping the track.

But Rahal didn't buy it, and Michael Andretti said he thought about it a lot during a night at the hospital with his injured father, Mario, and brother, Jeff.

"No way was Dad's accident caused by cold tires," Andretti said. "His car and my car were exactly the same, and I know how well-planted my car was. It had to be something that went wrong, and I think most of those crashes were caused by cut tires, not cold ones.

"There was so much debris out there, I can almost guarantee that it was debris. When you're going slow, you don't know if a tire is cut. The USAC crews did a great job cleaning up, but it's impossible to clean up all the carbon fiber chips flying around out there after a crash."

* Eddie Cheever, who was penalized a lap for passing under a yellow flag when Al Unser Jr. reported the infraction, was moved from sixth to fourth in the final standings yesterday.

"We restored his lap, because the two drivers he passed [John Andretti and Raul Boesel] came to us and said they waved him past," said Binford.

The change in scoring also advanced A.J. Foyt from 10th to ninth and moved John Paul Jr. from ninth to 10th.

* Lyn St. James, only the second woman to compete in the Indy 500, was named Rookie of the Year. She was the highest-finishing rookie in Sunday's race, in 11th place, and the only rookie still running at the end of the race.

* The Indy 500 has been run on May 24 only three times. Each time, it has been won by a member of the Unser family: Bobby in 1981, Al in 1987 and Al Jr. on Sunday.

* Rookie Jimmy Vasser underwent surgery to repair his broken right thighbone Sunday night. He is in good condition, and if there are no further complications, he is expected to be released in a few days.

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