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Thread: 1981 Indy 500

  1. #31
    I think there are some inaccuracies here.

    "The controversy was nothing more than an attempt to drive a wedge between CART owners Pat Patrick and Roger Penske." Really? You base this on what? That's what Uncle Bobby charged in the newspaper. I don't defend USAC, its had more problems than anyone can count, but the original split and was was NOT one sided. IT is clear from the testimony given that when Unser passed a number of cars on lap 149, Mario saw him and radioed to his crew that Unser passed under the yellow and a violation had occurred. One of the Patrick crew then notified one of the pit stewards. The Patrick team already knew there was an issue. In fact, Patrick's team met with Tom Binford on Sunday night after the race.........

    In fact, there were rumblings immediately after the race of a potential protest. Now I will speculate some, but from what I understand USAC may not have had enough evidence to penalize either driver based on the observers, but did get to view the ABC tape and MAY have based their decision on the tape. Jim McKay and Jackie Stewart both commented heavily on Unser leaving the pits on the tape delay, a voice over that I am pretty sure was done when the editing was done, not live. I don't believe there was a similar video produced that Sunday night that showed Andretti doing the same thing.

    McKay and Stewart must have known Sunday night something was amiss, or at the very least something was going on.

    It wasn't until the official results were announced that the penalty was assessed.
    The initial USAC vote on the Penske protest of the Unser penalty was 3-2, not unanimous. Later, based on the testimony and the testimony of other drivers saying they did the same thing (CART and USAC guys, for whom no penalties were issued), the appeals panel overruled the original penalty. It was probably the right call, Unser should have been penalized at the time of infraction and I believe in part that is what the appeals board based their ruling on, and the fact that the blend rule was vague and hard to enforce. I don't believe USAC had enough evidence to support the penalty until the ABC tape was reviewed, especially looking at the testimony and who testified. I don't believe there was actual testimony from ANY observer on the course that witnessed Unser pass 8 cars.

    You know, MARIO has always been pretty insistent about the penalty and that it should have been called. And, a year later, he didn't blame Tom Binford.

    "I think '81 is a perfect example of Penske doing what he does best. He found a loophole in the rules (or rather a lack of a written rule altogether), had his driver take advantage of it, and won the race."

    Why is Penske given credit for this?????????????? Penske had very little to do with this, heck, all the drivers knew it went on prior to 1981 and many of them, if not all, did it themselves. Al testified he did it, so did Sheldon K, Rutherford (a master at the pacer light) testified the rule was vague. Uncle Bobby knew exactly what the rules were and what he thought he could get away with.
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  2. #32
    Minion of the VRWC Lemming51's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelP View Post
    Bobby and Mario were more than a lap ahead of him. You penalize Bobby and Mario a lap they are STILL AHEAD of Schuppan, and then you are left with an Indy 497.5 which would not have sat well with ANYONE, but if you want to get nitpicky Bobby did an extra lap, so Bobby still wins. Please - let's drop this fallacy once and for all. ...
    Actually, the penalty was not 1 lap, but 1 position. Penalize them both, then Unser is 2nd, Andretti is 3rd, and Schuppan wins despite being 1 lap down.
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  3. #33
    There is no bigger fan of Mario than me. 1981 was a shame how it was handled. Bobby Unser had a superior car that day. However, if they penalized him during the race....it's impossible to say the outcome. He may have been caught up in back markers and who knows what? Bobby drove into victory lane.....Mario was awarded victory at the banquet and has the ring and Borg Warner day after pictures. The 500 has dual winners in the past. Maybe this would have been the best decision, as hollow as it would be.

  4. #34
    Sounds like USAC really screwed up here. And passing cars from the pits under the yellow like that is just ridiculous and just seems very wild west.

  5. #35
    Registered User turbopanzer's Avatar
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    Unser won. He won it fair and square. Just becuase they beat the rule book dosen't mean he cheated. That is what a good racer does. Just like 1994 and the "Beast". They saw the loophole and drop kicked the competition. That is racing!!! They don't give participation trophys in the real world.

  6. #36
    well he really didn't need to pass 20 cars coming out of the pits under yellow. He had the faster car. Kind of dumb on his part. Just saying.....

