For Immediate Release GOODYEAR READY TO TAKE LAST STEP TO VICTORY AT INDY INDIANAPOLIS, April 23, 1998 -- Race driver Scott Goodyear gazes longingly at the Borg-Warner Trophy with a look of frustration on his face ... because his face...
For Immediate Release
GOODYEAR READY TO TAKE LAST STEP TO VICTORY AT INDY
INDIANAPOLIS, April 23, 1998 -- Race driver Scott Goodyear gazes longingly at the Borg-Warner Trophy with a look of frustration on his face ... because his face isn't on it.
If ever there was a bridesmaid in the Indianapolis 500, it is Goodyear. He actually crossed the finish line first in 1995 but wasn't the best man. He also finished a half-car length behind in 1992 and a half-second behind last year.
If he had been .614 seconds faster in two of those races and about a second slower to avoid passing the pace car in the other, his earnings for those three 500's would have been an incredible $4,109,853 instead of a still substantial $1,369,036. And his image would be embossed on auto racing's most famous award, the Borg-Warner Trophy, three times.
Scott Goodyear's really good year at Indy just hasn't come yet.
"I love the Speedway," said Goodyear, a Canadian turned Hoosier who lives in the Indianapolis suburb of Carmel.
Goodyear returns for his eighth "500" next month with high hopes and a new team. Last year he drove the second car in the Fred Treadway stable and finished second in the race to teammate Arie Luyendyk. After much soul searching last fall, he decided to move on to the Pennzoil Panther Racing team, newly formed by John Barnes. Included on the ownership list is former Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Jim Harbaugh, who will make a new start of his own this fall with the Baltimore Ravens.
"It was the toughest decision frankly I ever made in motor racing," Goodyear said of his departure from the Treadway operation. "It was a tough, tough decision. I sat down and had a lot of conversations with Fred over it. And we both came to the same conclusion that it was something that I should be doing."
Goodyear noted that Treadway provided substantial backing for him as well as Luyendyk last season but didn't feel it was fair to ask the car owner to fully fund a two-car team again this year. Goodyear sees the move to Panther Racing as a two-year opportunity.
"We can build and work toward our goals," he said. "I'd like to have a teammate, but right now I think a one-car team is correct. Maybe next year."
Goodyear drove in three Indy 500's with retired superstar Rick Mears (including Mears' fourth and final victory in 1991) and has modeled his driving style after him. Goodyear said the secret to Mears' success was his ability to lay behind the leaders through the first 400 miles while his crew improved his car's handling on each pit stop, then charging to the front on the final laps.
"It seems we've been able to click into a rhythm, understand it and be there at the end," said Goodyear, 38.
"That's what we'll do this year. There's not a week that goes by that I don't think about the Speedway in the wintertime. I mean, the Indianapolis 500 is my life. That's why I'm here racing."
Goodyear started the current season at Orlando, Fla., with a downer, qualifying 21st and finishing 17th as a suspension problem forced him out after 132 laps. At Phoenix, a burp in his fuel system during qualifying dropped him to 14th in the lineup, but he worked his way up to sixth in the final standings.
Then last week at the Speedway, he recorded the sixth-quickest time of the four-day test session in his G Force/Aurora/Goodyear with a lap at 220.146 mph. His 154 laps of testing were second only to the 159 turned by Mark Dismore.
"I thought it was just the correct timing for me," he reiterated about his team change, "because the series took such a big growth leap last year from the start of the season to the end of the season. It even surprised me.
"I think we're even seeing that now in the first couple races. This year the competition is so close. I look at Phoenix, say, 'Great, we should have run a lot stronger. We had a hiccup and ran out of fuel on the second lap in qualifying, and we're 14th. If you cough, it's no different than any other series now. If you cough, you're not anywhere in the top 10. And we coughed. Now you've got to struggle from the back. That's the thing I like."
The fact Goodyear is racing at all is somewhat of a miracle. Practicing for the 1996 CART race at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, he crashed and suffered a hairline fracture of his back. He was flown back to the United States and was out of racing for nearly five months. He missed Indy, but returned in '97 and chased Luyendyk to the checkered flag as the Treadway team finished 1-2.
In 1992, Goodyear was part of the closest finish in "500" history. He charged hard late in the race after starting 33rd, and coming out of the fourth turn of the final lap he was right on Al Unser Jr.'s tail. Sweeping down the straightaway to the line, he swung to the left and got the nose of his car up to Little Al' cockpit before the race ran out on him.
Then in 1995, Goodyear accelerated out of the north chute as the leader on a restart on Lap 191. However, he reached top speed and swept by the pace car before it had left the track. He was black-flagged, didn't pit, and scoring on his car was halted after Lap 195. He wound up 14th.
"It used to be until last year everybody came up to me and said, 'Well, you know '92 was a great race and what-have-you,' but now they come and say, 'Well, you've got the first- and third-closest finishes at the Indianapolis 500,' said Goodyear, a father of three.
"Both of those were great races. In '92, we raced to second place. It wasn't like we should have been a car length ahead. We raced, we had a great race, it was thrilling and it would have been nice to win, but we didn't. And in '97, I'm not sure I had enough for Arie, but we would have given it our best shot if we'd been able to have a correct restart."
The '95 race is the one that still disturbs him. To this day, he doesn't feel the call by the officials was proper.
"I'm sure it is the first time a car has physically finished first on the racetrack, and you don't get your likeness on the Borg-Warner," he said.