Looking Back – March 2, 2011

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THE FRONT ROW: The front row for the 1973 USAC championship Indy car race at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. That’s polesitter Peter Revson closest to the camera, with Al Unser in the middle and Mario Andretti on the outside. (Chris Economaki Photo)

THE FRONT ROW: The front row for the 1973 USAC championship Indy car race at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. That’s polesitter Peter Revson closest to the camera, with Al Unser in the middle and Mario Andretti on the outside. (Chris Economaki Photo)

50 Years Ago – March 1, 1961

After a tiring month as chief of operations for NASCAR Speedweeks, Bill France finally relaxed late Sunday following Marvin Panch’s Daytona 500 victory and said, “The race was safe, the weather was beautiful, the crowd was enormous, everything was perfect.” France wasted no time in predicting, “Attendance for the fourth Daytona 500 next year will be 15 percent larger.”

25 Years Ago – February 26, 1986

In a “fairly strong-worded” letter, the Championship Drivers Ass’n has asked CART to lower the rear-wing height and reduce the size of the wing in an effort to slow the new Indy Cars. Defending CART champion Al Unser is among 22 drivers in favor of the changes after speeds at recent tests in Phoenix and Laguna Seca generated concern.

Countdown To 100 – 1997 – Arie Luyendyk

After being delayed two days by rain, Arie Luyendyk edged his Treadway Racing teammate Scott Goodyear by .57 second to win the 81st Indianapolis 500.

But Luyendyk’s second Indy victory was not without controversy as a mistake by USAC officials resulted in nearly half of the final lap being run with the caution lights illuminated even though the green flag had been waved at the starter’s stand.

In a rushed attempt to finish under green, an official failed to hear the command to switch the lights from yellow to green on the last-lap restart. There were 16 lead changes among seven drivers with Luyendyk taking command for the final time on a lap-193 restart.

Newsmaker – Andy Granatelli

Auto racing entered a new era in 1967 as Andy Granatelli, president of the STP Division of Studebaker Corp., introduced the first race car designed and built around a turbine engine.

The engine, a 260-pound Pratt & Whitney aircraft power plant, was rated at 550 horsepower.

“It has torque characteristics that are unique,” Granatelli said at the car’s unveiling in March. “It will beat a piston-engine car on acceleration, both from a standing start and out of the treacherous corners at Indianapolis.”

Parnelli Jones nearly won the Indianapolis 500 in the controversial turbine-powered car, leading 171 of the 200 laps before a bearing in the gearbox failed just four laps short of the checkered flag.

Chris’s Column – December 11, 1968

“Larry Mendelsohn’s Islip Speedway party was well attended Saturday night and everyone had a fine time. Only one punch got thrown when an over served Figure 8 driver decided he was offended, so big Bob O’Rourke and Jim Hendrickson, another ‘healthy’ type, rushed over to restore calm. In ordering the dissidents to ‘move outside,’ one little guy kept saying, ‘Just a minute, just a minute,’ and then explained that he was the owner of the place.”