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1984 Indianapolis 500

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 68th Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana on Sunday May 27, 1984. Rick Mears, who previously won in 1979, won his second Indy 500 driving for Penske. Contenders Tom Sneva and Mario Andretti dropped out of the race in the second half, leaving Mears alone two laps ahead of the field, and he cruised to the victory. Three months after the race, however, Mears would suffer severe leg injuries in a practice crash at Sanair.

Three rookies finished in the top five: Roberto Guerrero (2nd), Al Holbert (4th), and Michael Andretti (5th). Guerrero and Andretti shared the rookie of the year award. The race is well-remembered for the terrible crash of sportswriter-turned-racer, Pat Bedard, who tumbled through the infield in turn 4 on lap 58. Another rookie, two-time World Champion and future two-time Indy winner Emerson Fittipaldi made a quiet debut.

The race was sanctioned by USAC, and was included as part of the 1984 CART PPG Indy Car World Series. The 1984 race has the distinction of having the record for most entries (117), and the most cars to actually be seen in the garage (87). Defending race winner Tom Sneva, who broke the 200 mph barrier during time trials in 1977, headlined qualifying on pole day. Sneva made history once again, as he became the first driver to break the 210 mph barrier, en route to his third pole position. This Indy 500 was the last for 33 years that an active Formula One driver, Teo Fabi, featured in the field, with double World Champion Fernando Alonso making his 500 debut in 2017.[3]

Race schedule

Race schedule — April/May 1984
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Pole Day
Time Trials
Time Trials
Bump Day
Carb Day
Indy 500
Memorial Day
Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out*
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track
activity was significantly
limited due to rain

ROP — denotes Rookie
Orientation Program

Time trials

Tom Sneva's garage in Gasoline Alley.
Tom Sneva's garage in Gasoline Alley.

Pole Day – Saturday May 12

Pole day was a historic day as Tom Sneva broke the track record with the first lap over 210 mph at Indy. Sneva was also the first driver to break the 200 mph barrier, which he accomplished during time trials in 1977.

Going into pole day, Mario Andretti was the favorite for the pole position, after he ran a practice lap of 212 mph.

Rick Mears was the first driver in the field, completing his run with a track record of 207.847 mph. Rookie Michael Andretti was the next car out (207.805 mph), running surprisingly close to Mears. At 12:45 mph, Mario Andretti took to the track, with high expectations. His first lap was completed at 209.687 mph, a new one-lap track record. His second and third laps dropped off, however, and as he came out of turn four on the final lap his car quit. He coasted over the finish line to complete the run, but the average speed dropped to 207.467 mph. It would be good enough for the row 2, but a disappointment compared to his practice speeds earlier in the week.

Shortly before 2 p.m., Tom Sneva took to the track, and electrified the crowd. His third lap was run at 210.423 mph, a new track record, and the first qualifying lap ever at Indy over 210 mph. His fourth lap (210.689) mph was the fastest. His four-lap speed of 210.029 mph was a record, and secured him the pole position.

Later in the day, Howdy Holmes squeezed onto the front row with a run of 207.977 mph. It put him in second starting position, and bumped Rick Mears to the outside of the front row. Rookie Michael Andretti out-qualified his father, and would line up in 4th position (Mario qualified 6th).

A total of 28 cars qualified on pole day.

Second Day – Sunday May 13

Rain kept the track closed until nearly 1 p.m. Only three cars made attempts all afternoon, but none of them were run to completion. Johnny Rutherford went out for his second attempt in a Foyt entry, but never completed a lap due to mechanical problems.

During a practice run, John Paul, Jr. wrecked in turn four, suffering leg injuries.

Third Day – Saturday May 19

The day began with five spots remaining on the grid. With rain in the forecast for Sunday, several teams scrambled to get their cars prepared to qualify on this day. Bill Alsup was the first driver to make an attempt, but his crew waved off.

