1988 Indianapolis 500
The 72nd Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana, on Sunday May 29, 1988. Team Penske dominated the month, sweeping the top three starting positions with Rick Mears winning the pole position, Danny Sullivan at the center of the front row, and Al Unser, Sr. on the outside. Mears set a new track record, becoming the first driver to break the 220 mph barrier in time trials. On race day, the Penske teammates proceeded to lead 192 of the 200 laps, with Rick Mears taking the checkered flag, his third-career Indy 500 victory. The race represented the milestone 50th victory in Championship car racing for owner Roger Penske and Penske Racing.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Season||1988 CART season|
1987–88 Gold Crown
|Date||May 29, 1988|
|Winning team||Penske Racing|
|Pole position||Rick Mears|
|Fastest qualifier||Rick Mears|
|Rookie of the Year||Billy Vukovich III|
|Most laps led||Danny Sullivan (91)|
|National anthem||Sandi Patty|
|"Back Home Again in Indiana"||Jim Nabors|
|Starting Command||Mary F. Hulman|
|Pace car||Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme|
|Pace car driver||Chuck Yeager|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Paul Page, Sam Posey, and Bobby Unser|
The victory was the first of six consecutive Indy 500 wins by the Chevy Indy V-8 engine, and seven consecutive overall by Ilmor-constructed powerplants. The victory also marked a triumphant return of success for the Penske chassis (in this case the PC-17), after dismal results in 1987 (PC-16), and sparse use in the previous four seasons.
Defending champion Al Unser Sr. returned to Penske to join a three-car effort with full-time drivers Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan. After a dismal go around with the PC-16 in 1987, Penske introduced the brand-new PC-17 ('88), with promise. Mears and Sullivan, respectively, won the pole positions for the first two races of the CART season. For the third year, Penske was fielding the Chevy Ilmor Indy V-8 engine.
Back-to-back defending CART champion, and 1986 Indy winner Bobby Rahal returned for what would be his last season at Truesports. The team dropped the Cosworth DFX and they took up the development of the Judd AV engine. The engine was known to be down on horsepower, but excelled in fuel mileage and reliability, particularly in the 500-mile races.
Among the other changes included Al Unser Jr., who left Shierson and re-joined Galles. Galles was now running the Ilmor Chevy engine, after running the Brabham-Honda and Buick in previous years. Raul Boesel took Unser's place in the #30 Domino's Pizza entry.
During a tire test session in September 1987, Roberto Guerrero suffered a crash, and a serious head injury. After a lengthy recovery, Guerrero was back in the cockpit for 1988. Jim Crawford, who suffered serious leg injuries during time trials in 1987, also returned, signing with King Racing.
Many of the cars in the field were sporting new style wheels with flush discs, giving the 1988 month of May a unique visual appearance.
After becoming famous for being "first in line" at the Indy 500 from 1950-1987, longtime fan Larry Bisceglia of Chicago, and later from Phoenix, fell ill and missed the 1988 race. With failing health, he died December 7, 1988.
Starting in 1988, teams were allowed to have six crew members over the wall during a pit stop. The crews would consist of four tire changers, a fueler, and a fuel vent/airhose man. Previously they were only allowed five (i.e., three tire changers). This was due in part to the fact that after the series changed from bias-ply tires to radials, the left-front tire (which at the time was seldom changed) would now be changed much more frequently.
Practice - Week 1Edit
Six drivers took part in rookie orientation. John Andretti led the group, putting in 220 laps with a top speed of 201.974 mph. After being denied entry five years ago, Harry Sauce returned to attempt the program once again.
Saturday May 7Edit
Sunday May 8Edit
The track closed about two hours early due to rain. Mario Andretti set the best lap of the day (210.970 mph), but did not eclipse Simon's speed from Saturday.
Monday May 9Edit
Tuesday May 10Edit
Roberto Guerrero was involved in the first crash of the week. He spun in turn one and tapped the outside wall. His car suffered damage to the rear wing. He was not injured.
Wednesday May 11Edit
After two days of Mears topping the speed chart, Mario Andretti moved back into the top spot. His lap of 221.565 mph broke the day-old unofficial track record at 5:45 p.m.
Thursday May 12Edit
Ludwig Heimrath, Jr. went high in turn 2 and brushed the outside wall, the second crash of the month. His car whipped around, and hit the wall again. He was not injured, and car had light damage.
