Rookies lap up top positions at Indy First-year drivers take 6 spots in first 12

May 25, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

INDIANAPOLIS -- Before this Indianapolis 500, veteran drivers talked about their need to beware of the eight rookies in the field. And the talk was right, but maybe not the way the veterans meant it.

The rookies had a day, taking six of the top 12 spots.

Rookie Steve Knapp, who started 23rd, drove a wonderful race and finished third, one of just three drivers on the lead lap.

"The team did a super job, and the car was really good," said Knapp, 34, who started his career in 1985 in the Sports Car Club of America's Formula Vee class. "It's been a blast. Our goal was to come here and try to be Rookie of the Year. I thought I might have had a chance to win, but I couldn't go flat out in Turn 1."

Rookie Robby Unser, son of three-time 500 winner Bobby Unser, nephew of four-time winner Al Unser and cousin to two-time 500 winner Al Unser Jr., said his experience was "the funnest I've ever had" after coming home fifth.

Andy Michner came from 19th to finish eighth, and J. J. Yeley, the fastest rookie in the field, recovered from a spin in the first turn of the first lap to finish ninth. Rookies Jimmy Kite and Jack Hewitt took 11th and 12th place, respectively.

Broken bones

Veteran driver Jim Guthrie hit the third-turn wall head on during a multiple crash on Lap 48 and finished 29th.

Guthrie, 36, was entering the turn when a wing off another car slammed down on him and sent his car out of control into the wall.

He was in good condition at Methodist Hospital last night after undergoing surgery to repair damage in his right elbow. He also has cracked ribs, a broken left leg and leg lacerations. His recovery is expected to take four to six weeks.

Also involved in the crash were Sam Schmidt, Mark Dismore, Stan Wattles and Billy Roe.

Luyendyk cooks clutch

Defending 500 champion Arie Luyendyk, who finished 20th, developed a gear-box problem early in the race, losing first gear. But he stunned his crew by keeping the car in the top three, and sometimes in the lead spot, until he "cooked the clutch" leaving pit road on Lap 151.

"My car got really, really good as the race went on," said Luyendyk, a two-time 500 winner. "But I knew, sooner or later, the clutch would give me a problem."

Foyt frustrated

Veteran car owner A. J. Foyt ended up trashing a computer in his pits yesterday, when it helped miscalculate the fuel supply while outside pole-sitter Kenny Brack was leading the race.

Brack ended with a pretty good run, however, coming home in sixth place, while his teammate Billy Boat, the pole-sitter, ran into gearbox troubles and finished 23rd.

Goodyear? Next year

Scott Goodyear, driving for the Pennzoil Panther team, whose ownership group includes Baltimore Ravens quarterback Jim Harbaugh, ran into trouble early and finished 24th.

"We lost the clutch for some reason," said Goodyear, who discovered the problem on Lap 25 while running fourth. "I'm not really sure why or how."

Pub Date: 5/25/98

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