George Snider was the first driver to complete his run, putting in a safe run of 201.860 mph in a Foyt backup car. Later, Steve Chassey wrecked on the first lap of his qualifying attempt. He would sit out the rest of the month with a concussion.

At 1 p.m. the field was filled to 33 cars. Chris Kneifel (199.831 mph) was on the bubble. Among the drivers still not in the field was Johnny Rutherford. He was struggling to get his car up to speed, and exhausted his three attempts in a Foyt Chevy V-6. The team bought a back-up car from Galles, and Rutherford immediately began shaking the car down.

At 5:50 p.m., with only ten minutes left before the 6 o'clock gun, Johnny Rutherford took to the track for one last attempt to qualify. His first lap was an impressive 203.156 mph, but the car was smoking throughout. His speed dropped over the final three laps, but his four-lap average of 202.062 mph was fast enough to bump his way into the field.

Spike Gehlhausen (200.478 mph) was now on the bubble. Gary Bettenhausen made a last-ditch effort to bump him out, but he waved off after only two laps.

Bump Day – Sunday May 20

As expected, rain washed out the final day of time trials. Since the field had been filled to 33 cars a day earlier, the field was set, and there would be no further qualifying.

Jacques Villeneuve, who suffered a crash during practice, withdrew from the starting field due to injury. The first alternate, Chris Kneifel was re-instated to the field to fill the vacancy. He became the last driver to start the Indianapolis 500 with a qualifying speed under 200 mph.

Starting grid

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 United States Tom Sneva  W  United States Howdy Holmes United States Rick Mears  W 
2 United States Michael Andretti  R  United States Gordon Johncock  W  United States Mario Andretti  W 
3 Colombia Roberto Guerrero  R  Australia Geoff Brabham United States Herm Johnson
4 United States Al Unser  W  United States Danny Ongais United States A. J. Foyt  W 
5 United States Tom Gloy  R  Italy Teo Fabi United States Al Unser, Jr.
6 United States Al Holbert  R  United States Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. United States Bobby Rahal
7 United States Patrick Bedard United States Dick Simon United States Pancho Carter
8 United States Chip Ganassi Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi  R  Mexico Josele Garza
9 United States Spike Gehlhausen United States Scott Brayton United States Kevin Cogan
10 United States Danny Sullivan Republic of Ireland Derek Daly United States Johnny Rutherford  W 
11 United States George Snider Australia Dennis Firestone United States Chris Kneifel

Qualified cars withdrawn


  • First alternate: Chris Kneifel (#73) - Bumped; Named to the starting field on 5/24
  • Second alternate: none

Failed to qualify

Race summary


Race day dawned cool and clear, with temperatures in the 60s. Rain was forecast for later in the afternoon, but was not expected to affect the race. Mary F. Hulman gave the command to start engines just before 11 a.m., and all cars pulled away for the pace laps.

At the start, Rick Mears got the jump and swept across the track to take the lead in turn one. Pole sitter Tom Sneva settled into second, and rookie Michael Andretti went from the inside of row 2 to take third. Mears led the first lap at a speed of 199.557 mph, an Indy record. His second lap was the first official race lap in the 68 year history of the Indianapolis 500 that registered over 200 mph. Geoff Brabham ducked into the pits after one lap, dropping out with a bad fuel line.

A few laps later, Michael Andretti passed Tom Sneva to take second place. Gordon Johncock also went to the pits for an unscheduled pit stop.

First half

DataSpeed Timing and Scoring System
DataSpeed Timing and Scoring System

The first 100 miles were run clean, with no incidents. Tom Sneva led Al Unser, Jr., Rick Mears, Mario and Michael Andretti.

After 37 laps, race rookie and future two-time winner Emerson Fittipaldi dropped out due to low oil pressure. The two-time Formula One World Champion had a relatively quiet month of May, acclimating himself gradually to the Indy car circuit. It was a largely unnoticed effort in the underfunded W.I.T. Promotions entry, a pink-painted car. On lap 45, Spike Gehlhausen spun in turn 1, and came to a rest in turn 2 without contact.