Friday May 13Edit
The final day of practice was anticipated to be a duel between Rick Mears and Mario Andretti, the two drivers who had distanced themselves from the rest of the field. Mears and Andretti finished the day with identical laps at 221.465 mph to tie at the top of the speed chart. Danny Sullivan came in third-best with a lap of 218.446 mph.
Andretti finished the week of practice with the fastest over speed, set on Wednesday. Mears was second, and the pair went into time trials as the favorites for the pole position.
Time Trials - First weekendEdit
Pole day - Saturday May 14Edit
On pole day morning, Rick Mears blistered the track with a lap of 222.827 mph during the morning practice session. It was a new all-time unofficial track record. Mario Andretti (220.372 mph) was close behind with the second-fastest. Raul Boesel and Tom Bigelow suffered single-car crashes during the session.
Mario Andretti drew the coveted first qualifying attempt. After leading the speed charts in practice much of the week, his qualifying speed was inconsistent and disappointingly slow. His first lap of 217.014 mph was his fastest, but 4 mph slower than he practiced a day earlier. His final lap of 212.761 mph pulled his four-lap average down to 214.692 mph. He claims to have hit a patch of oil-dry in turn four, which was laid down earlier that morning due to Boesel's crash.
About one hour into the session, Al Unser Sr. took to the track and completed his attempt at 215.270 mph, good enough to take over the provisional pole position. Derek Daly and Scott Brayton completed runs over 212 mph, and by 1 p.m., the field was filled to ten cars.
At 1:21 p.m., Danny Sullivan took to the track and set a one-lap track record of 217.749 mph on his second lap. His four-lap average fell short of a record, but his speed of 216.214 mph took over the pole position for the moment. not to be upstaged, Rick Mears took to the track at 2 p.m. His first lap of 220.453 mph was an all-time official track record, the first driver to break the 220 mph barrier. His four-lap average of 219.198 mph won him the coveted pole position. It was his then-record fourth Indy 500 pole position.
With Penske cars Mears, Sullivan, and Unser, ranked 1st-2nd-3rd, the team had the opportunity to become the first team ever to sweep all three spots on the front row of the starting grid. After Mears' run, the track stayed mostly quiet until the final hour.
With better conditions at 5 p.m., Arie Luyendyk put his car in the field at just over 213 mph. Al Unser, Jr. was the last car with a realistic shot at the front row. Unser, Jr. fell short, with a speed of 214.186 mph, good enough for 5th position.
At the end of the day, Bobby Rahal was among those not yet in the field. His first presentation to the line was aborted when the car would not crank. He waved off two attempts, the second attempt was averaging 212.8 mph after three laps. A. J. Foyt went out early, but debris on the track forced him to pull off. His second attempt was too slow, and he waved off.
At the end of the day, the field was filled to 19 cars.
Second day - Sunday May 15Edit
At hot 88 degree day kept cars off the track most of the afternoon. At about 5:30 p.m., Jim Crawford put his car in the field at 210.564 mph. Bobby Rahal was the only other qualifier, with a speed of 208.526 mph, slower than his speeds from Saturday.
Practice - Week 2Edit
Monday May 16Edit
Tuesday May 17Edit
Wednesday May 18Edit
Spike Gehlhausen wrecked hard in turn 1, and was taken to the hospital. X-rays were negative, however, but he was out for the rest of the month. After struggling getting up to speed, Harry Sauce withdrew. Rookie Dale Coyne also announced he would not attempt to qualify. Pancho Carter (208.574 mph) was the fastest non-qualified driver, while Al Unser, Sr. (210.280 mph) was the fastest overall.
Thursday May 19Edit
Friday May 20Edit
Time Trials - Second weekendEdit
Third Day - Saturday May 21Edit
Nine cars completed qualifying runs, filling the field to 30 cars. Raul Boesel (211.058 mph) was the fastest of the day, with Dominic Dobson (210.096 mph) second fastest, and the fastest rookie. A. J. Foyt secured a starting position in his record 31st consecutive Indy 500.
As time expired, Steve Chassey made this third and final attempt, which was good enough to make the field.
Pancho Carter crashed twice during the day. On his final qualifying lap, he brushed the wall in the final turn, and slid and spun down the mainstretch. Later in the day, he wrecked his backup car in turn 2 during a practice run. He was uninjured.
Bump Day - Sunday May 22Edit
The final day of time trials opened with three positions left unfilled. Johnny Rutherford was the first car to make an attempt, and qualified comfortably at 208.442 mph. Later, Howdy Holmes and Stan Fox filled the field to 33 cars. Scott Atchison (205.142 mph) was the first car on the bubble.
