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In 1982 Variety Ruled At Indianapolis

A young rookie named Chip Ganassi drove this ex-Mario Andretti 1981 Wildcat XVIII-Cosworth at Indianapolis in 1982. The young rookie started the race in the fourth row and ended up 15th due to losing an engine after 147-laps. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

 

They say variety is the spice of life.  Today’s racing fans bemoan the lack of variety of race cars in many of main racing series. Spec cars at Daytona, spec cars at Indianapolis. Sure, there are some slight differences, different engines, front valences, etc. Go back to Indianapolis in May of 1982, and you’ll see arguably the last gasp of great diversity seen in open wheel racing on a national level.

Gordon Johncock’s STP-Patrick Racing Wildcat XIIIB-Cosworth (notice the difference in noses compared to the Ganassi car) and Rick Mears Gould Charge Penske PC10-Cosworth will be forever remembered for their epic battle for the lead in the latter stages of the 1982 Indianapolis 500.  Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Gordon Johncock’s STP-Patrick Racing Wildcat XIIIB-Cosworth (notice the difference in noses compared to the Ganassi car) and Rick Mears Gould Charge Penske PC10-Cosworth will be forever remembered for their epic battle for the lead in the latter stages of the 1982 Indianapolis 500. Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Over eight chassis types made the Greatest Spectacle in Racing (Wildcat, Penske, March, Longhorn, Chaparral, Eagle, Lightning and Interscope).  From those eight chassis types there were also subsets which included  Wildcat (Mk VIII, Mk VIII-B) March (82C, 82x and 81C) and Penske (PC-10, PC-9B).  The All-American Racers built 1981 Eagles in which six qualified had three different power plants, a two stock-block based (Chevrolet and Milodon) and the more conventional Cosworth-powered. The amount of variety of cars that did not qualify are spectacular. Over two dozen ground-effect and older flat-bottom styled cars made it to the track but failed to qualify or did not make a qualifying run. Close to a dozen older Penske PC7-Cosworths failed to achieve the necessary speed as did several March-Cosworths.  Also missing the race included several 1981 Eagles and a lone 1980 Eagle. Several one off chassis such as the unique stock block-powered Eagle Aircraft DW-2 and the Jackie Howerton-built Swingler cars generated considerable buzz from the railbirds but lacked the necessary speed to make the highly competitive field.  A few relics from the past such as an original flat-bottom Lightning chassis, a McLaren M24 and Grant King built PC7 copy also missed the race. 1982 saw the one of the last Offenhauser-powered cars to make an appearance when Rusty Schmidt practiced in the Vollstedt-Offy flat bottom car.

The race is remembered for the fantastic battle over the last ten laps between wily veteran and eventual winner Gordon Johncock in his Wildcat VIII-Cossworth and a young Rick Mears in his Penske Racing needle-nosed Penske PC10-Cosworth.  Two drivers from very different backgrounds.  Just as the cars were different and varied, so were the drivers.  A dozen came from what was considered the traditional way, via the dirt tracks of America and eventually through the United States Auto Club (USAC).   About 17 came from a road racing background in which many also drove in the old Super-Vee series which was a major stepping stone to Indy Cars in the late-1970’s-early 1980’s. The rest, such as brothers Rick and Roger Mears came from non-traditional routes such as off-road racing.

Sadly, those fans who are in their early forties and older are the only ones that may remember this memorable time in Indy Car racing.

 

Indianapolis 500-Mile Race
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
2.5 Mile Paved Oval
200 Laps/500 Miles
May 29, 1982