  7. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Lemming51 View Post
    Actually, the penalty was not 1 lap, but 1 position. Penalize them both, then Unser is 2nd, Andretti is 3rd, and Schuppan wins despite being 1 lap down.
    That's even worse - you have Bobby and Mario completing 500 miles and losing to a guy who only did 497.5.

  8. #38
    I love this sport so much dalz's Avatar
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    I certainly remember Bobby's uncompromising no-prisoners style, but perhaps a little more discretion would have been appropriate. If you have the field covered prohibitively, why oh why would you pull such a shady move that LOOKS as bad as that did? IMO Bobby and Penske deserved to end up with the win, AND deserved to spend 6mo. fighting for it.
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  9. #39
    Supreme Hoser of Pick 5 senorsoupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Belanger99 View Post
    McKay and Stewart must have known Sunday night something was amiss, or at the very least something was going on.
    They were aware that a protest was in the works. The incident(s) were not mentioned on the live radio broadcast but the McKay/Stewart commentary was done in post-production when the protest was already in the works.

  10. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelP View Post
    That's even worse - you have Bobby and Mario completing 500 miles and losing to a guy who only did 497.5.

    Agreed, every time this race comes up (gotta rehash it every 8 months or so), the whole Vern Schuppan thing has to rear its ugly head. If we want to argue the merits of the whole Andretti vrs. B. Unser thing that's fair but can we please put the "Vern Schuppan should've won" bit to rest. Why do we have to go over it again and again and again and again and again.


  11. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by senorsoupe View Post
    They were aware that a protest was in the works. The incident(s) were not mentioned on the live radio broadcast but the McKay/Stewart commentary was done in post-production when the protest was already in the works.


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  12. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by dalz View Post
    I certainly remember Bobby's uncompromising no-prisoners style, but perhaps a little more discretion would have been appropriate. If you have the field covered prohibitively, why oh why would you pull such a shady move that LOOKS as bad as that did?
    Simple: The rules allowed it. Knowing the rules and taking full advantage of them is part of the sport. From that perspective it doesn't look bad at all.

  13. #43
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    So our seats are in Stand A right across from pit one and the footage above is exactly what we saw race day. I looked over at my brother and said, "he can't do that, can he?!" However, as stated above, Uncle Bobby had the field covered and there was no way Mario was going to touch him. If you look at the footage again you can see a large gap in the line of cars ahead of Unser and he blends into that gap (after passing 8 cars under yellow) coming off of turn two onto the back stretch. That was Bobby's interpretation of the rule, which I don't believe stated where a driver had to blend in and I don't believe it said anything about not passing cars on the way to the blend point. It would be interesting to see the actual wording of the rule in question. I do believe the correct driver was eventually awarded the win and left the track that day feeling that Bobby won the race fair and square.

  14. #44
    500 History Buff! Pelican Joe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mears4time View Post
    Sounds like USAC really screwed up here. And passing cars from the pits under the yellow like that is just ridiculous and just seems very wild west.
    Wouldn't have been the first or last time that happened! Remember the 1997 race at Texas! That one got them booted for good.

    I agree with most around here, though...it was a vague rule that was exploited by several drivers (maybe not to the extent of Bobby)...but a lot of them did it...and I can all but guarantee that Penske and Walker were aware of the rule and urged their drivers to exploit it.

    I'm more of a Mario guy than an Uncle Bobby guy, but Unser won the race. Honestly, it seems more likely that USAC realized they had a poor rule in place that was exploited and captured on television and then scrambled to do damage control.
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  15. #45
    Quote Originally Posted by Pelican Joe View Post
    ...and I can all but guarantee that Penske and Walker were aware of the rule and urged their drivers to exploit it.

    .......
    Laurie Gerrish was Unser's chief mechanic and he has stated in interviews that the Penske team went through their pit exit "blending" strategy in detail the day before the 500 that year. Unser followed that strategy completely. Their plan was to exploit the blend rule, as written, to their advantage as much as possible.

  16. #46
    Proud to be a Furriner :) Michael Ferner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mario4ever View Post
    Shortly after that race I took the bus tour around the track. I remember the tour guide pointing out where Bobby Unser had illegally passed several cars under yellow that resulted in Mario being declared the winner of the race. I'll stick with that 'official' explanation. Mario won!
    Oh, so the IMS tour guide is now the 'official' in charge? Poor guy, now he will have to work on Sundays, too!