Atchison survived three attempts, but Ludwig Heimrath, Jr. finally bumped him out at 3:45 p.m. The move put Rich Vogler (206.463 mph) on the bubble. Ed Pimm made an attempt but wrecked, and Gordon Johncock waved off after a lap of only 206.049 mph. Vogler waited, and the team wheeled out a back-up car just in case.
At 5:54 p.m., Johncock made his final attempt, this time bumping Volger. However, Johncock himself was now on the bubble at 206.693 mph. As time expired, Rich Vogler got in his backup car and bumped his way back into the field with a speed of 207.126 mph. Johncock was out, and Pancho Carter was left waiting in line.
Carburetion Day - Thursday May 26Edit
A total of 31 of the 33 qualified cars took to the track on the final practice session. Two of the alternates took laps, for a total of 33 cars on the track. A few cars experienced minor mechincal problems, but there were no accidents. Mario Andretti (215.105 mph) was the fastest car of the day. Penske teammates Danny Sullivan and pole-sitter Rick Mears were second and third.
|1||Rick Mears (W)||Danny Sullivan (W)||Al Unser (W)|
|2||Mario Andretti (W)||Al Unser, Jr.||Arie Luyendyk|
|3||Scott Brayton||Emerson Fittipaldi||Derek Daly|
|4||Michael Andretti||Randy Lewis||Roberto Guerrero|
|5||Kevin Cogan||Tom Sneva (W)||Phil Krueger|
|6||Dick Simon||Teo Fabi||Jim Crawford|
|7||Bobby Rahal (W)||Raul Boesel||Dominic Dobson (R)|
|8||A. J. Foyt (W)||Bill Vukovich III (R)||Tony Bettenhausen, Jr.|
|9||Tero Palmroth (R)||Steve Chassey||John Andretti (R)|
|10||Rocky Moran (R)||Stan Fox||Johnny Rutherford (W)|
|11||Ludwig Heimrath||Rich Vogler||Howdy Holmes|
- First alternate: Gordon Johncock (#60) - Bumped
- Second alternate: Rich Vogler (#27T) - Back up car
- Third alternate: Scott Atchison (R) (#55) - Bumped
Failed to QualifyEdit
- Gary Bettenhausen (#46) - Waved off, too slow
- John Jones (#12) - Waved off, too slow
- Pancho Carter (#28) - Waved off, too slow
- Johnny Parsons (#36) - Incomplete run
- Ed Pimm (#27) - Wrecked during qualifying
- Tom Bigelow (#77) - Practiced, but did not attempt to qualify
- Dick Ferguson (#27)- Car taken over by Pimm
- George Snider (#84) - Practiced, but did not attempt to qualify
- Spike Gehlhausen (#87) - Practice crash, injured
- Harry Sauce (R) (#36) - Withdrew
- Dale Coyne (R) (#39) - Withdrew
Danny Sullivan darted into the lead at the green flag, with Rick Mears in second. In turn two, Scott Brayton spun, collecting Roberto Guerrero, and both cars crashed into the outside wall. Tony Bettenhausen, behind the incident, also crashed. On lap 6, the green flag came back out. Danny Sullivan got the jump on the start, and pulled out to a comfortable lead.
During the first sequence of pit stops, Tom Sneva crashed coming out of turn four on lap 34. Under the yellow, Teo Fabi, using the Porsche engine, pulled out of his pit stall with one of the rear wheels not secured. The wheel came off, and the car bottomed out, creating a terminal oil leak. Danny Sullivan continued to dominate in the lead, with Rick Mears falling to 10th place with handling problems. Al Unser Sr. and Al Unser Jr. continued to hold on to the top five, with Arie Luyendyk also lurking. Jim Crawford also began working his way into the top ten.
Three additional single-car crashes occurred prior to the halfway point. A. J. Foyt wrecked coming out of turn two on lap 58, due to handling problems and slick conditions. On the ensuing restart on lap 64, Arie Luyendyk tagged Ludwig Heimrath, Jr., sending Heimrath spinning and crashing out of turn four. Steve Chassey crashed in turn 4 on lap 81, suffering a concussion.
After suffering early handling issues, Rick Mears radioed his crew and requested that they switch to the old style wheels. The car was not handling well with the new style flush disc wheels. The crew had to scramble back to the transporter to collect sets of older style wheels, and have all the tires re-mounted back in the garage area.