Finish Start Driver Car # Sponsor/Name Chassis Engine Laps Status Points
1 5 Gordon Johncock 20 STP Oil Treatment Wildcat 8B Cosworth 200 3:05:09.14 162.026 1,000
2 1 Rick Mears 1 Gould Charge Penske PC-10 Cosworth 200 3:05:09.3 800
3 10 Pancho Carter 3 Alex Foods March 82X Cosworth 199 Flagged
4 7 Tom Sneva 7 Texaco Star March 82C Cosworth 197 Engine 600
5 16 Al Unser 10 Longhorn Racing Longhorn LR-03 Cosworth 197 Flagged
6 8 Don Whittington 91 Simoniz Finish March 82C Cosworth 196 Flagged 400
7 24 Jim Hickman 42 Stroh’s Beer March 81C Cosworth 189 Flagged 300
8 12 Johnny Rutherford 5 Pennzoil Chaparral Cosworth 187 Engine
9 14 Herm Johnson 28 Menard Lumber Eagle 81 Chevy 186 Flagged 200
10 18 Howdy Holmes 30 Domino’s Pizza March 82C Cosworth 186 Flagged 150
11 17 Bobby Rahal 19 Red Roof Inns March 82C Cosworth 174 Engine 100
12 30 Gary Bettenhausen 18 Kraco Car Stereo Lightning Cosworth 158 Engine 50
13 15 Héctor Rebaque 32 Carta Blanca-Indeck March 82C Cosworth 150 Pit fire 25
14 13 Danny Sullivan 53 Forsythe-Brown March 82C Cosworth 148 Wrecked 25
15 11 Chip Ganassi 12 1st Commercial Corp. Wildcat Cosworth 147 Engine 25
16 6 Bill Whittington 94 Whittington/Hodgdon March 81C Cosworth 121 Engine 25
17 22 Michael Chandler 68 Freeman/Gurney Eagle 81 Chevy 104 Gearbox 20
18 31 Tom Bigelow 72 H B K Racing Eagle 81 Chevy 96 Engine 20
19 3 A. J. Foyt 14 Valvoline-Gilmore March 82C Cosworth 95 Transmission 20
20 25 Johnny Parsons 34 Silhouette March 82C Cosworth 92 Wrecked 20
21 26 George Snider 35 Cobre Tire March 82C Cosworth 87 Transmission 15
22 9 Danny Ongais 25 Interscope Racing Interscope-03 Cosworth 62 Wrecked
23 28 Jerry Sneva 69 Great American March 81C Cosworth 61 Wrecked 15
24 29 Chet Fillip 39 Circle Bar Truck Eagle 81 Cosworth 60 Body damage
25 32 Pete Halsmer 66 Arciero/Colonial Eagle 81 Chevy 38 Transmission
26 27 Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. 6 Provimi Veal March 82C Cosworth 37 Wrecked 10
27 21 Dennis Firestone 75 BVC Racing Eagle 81 Milodon 37 Rear end 10
28 20 Geoff Brabham 21 Pentax Super March 82C Cosworth 12 Engine 10
29 33 Josele Garza 55 Schlitz Gusto March 82C Cosworth 1 Engine 5
30 2 Kevin Cogan 4 Norton Spirit Penske PC-10 Cosworth 0 Wrecked 5
31 4 Mario Andretti 40 STP – Intermedics Wildcat 8B Cosworth 0 Wrecked 5
32 19 Roger Mears 31 Machinists Union Penske PC-9B Cosworth 0 Wrecked 5
33 23 Dale Whittington 95 Whittington/Hodgdon March 82C Cosworth 0 Wrecked

 

Box score courtesy of ChampCarStats.com

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Steve Zautke, a Milwaukee, WI native, was raised in the sport of auto racing. His father, Bill, was a movie photographer that shot racing footage at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1960’s and 1970’s Steve’s first professional job in racing was as an Emergency Medical Technician at tracks such as Angell Park and Hales Corners Speedway (1988-1991). Steve has also worked for the Milwaukee Mile as videographer, in media relations and historian (1993-2011). Steve also has worked as a reporter for Racing Information Systems (RIS) and has written features for ‘Vintage Oval Racing’ and ‘Victory Lane’ magazines. Most recently, Steve has written a book on Road America for Arcadia Publishing. ( http://www.amazon.com/Road-America-Nascar-Library-Collection/dp/1467111457 ) Steve co-hosts “Sparky’s Final Inspection” a motorsports-based radio show with hosts, Steve “Sparky” Fifer and “NASCAR Girl” Summer Santana on Sports Radio 1250AM in Milwaukee and is also available on the internet at www.Sportradio1250.com. A member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee, Steve follows all types of racing from the dirt tracks to Formula One.