Rick Mears took the lead for the second time on lap 54. On lap 58, Patrick Bedard suffered a terrible crash in turn four. The car spun to the inside of the north shortchute, hit the inside wall, flipped over, and barrel-rolled through the grass. The car broke into two pieces, the tub and the engine. Debris littered the track, and a lengthy caution was needed to clean up the incident. Bedard was injured, but the injuries were not life-threatening. Under the caution, Danny Sullivan came up too fast and ran into the car of Roberto Guerrero, hopping up on two wheels, and damaging his right-front suspension. Sullivan dropped out of the race, but Guerrero was able to continue.

The lead traded amongst Mears, Sneva, Mario Andretti, Teo Fabi, and Danny Ongais. After the lengthy caution for Bedard's crash, Tom Sneva came to the lead, and led at the halfway point. Around lap 70, the DataSpeed computer timing and scoring system crashed. The remainder of the race would have to be scored manually, and the scoring serials were at times incomplete. However, at no point was the leader of the race unknown or disputed.[4]

Second half

At lap 100, Tom Sneva led, looking for back-to-back wins. Al Unser, Jr. was in second, Rick Mears third, Mario Andretti fourth, and Michael Andretti fifth. The rest of the top ten was Bobby Rahal, Roberto Guerrero, Al Holbert, Al Unser, Sr., and Teo Fabi. Four laps later, however, Fabi was out with a broken fuel system.

On lap 103, Gordon Johncock hit the wall coming out of turn four. He spun to the inside, hit the pit wall, then spun back across the pits and hit the wall separating the pits from the track. He missed hitting Teo Fabi's car, which was being pushed back to the garage, and somehow missed hitting the crew members that were in the sign board area. Johncock injured his left ankle (he had suffered a right ankle injury at Michigan the previous year), and ultimately took a short retirement from racing.

With Rick Mears now leading, Mario Andretti started slipping in the standings due to a broken exhaust pipe. The engine was losing rpm, but he was still managing to stay in contention. After running in the top five most of the day, Al Unser, Jr. dropped out on lap 131 with a broken water pump.

Tom Sneva briefly took the lead on laps 142-143 during a sequence of pit stops. Rick Mears was back in front on lap 144. With 50 laps to go, Rick Mears led Tom Sneva and Roberto Guerrero. Al Unser Sr. had now worked his way into the top five. Michael Andretti and Mario Andretti were also still in contention.

On lap 153 Mario Andretti went into the pits for a routine stop. He was held up in traffic, and the car of Josele Garza cut in front of him down the pit lane. Garza's car made contact, and broke the nosecone of Mario's car. It was too damaged to continue, and Mario was forced to drop out.


With several contenders dropping out in quick succession, the race came down to two drivers in the final 100 miles: Rick Mears and Tom Sneva. Scott Brayton stalled on the track on the leader's lap 163, bringing out the caution. With 33 laps to go, Sneva's crew debated pitting, hoping to make it to the finish on one more stop. They planned on pitting with 30 laps to go. On lap 168, however, sparks came from the back of Sneva's car in turn 3 as the field was preparing to go back to green. Sneva immediately ducked into the pits with a broken CV joint, and he climbed from the car.

With Sneva out of the race, Rick Mears now held a commanding lead. No other cars were in contention, with Mears now two laps ahead of the entire field. Mears cruised to the finish, and was not challenged the rest of the way. The only battle remained for second place, between Roberto Guerrero and Al Unser Sr.