On lap 93, the caution came out for debris on the track. Rick Mears had just un-lapped himself, and got back on to the lead lap. Leader Danny Sullivan pitted, giving the lead for the first time to Jim Crawford in the Buick-powered machine. Crawford blistered the track for the next several laps, with a noticeably drastic racing line, dipping deep below the white line, and aggressive dicing through traffic.
At lap 100, Jim Crawford led, with Rick Mears finally back up to second, Al Unser Sr. third, and now Danny Sullivan back to fourth. On lap 102, Sullivan's front wing adjusters broke, sending his car up into the outside wall in turn 1. After leading 92 laps, Sullivan was out, but Penske teammates Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. were now in control.
Johnny Rutherford crashed in turn 1, similar to Sullivan's crash. It would be Rutherford's final lap of Indy 500 competition (he would fail to qualify in subsequent years). After trading positions, Rick Mears took over the lead for good on lap 129.
After several long pit stops to repair gearbox problems, an oil leak, and electrical gremlins, Mario Andretti finally called it quits. With the leaders at lap 170, Mario was about 50 laps down with a dead engine. Mario was credited with 118 laps in 20th place.
With Rick Mears seemingly in control, the only battle that remained was for second place. Emerson Fittipaldi was running second, but he was deep in traffic. In the final twenty laps, USAC officials were contemplating issuing a two-lap penalty to Fittipaldi for passing a car under the yellow while exiting the pits on lap 164. After first penalizing Fittipaldi, then tentatively retracting the penalty, USAC henceforth decided to impose it. The penalty dropped Fittipaldi out of the top five. The resulting scoring adjustments elevated Jim Crawford into second place, Al Unser Sr. into third, and Fittipaldi to 7th.
On lap 194, Jim Crawford got sideways in turn three, which flat-spotted his tires. He ducked into the pit area to change tires, but the crew had difficulty changing them, and he lost several seconds. He dropped back to 6th on the track. Suddenly Penske teammates Rick Mears and Al Unser Sr. were running 1st-2nd. Moments later, on lap 197 a piece of bodywork flew off of Michael Andretti's car. The yellow came out, and the safety crews were unable to clean up the debris before the white flag came out for the final lap. The race finished under caution with Rick Mears winning his third Indy 500. For the moment, Al Unser Sr. was second, Michael Andretti third, and Bobby Rahal worked all the way up to 4th in the Judd-powered entry.
After the race, during the post-race scoring evaluation, Patrick Racing threatened to protest Emerson Fittipaldi's two-lap penalty. USAC claimed that while exiting the pits, Fittipaldi passed the lapped car of Rich Vogler, and did not properly honor the blend-in rule. Fittipaldi claimed that Vogler waved him by as they exited turn two to the backstretch. When Vogler got word of Fittipaldi's penalty, he immediately went to the USAC officials and claimed that he was 8-10 laps down at the time and purposely waved Fittipaldi by, and that the penalty was "unjust." Under the rules, slower cars were permitted to wave other faster cars by during yellows, a move primarily used in order to not to impede the leaders. USAC re-evaluated the situation, and when official results were posted Monday morning, they retracted Fittipaldi's penalty once and for all. Fittipaldi's laps were reinstated, which elevated him to a second-place finish. Al Unser Sr. was officially third, denying Penske Racing of their first 1st-2nd Indy sweep. Jim Crawford's exciting day finished with a 6th place, the Buick V-6's best finish to-date.
