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1981 Indianapolis 500

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  • 1981 Indianapolis 500

    Listening and watching the '81 broadcast today. Watching video of the start I can't believe they threw the green. It looks like Unser was well past S/F when the green finally dropped. If you look closely, the flagman on the inside of the track was waving the yellow. When did they do away with a flagman on the inside?

    As for the radio broadcast, my download (which I purchased from IMS) has odd edits at the end of segments. Things cut out mid-sentence. Anyone else notice this?
    "The track will choose who's going to win."

    Tony Kanaan

  • #2
    Originally posted by jp View Post
    Listening and watching the '81 broadcast today. Watching video of the start I can't believe they threw the green. It looks like Unser was well past S/F when the green finally dropped. If you look closely, the flagman on the inside of the track was waving the yellow. When did they do away with a flagman on the inside?
    .......
    Also, did you notice how early the pace car pulled into the pits? In that time period the Pole car was the one that determined the final pace to the starting line.

    It also looked like Sweeney had the yellow flag in hand and only pulled out the green at the last possible second; and maybe after the front row was already past as you noted. He may not have have liked the fact that there were still cars coming off of Turn Four as the leaders got to the starting line. It's very probable that Sweeney was told to go green by Binford. Binford got a lot of flack over the years for ragged starts but he seemingly liked strung out starts as it kept down the chances of early crashes. At least that was the theory and it did work most of the time.

    The official on the inside only waved the yellow once and I think he was taking his cue from Sweeney as well. He would have also been on the radio listening to Binford and reacted at the same time as Duane did.

    BTW, I think the inside official only had a yellow flag to use if there was going to be a problem or another lap added. I don't remember seeing the green being thrown from the inside pit wall but I guess it's possible that I just missed it.

    Comment


    • #3
      I think the officials in general aren't fond to making the field go around again at Indy. It is the climatic moment as the green waves and making them go around again refects bad on the drivers and offcials.

      I think most of the time, if it's "close enough" they go green.

      Comment


      • #4
        I had the pleasure of meeting Duane Sweeney at a annual automotive show in town many years ago. I asked him if he had pressure on him to go green at Indy no matter what, and he responded no, and he reminded me that he indeed held the green once, in 1982. I can't find conclusive evidence but I assume he was referring to the 2nd official start of the race after the infamous Cogan incident.

        Yes, up to the mid-'90s the pace car typically floored it and got lost on the backstretch on the pace lap, leaving the polesitter to pace the field to the start.

        As for '81, I think whether it was green or not probably didn't matter to Bobby. He seems like the type that would race it through 1 and 2 and ask questions later, maybe somewhere on the backstretch.
        You have the IndyCar you deserve.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by MS View Post
          I think the officials in general aren't fond to making the field go around again at Indy. It is the climatic moment as the green waves and making them go around again refects bad on the drivers and offcials.

          I think most of the time, if it's "close enough" they go green.
          They only waved off the start once in modern times (2009). It was probably a more precarious situation than if they had let it go. The next time by, the green came out, and it wasn't that much less a ragged start. Then there was contact in the southchute seconds later. I highly doubt they'll wave it off again unless there's total chaos. If there was ever a start that deserved to be waved off it was 1994, but it wasn't.

          Originally posted by dalz View Post
          I had the pleasure of meeting Duane Sweeney at a annual automotive show in town many years ago. I asked him if he had pressure on him to go green at Indy no matter what, and he responded no, and he reminded me that he indeed held the green once, in 1982. I can't find conclusive evidence but I assume he was referring to the 2nd official start of the race after the infamous Cogan incident.
          Sweeney never put out the green the "first" time...the field was slowly approaching him, he was waiting, waiting...then Cogan went awry.

          On the "second" start...just Mears & Foyt up there...Sweeney put out the twin green flags.

          If I'd have asked him a question, I'd have asked, in 1995 why didn't you wave off that last restart (Scott Goodyear). He'd have had the authority to do so. They should have waved it off, got the cars back in line, and try it over again the next time by.
          Doctorindy.com

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Doctorindy View Post
            Sweeney never put out the green the "first" time...the field was slowly approaching him, he was waiting, waiting...then Cogan went awry.

            On the "second" start...just Mears & Foyt up there...Sweeney put out the twin green flags.
            Thanks. I wonder what he meant then. As an aside, on the first 1982 start that ended in chaos, the yellow light went off for just a fraction of a second, but immediately flashed back on as the accident unfolded. I don't know if he personally had control of the lights.