A light drizzle started entering the area in the final 30 laps or so, threatening to end the race early. The heavy rain did not come, and Mears completed the 200 laps at a race record 163.612 mph. Mears won his second Indy 500, with a margin of victory of over two laps. Due to the ongoing scoring issues from the DataSpeed timing and scoring system, Al Unser Sr. was tentatively hand scored in second, with Roberto Guerrero unofficially third. For a brief period, it was Penske Racing's first 1-2 finish in the Indy 500. However, when scoring was ultimately resolved, Guerrero was rightfully elevated to second, with Unser dropping to third.[5] After an eventful day - nearly being caught up in the Bedard crash, overshooting his pit stall during one of his stops, and spinning in turn two - Guerrero was surprised to find out he finished second, and was voted co-Rookie of the Year.[6]

Box score

Finish Grid No Name Qual Rank Laps Status
1 3 6 United States Rick Mears  W  207.847 mph (334.497 km/h) 3 200 Running
2 7 9 Colombia Roberto Guerrero  R  205.717 mph (331.069 km/h) 7 198 Flagged
3 10 2 United States Al Unser  W  204.441 mph (329.016 km/h) 10 198 Flagged
4 16 21 United States Al Holbert  R  203.016 mph (326.723 km/h) 19 198 Flagged
5 4 99 United States Michael Andretti  R  207.805 mph (334.430 km/h) 4 198 Flagged
6 12 14 United States A. J. Foyt  W  203.860 mph (328.081 km/h) 12 197 Flagged
7 18 5 United States Bobby Rahal 202.230 mph (325.458 km/h) 22 197 Flagged
8 9 28 United States Herm Johnson 204.618 mph (329.301 km/h) 9 194 Flagged
9 11 25 United States Danny Ongais 203.978 mph (328.271 km/h) 11 193 Flagged
10 24 55 Mexico Josele Garza 200.615 mph (322.859 km/h) 31 193 Flagged
11 31 4 United States George Snider 201.861 mph (324.864 km/h) 25 193 Flagged
12 32 50 Australia Dennis Firestone 201.217 mph (323.827 km/h) 29 186 Flagged
13 2 41 United States Howdy Holmes 207.977 mph (334.707 km/h) 2 185 Flagged
14 13 77 United States Tom Gloy  R  203.758 mph (327.917 km/h) 13 179 Engine
15 33 73 United States Chris Kneifel 199.831 mph (321.597 km/h) 33 175 Transmission
16 1 1 United States Tom Sneva  W  210.029 mph (338.009 km/h) 1 168 Left CV Joint
17 6 3 United States Mario Andretti  W  207.466 mph (333.884 km/h) 6 153 Broken Nosecone
18 26 37 United States Scott Brayton 203.637 mph (327.722 km/h) 14 150 Transmission
19 21 10 United States Pancho Carter 201.820 mph (324.798 km/h) 27 141 Engine
20 27 98 United States Kevin Cogan 203.622 mph (327.698 km/h) 15 137 Frozen Wheel
21 15 7 United States Al Unser, Jr. 203.404 mph (327.347 km/h) 18 131 Water Pump
22 30 84 United States Johnny Rutherford  W  202.062 mph (325.187 km/h) 23 116 Engine
23 20 22 United States Dick Simon 201.835 mph (324.822 km/h) 26 112 In Pits
24 14 33 Italy Teo Fabi 203.600 mph (327.662 km/h) 16 104 Fuel System
25 5 20 United States Gordon Johncock  W  207.545 mph (334.011 km/h) 5 103 Crash T4
26 17 16 United States Tony Bettenhausen, Jr. 202.814 mph (326.397 km/h) 20 86 Piston
27 29 61 Republic of Ireland Derek Daly 202.443 mph (325.800 km/h) 21 76 Handling
28 22 40 United States Chip Ganassi 201.612 mph (324.463 km/h) 28 61 Engine
29 28 30 United States Danny Sullivan 203.567 mph (327.609 km/h) 17 57 Broken Wheel
30 19 35 United States Patrick Bedard 201.915 mph (324.951 km/h) 24 55 Crash NC
31 25 57 United States Spike Gehlhausen 200.478 mph (322.638 km/h) 32 45 Spun SC
32 23 47 Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi  R  201.078 mph (323.604 km/h) 30 37 Oil Pressure
33 8 18 Australia Geoff Brabham 204.931 mph (329.804 km/h) 8 1 Fuel Line




The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Paul Page served as the chief announcer for the eighth year. It was Page's eleventh year overall as part of the network crew. Lou Palmer reported from victory lane. Luke Walton introduced the starting command during the pre-race ceremonies, but did not have on-air duties during the race itself.

