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1982 Indianapolis 500 – (141 min)
The 66th running of the Indianapolis 500 is widely considered one of the best 500’s in history, although it was marred by the
fatal crash of Gordon Smiley during time trials. The race is also remembered for a controversial crash at the start triggered by
Kevin Cogan, that also took out Mario Andretti and two other cars. Kevin Cogan started from the middle of the front row,
between pole-sitter Rick Mears and on the outside, A.J. Foyt. As the field approached the start/finish line to start the race,
Cogan suddenly swerved right, touching and bouncing off of A.J. Foyt’s car. He then slid and collided with Mario Andretti.
Deeper in the field, the cars started to check-up. A fast-moving Dale Whittington nearly collected Geoff Brabham, lost control,
spun across the track and ran into the back of Roger Mears. Both cars were eliminated. Bobby Rahal also reported getting hit
from behind, but was undamaged. Cogan’s shocking accident took out four cars, including himself. Foyt’s team was able to
make repairs, and pushed his car out for the restart attempt. Meanwhile, Andretti and Foyt were furious and outspoken about
their displeasure with Cogan (all captured on live TV) with Andretti giving Cogan a shove while they still had their still helmets
on. And of course, A.J. had a few choice words to say about the incident while the clean up crews were working on clearing
away the wreckage. The green flag had not come out, and the race was immediately red flagged.
Officially the race was part of the 1981-82 USAC season, however, most of the entrants took part in the 1982 CART/PPG Indy
Car World Series. Championship points for the 1982 Indy 500 were not awarded towards the CART title. For the first and only
time in Indy history, a trio of brothers qualified for the same race; Don, Bill, and Dale Whittington, however Dale crashed out
before the start, and never completed a single lap in his career. Four-time winner A. J. Foyt started on the front row, celebrating
his record 25th career Indy 500 start, and for the first time in his long Indy 500 career, he led the first lap.
An epic battle between Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock is what many consider one of the most dramatic finishes in Indy
history. As the race wound down, two drivers swapped the lead many times, until the veteran Johncock put repeated blocks on
Mears to hold him back. Both drivers had to make one more pit stop for fuel, and with only 18 laps to go, Mears made the first
move. Rick came speeding down pit lane (still in the days before pit road speed limits) and ran into the back of a slower car
(also pitting), causing a collective roar from the massive Indy 500 crowd. Mears did not sustain any damage, and the Penske
crew did not change his tires, they merely refueled his car with a full load of gas, an odd decision for such a late period in the
race. Then just 2 laps later, it was Johncock’s turn to make his final pit stop. Johncock came off Turn 4 and dove into the pits,
only to find himself stacked behind a slower car who was also pitting. Johncock made a bold move and passed the slower car
on the inside lane of pit road, rocketed past the slower car, then dove into the pits. His crew gave him half a fuel load and sent
him back out, giving Johncock an 11 second lead over Mears. But the fact he was light on fuel caused him to have a serious
push condition in the handling of his car. Meanwhile, Rick Mears, who took on a full fuel load, was glued to the track, and
catching Johncock at more than one second per lap. The massive Indy crowd cheered on Mears as he began to quickly close
on Johncock by more a second a lap, and finally to within one second with 2 laps to go. On the final straight to the finish line,
Mears tried to slingshot Johncock, only to come up .016 seconds short, the closest finish in Indy 500 history to that point.
Kevin Cogan, who was a key fixture in the opening lap accident, was fired at the end of the season. Despite the historic battle
at the finish and the shocking crash at the start, it was the horrific fatal crash of Gordon Smiley still marred the month. Smiley’s
crash came just one week after the fatal crash of Formula 1 driver Gilles Villeneuve at the Belgian Grand Prix, and about two
months later, Jim Hickman (who was in this 1982 Indy 500) was killed at Milwaukee.
This is an original ABC-Sports broadcast, on tape delay (which is how they used to always broadcast the Indy 500 in order to
get prime time coverage), and the commentators are Jim McKay and Sam Posey. The host of the telecast is Jackie Stewart,
while Chris Economaki handled pit lane.