Scott Goodyear remembers Indy ‘92
Thirty-three cars started the race, and only 12 finished. There were 10 different crashes. Even the great Mario Andretti lost control and plowed into a wall.
He stood next to the car for just a fleeting few moments, but seeing the 1992 Mackenzie Financial Lola Indy car brought back a flood of memories for Toronto’s Scott Goodyear.
“There are a lot of show cars around (retired cars on display),” said Goodyear, “but that Mackenzie car is the actual car that we used in (the 1992 Indianapolis 500) to finish second. It’s pretty cool that it’s up here in Canada.”
Goodyear was interviewed at this year’s Canadian International Auto Show, held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in February. The car was on loan from the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame and formed part of a tribute exhibit to this year’s 100th anniversary running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Goodyear’s Mackenzie-sponsored car was next to a replica of the Player’s-liveried 1995 Reynard that Jacques Villeneuve drove to this country’s only Indy 500 victory. Six other historic cars were on loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum — all rare sights north of the border.
Ask anyone who’s been around long enough and they’ll tell you, almost without fail, that the most memorable month of May of the modern era at Indianapolis came in 1992. Goodyear remembers it being an unusual month right from the start.
An oil pressure problem persisted through much of qualifying, which resulted in his Walker Racing entry being bumped from the field. As Goodyear was the full-time driver that year, his part-time teammate Mike Groff relinquished his place on the grid. But the driver change forced Goodyear to start the race from last place: 33rd position.
This set the scene for several of the remarkable records set by Goodyear in 1992 that still stand today. But to earn them, he needed to overcome some of the most bizarre race-day conditions the Brickyard has ever seen.
“It was extremely cold,” Goodyear recalls of the race day that — at 14 C — remains the most frigid on record in 99 outings. “I remember we had jackets on, gloves on, when we were going into the garage. Even in the car itself, we were cold.”
Cold air leads to cold tires, which leads to reduced grip. This caught a number of drivers off-guard, most memorably polesitter Roberto Guerrero. Goodyear’s exchange with his team owner, Derrick Walker, during the ensuing incident that took place before the start of the race, was priceless.
“I’m lagging back a little bit and weaving my tires to get some temperature in them,” Goodyear recalled. “Guerrero was doing the same thing.
“I had just commented on the radio (to Walker), ‘It’s so slippery here I almost just lost it trying to warm the tires up.’ And he goes, ‘Just take it easy, we’ve got a long race.’
“Not 30 seconds later, Guerrero (loses control and) hits the wall and the yellow comes out. Derrick gets on the radio and starts screaming at me. He goes, ‘Goddamn it, I told you just to take it easy out there!’ I’m going, ‘It’s not me, it’s not me!’
“And then I went past and I looked over. I said, ‘There’s a car on the wall on the inside. I think it’s Guerrero.’ And he goes, ‘Okay, well, just take it easy.’ He was so excited before we even got going.”
The 200 laps that followed were grueling. Thirty-three cars started the race, and only 12 finished. There were 10 different crashes. Even the great Mario Andretti lost control and plowed into a wall.
“We had people crashing on restarts,” Goodyear says. “You were spinning the tires in the first three or four gears all the time just because you had so much horsepower back then.
“You had to have a set plan when you went to a start or a restart, and more importantly you had to have patience.”
It was a virtue Goodyear retained, and it led him on a steady climb through the field from dead last into the top 10, and then the top 5.
At the end of the race he found himself battling for the win, and he came within a breath of pulling it off.
Goodyear finished less than a car length behind Unser, Jr., just 0.043 seconds back. The result stands today not only as the closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history but as the best improvement in position in the modern era, from 33rd to less than a blink off a win.
“I always tell people that was my first foray into oval car racing,” Goodyear explains. “I had never done ovals in my life. I did all road course stuff here in Canada.
“We had four or five oval races per year on the calendar back then, so this was probably my 12th to 15th oval race ever in my life. I go back and look at the replays, as I did afterwards and even today, and see really quickly how little experience I had against Al Unser, Jr., who grew up doing ovals all his life.
“I was a rookie. I was taken to school during those last 10 laps.”
Since that day, Goodyear has never stopped hearing from fans about that thrilling finish. But he recalls that it was only after he witnessed a similar result himself that he fully appreciated his own accomplishment.
“Now that I’m with ABC and ESPN (where he will be in the booth for the 100th running, providing colour commentary and analysis), I was there calling the (2006) race the day that Sam Hornish just clipped Marco Andretti at the line,” Goodyear says. “They’re doing the move and I’m going, ‘That was so cool.’
“It took that long, and that race, to really give me a better understanding for what the fans have done all the years since 1992 telling me where they were, the seats they sit in every year and saw the race unfold.”
It was in Victory Lane in that same year, 1992, when a victorious Unser, Jr. made the timeless declaration, “You just don’t know what Indy means.” Though he was on the other side of the coin that day, Goodyear understands and relates to the sentiment very well.
“I go to the Speedway three or four times a year not wrapped around racing,” he says. “It’s funny: I drive underneath the tunnel and I still get tingles, still to this day. It doesn’t matter what I’m going there for.
“When you drive underneath it, it’s like driving into a stadium, a neighbourhood. It’s huge. It’s special.”
Freelance writer Stephanie Wallcraft is a frequent contributor to Toronto Star Wheels. To reach her, email firstname.lastname@example.org and put her name in the subject line.
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