Bob Forbes spent the early segments of the race covering the center pits, then spent the second half of the race concentrating on covering the garage area and track hospital. Sally Larvick was once again used in a limited role, conducting interviews. She also reported from the track hospital in the early portions of the race. This was the last year of the Backstretch reporter. The Backstretch reporter would return for a two-year period from 1989 to 1990 but have a very limited role both years.

This would be the final 500 on the crew for Doug Zink, who debuted in 1966. Zink died April 3, 2016.[7]

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Paul Page
Driver expert: Rodger Ward
Statistician: John DeCamp
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Ron Carrell
Turn 2: Doug Zink
Backstretch: Howdy Bell
Turn 3: Larry Henry
Turn 4: Bob Jenkins

Luke Walton (pre-race)
Sally Larvick (interviews/hospital)
Jerry Baker (north pits)
Chuck Marlowe (center pits)
Bob Forbes (center pits/garages)
Lou Palmer (south pits)


The race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. Jackie Stewart served as the host position in "ABC Race Central" for the final time. Jack Arute joined the crew as a pit reporter, a position he would hold for over 20 years. After 1983, Chris Economaki left ABC, and joined CBS for the Daytona 500 and other NASCAR events. Larry Nuber debuted as a pit reporter in his first Indy assignment, and ABC News and ABC Sports correspondent Ray Gandolf supplied in-depth features.

A new camera angle was introduced for this broadcast, located on the start's stand over the shoulder of the flagman. The angle would be used at the dropping of the green flag as well as the finish.

The race was televised in Brasil for the first time, as the debut of former Formula One champion Emerson Fittipaldi attracted national interest. Record aired the race with Emerson's father Wilson Fittipaldi as announcer.

The broadcast has re-aired on ESPN Classic since May 2011.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host: Jackie Stewart
Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Sam Posey

Bill Flemming
Jack Arute
Larry Nuber
Ray Gandolf (features)



See also


  1. ^ Fox, Jack C. (1994). The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 1911-1994 (4th ed.). Carl Hungness Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-915088-05-3.
  2. ^ Miller, Robin (May 28, 1984). "Takes second '500' victory by 2 laps over Guerrero". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via access
  3. ^ SportsCentre. 28 May 2017. TSN.
  4. ^ Overpeck, Dave (May 28, 1984). "USAC finds bug in its computer". The Indianapolis Star. p. 9. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via access
  5. ^ Garau, Jerry (May 28, 1984). "Unser Sr. survives 'one of those days'". The Indianapolis Star. p. 5. Retrieved March 25, 2019 – via access
  6. ^ Benner, David (May 28, 1984). "Guerrero finishes second, the hard way". The Indianapolis Star. p. 5. Retrieved April 2, 2019 – via access
  7. ^ Bonkowsik, Jerry (April 7, 2016). "Indy 500 Announcer Doug Zink, Motor Builder Larry Slutter Pass Away". NBC Sports. Retrieved April 26, 2016.

Works cited

1983 Indianapolis 500
Tom Sneva
1984 Indianapolis 500
Rick Mears
1985 Indianapolis 500
Danny Sullivan
Preceded by
162.962 mph
(1972 Indianapolis 500)
Record for the fastest average speed
163.612 mph
Succeeded by
170.722 mph
(1986 Indianapolis 500)
This page was last edited on 25 December 2020, at 21:51
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