            If I'd have asked him a question, I'd have asked, in 1995 why didn't you wave off that last restart (Scott Goodyear). He'd have had the authority to do so. They should have waved it off, got the cars back in line, and try it over again the next time by.
            Good question, but unfortunately the meeting was before then. In fact, it had to be early spring of 1994, because I also asked him if he was going to be involved with the inaugural Brickyard 400. He said no, it was exclusively NASCAR officials.
            You have the IndyCar you deserve.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by dalz View Post

              Thanks. I wonder what he meant then. As an aside, on the first 1982 start that ended in chaos, the yellow light went off for just a fraction of a second, but immediately flashed back on as the accident unfolded. I don't know if he personally had control of the lights.
              At that time, the yellow lights would have been controlled from the tiny USAC booth that used to be situated on top of the flagstand. So Sweeney didn't control the switch for the yellow lights, that was another official, they worked independently, but in tandem.
              Doctorindy.com

              Comment


              • #8
                1971(?) was a similar situation as 1982. Jim Malloy got crossed up coming down to the start and spun out before the green. Pat Vidan kept the yellow out. In 1997 they kept the yellow out as a row of cars took themselves out in turn 4. While not coming down for the start they kept the yellow out in 1986 and 1992 when Sneva and Guerrero had their problems.

                The only two times since WWII that they have waved off the starts due to ragged alignment was the aforementioned 2009 and in 1958 when the front row got out in front of the pace car.

                Just about every start from 1986 - 1997 should have been waved off. Those were some ugly alignments coming to the green.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Watch the start of the '94 race, Sweeney waited and waited and waited before finally giving the green as the front row crossed the S/F line.
                  The Ayn Rand of Indycar

                  No one had to badge the Offy.

                  Crapping all over threads since 2000.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MS View Post
                    ...
                    Just about every start from 1986 - 1997 should have been waved off. Those were some ugly alignments coming to the green.
                    For most of those years (and even for years before) that was what Tom Binford wanted. After inheriting the job of Chief Steward after a first lap crash he was all about allowing the rows of cars to get stretched out. There were quite a few years where the front row was at the starting line while there were still cars coming off of Turn Four.

                    Binford decided he would rather have ragged and spread out starts than tight rows of three where the chances of a first lap crash were increased.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Well, the Kentucky Derby now has its equivalent of Indy in 1981!

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MS View Post
                        1971(?) was a similar situation as 1982. Jim Malloy got crossed up coming down to the start and spun out before the green. Pat Vidan kept the yellow out. In 1997 they kept the yellow out as a row of cars took themselves out in turn 4. While not coming down for the start they kept the yellow out in 1986 and 1992 when Sneva and Guerrero had their problems.

                        The only two times since WWII that they have waved off the starts due to ragged alignment was the aforementioned 2009 and in 1958 when the front row got out in front of the pace car.

                        Just about every start from 1986 - 1997 should have been waved off. Those were some ugly alignments coming to the green.
                        It was 1970. They were coming off of 4 and Malloy's car broke a radius rod and spun. He started outside row three and came across in front of Mario and Uncle Bobby and the rest of the field, how there wasn't a big pile up was a bit of a miracle.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by MS View Post
                          ....While not coming down for the start they kept the yellow out in 1986 and 1992 when Sneva and Guerrero had their problems.
                          86 was red flagged while they cleaned up Sneva's car and topped off all the fuel tanks....it felt like that race was never going to start.

                          http://www.honorflight.org/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            On the 1972 Radio Broadcast as the field was coming down for the green...Sid says "Pat Vidan is holding up one finger...meaning one more lap.....AND THE GREEN FLAG IS OUT AND THE RACE IS ON!!! Jim Rathmann (?) driving the pace car swerved sharp into the pit entrance....very close to clipping the pole car... Harlan was in his next to last year....and Revson on the pole dropped back to 4th or 5th into the first turn as he saw the yellow light still on....anyway...that was almost disaster.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by tmorris View Post
                              On the 1972 Radio Broadcast as the field was coming down for the green...Sid says "Pat Vidan is holding up one finger...meaning one more lap.....AND THE GREEN FLAG IS OUT AND THE RACE IS ON!!! Jim Rathmann (?) driving the pace car swerved sharp into the pit entrance....very close to clipping the pole car... Harlan was in his next to last year....and Revson on the pole dropped back to 4th or 5th into the first turn as he saw the yellow light still on....anyway...that was almost disaster.
                              Also A.J. Foyt was pulling out of the pits due to stalling at the command and failing to pull away. He was very slow pulling away on the apron and was almost in the path of the field, and probably caused some cars to hesitate going into turn one. It was a poor decision, there were crew members only feet away from the racing surface at the start. They should have waved off the start for one additional lap.

                              The start in 1972 was messy, that's one of the reasons Jim McKay (ironically) called the 1973 start as "no, it's a good one"...just seconds before Salt Walther's terrible crash.

                              ****

                              As for 1981, of the mess that was that race, the officials did get one thing right. On one of the restarts, Tom Sneva blew by the pace car in turn four - anticipating the restart (much like Scott Goodyear in 1995). The pace car stayed out and they waved off the restart. But instead of penalizing him, they simply lined the cars back up and tried it again the next time by.
                              Doctorindy.com

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