|1||1||5||Rick Mears (W)||219.198||1||200||89||Running|
|3||3||1||Al Unser, Sr. (W)||215.270||3||199||12||Flagged|
|5||19||4||Bobby Rahal (W)||208.526||21||199||0||Flagged|
|13||5||3||Al Unser, Jr.||214.186||5||180||0||Flagged|
|14||23||56||Billy Vukovich III (R)||208.545||20||179||0||Flagged|
|16||28||48||Rocky Moran (R)||207.181||31||159||0||Engine|
|17||32||29||Rich Vogler||207.126||32||159||0||Crash T3|
|18||21||92||Dominic Dobson (R)||210.096||13||145||0||Lost Coolant|
|19||25||23||Tero Palmroth (R)||208.001||25||144||0||Engine|
|20||4||6||Mario Andretti (W)||214.692||4||118||0||Electrical|
|21||27||98||John Andretti (R)||207.894||27||114||0||Engine|
|22||30||17||Johnny Rutherford (W)||208.442||22||107||0||Crash T1|
|23||2||9||Danny Sullivan (W)||216.214||2||101||91||Crash T1|
|24||26||35||Steve Chassey||207.951||26||73||0||Crash T4|
|25||31||71||Ludwig Heimrath||207.214||30||59||0||Crash T4|
|26||22||14||A. J. Foyt (W)||209.696||15||54||0||Crash BS|
|27||14||81||Tom Sneva (W)||208.659||18||32||0||Crash T4|
|28||17||8||Teo Fabi||207.244||29||30||0||Accident Pits|
|30||29||84||Stan Fox||208.579||19||2||0||Half Shaft|
|31||7||91||Scott Brayton||212.624||7||0||0||Crash T2|
|32||12||2||Roberto Guerrero||209.632||16||0||0||Crash T2|
|33||24||16||Tony Bettenhausen, Jr.||208.342||23||0||0||Crash T2|
(R) - Denotes Rookie
The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. In September 1987, Paul Page left NBC Sports and joined ABC. As a result, Page left the IMS Radio Network, and vacated his position as Voice of the 500. Veteran personality Lou Palmer, who debuted with the network in 1958, was elevated to the chief announcer position for 1988.
Outside of Page's departure, a few changes were made to the crew for 1988. Pancho Carter, who failed to qualify for the race, served as "driver expert." Bob Lamey debuted on the crew, taking the Turn 2 location on top of the VIP Suites. Howdy Bell, who was previously in that spot, moved to the pit area and shared the north pits with Chuck Marlowe. Luke Walton covered the starting command during the pre-race, but did not have a role during the race itself.
After the race, with Palmer now in the booth, Bob Forbes conducted the victory lane winner's interview. Sally Larvick, (Paul Page's wife), who had worked on the crew from 1982-1987 in only a limited role (conducting interviews with celebrities, etc.), elevated to a full pit reporter starting in 1988.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network|
|Booth Announcers||Turn Reporters||Pit/garage reporters|
|Luke Walton (pre-race)|
Bob Forbes (garages)
|Howdy Bell (north pits)|
Chuck Marlowe (north pits)
Sally Larvick (center pits)
Ron Carrell (south/center pits)
Gary Gerould (south pits)
The race was carried live flag-to-flag coverage in the United States on ABC Sports. Major changes were ushered in for 1988. Don Ohlmeyer was brought in as one of the directors, and a new style of the broadcast reflected Ohlmeyer's influence. The opening tease featured Alan Silvestri's score from the film The Delta Force, in a medley with the instrumental song "Katydid's Ditty" by Mason Williams. The Delta Force intros (known as the "Page Teases"), narrated by Paul Page, would become a popular fixture of the ABC telecasts of the Indy 500, Brickyard 400, and other Indycar races, through 1998 and reprised again in 2001.
With Jim McKay departed, Paul Page served as both host and play-by-play announcer. Bobby Unser and Sam Posey returned as color commentators, and this three-man booth crew would cover the Indy 500 and other Indycar races on ABC through 1995.
New RaceCam angles debuted for 1988. Along with the "over-the-shoulder" camera, there were also cameras facing backwards from the cars, as well as a cockpit camera looking up at the driver.
|Booth Announcers||Pit/garage reporters|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 1988 Indianapolis 500.|
- Fox, Jack C. (1994). The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 1911-1994 (4th ed.). Carl Hungness Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-915088-05-3.
- Miller, Robin (May 30, 1988). "Pole sitter fights early problem to take charge". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- Penske Racing 100 wins statistics
- Shaffer, Rick (May 15, 1988). "Mario not satisfied with qualification run". The Indianapolis Star. p. 15. Retrieved April 2, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- Benner, David (May 30, 1988). "Emmo's mood swings with USAC's ruling (Part 1)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved March 19, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Benner, David (May 30, 1988). "Emmo's mood swings with USAC's ruling (Part 2)". The Indianapolis Star. p. 9. Retrieved March 19, 2019 – via Newspapers.com.
- Greuter, Henri. "Fiasco Italo-Brittanico". Autosport. Retrieved 29 May 2011.
- 1988 Indianapolis 500 Day-By-Day Trackside Report For the Media
- Indianapolis 500 History: Race & All-Time Stats - Official Site
- 1988 Indianapolis 500 Radio Broadcast, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
|1987 Indianapolis 500
|1988 Indianapolis 500
|1989 Indianapolis 500|