    Quote Originally Posted by HopHead View Post
    I think '81 is a perfect example of Penske doing what he does best. He found a loophole in the rules (or rather a lack of a written rule altogether), had his driver take advantage of it, and won the race.

    That's the problem with unwritten rules. They are also pretty much un-enforceable. The ironic part is that he had the car/driver combo that would have won the race without using the loophole, IMO.
    I don't think it was an "unwritten rule" or even a loophole - my understanding is that the rule clearly defined how to blend in when leaving the pitlane, but failed to define exactly what the pitlane was. Now, everybody knows what a pitlane is, don't we, so no need to define it. Until RP and BU showed us that the pitlane really ends in the middle of Turn 2, that is. Hardly anyone blended in at the end of the pit wall, even PP and MA did it in the middle of the south short chute, that's why their case was a no-hoper. Penske's interpretation made much more sense, even it was farthest away from the "spirit of the rule".

    And: driving a wedge between Patrick and Penske? C'mon, you can't be serious!

  17. #47
    Arguably if ABC had already been doing a live telecast there probably would have been no controversy. It was something that was clearly milked for all it was worth during post-production right down to how McKay and Stewart "called" the infraction given that they were going from a script. Bobby *really* let loose on ABC during the "Big Ticket" replay of the 500 where he accused ABC of deliberately ignoring bringing him on and he's likely right about that. ABC in its "live" part of the broadcast had Andretti on to explain the protest yet curiously didn't have the winner available to talk to which was their usual practice for the live closer. I suspect that they didn't want to get Bobby Unser on and have to deal with an on-air blow-up that likely wouldn't have allowed them to get off the air on time!

  18. #48
    500 History Buff! Pelican Joe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Ferner View Post
    Oh, so the IMS tour guide is now the 'official' in charge? Poor guy, now he will have to work on Sundays, too!



    I don't think it was an "unwritten rule" or even a loophole - my understanding is that the rule clearly defined how to blend in when leaving the pitlane, but failed to define exactly what the pitlane was. Now, everybody knows what a pitlane is, don't we, so no need to define it. Until RP and BU showed us that the pitlane really ends in the middle of Turn 2, that is. Hardly anyone blended in at the end of the pit wall, even PP and MA did it in the middle of the south short chute, that's why their case was a no-hoper. Penske's interpretation made much more sense, even it was farthest away from the "spirit of the rule".

    And: driving a wedge between Patrick and Penske? C'mon, you can't be serious!
    The "wedge" angle came from Bobby's autobiography. He claimed that Patrick did not protest the finish and that the whole thing had had been contrived by USAC to create a falling out between Penske and Patrick in an effort to destroy CART.

  19. #49
    Kart racer, Indyfan 1988- SteveK51's Avatar
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    The version of events from Bobby as of a few weeks ago was that Mario put the bug in ABC's ear that there was an issue, which in turn forced USAC to do something about it, which would contradict his autobiography. But Bobby Unser is never wrong, after all...

  20. #50
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Ferner View Post
    Oh, so the IMS tour guide is now the 'official' in charge? Poor guy, now he will have to work on Sundays, too!



    I don't think it was an "unwritten rule" or even a loophole - my understanding is that the rule clearly defined how to blend in when leaving the pitlane, but failed to define exactly what the pitlane was. Now, everybody knows what a pitlane is, don't we, so no need to define it. Until RP and BU showed us that the pitlane really ends in the middle of Turn 2, that is. Hardly anyone blended in at the end of the pit wall, even PP and MA did it in the middle of the south short chute, that's why their case was a no-hoper. Penske's interpretation made much more sense, even it was farthest away from the "spirit of the rule".

    And: driving a wedge between Patrick and Penske? C'mon, you can't be serious!
    Good grief. Unser won the race, and he didn't cheat.

    Look at the video. Starting from the end of the pit wall, there's a painted line all the way through T1, down the short chute, into turn 2.

    Nobody, ever, blended in exactly at the end of the pit wall. It couldn't be done. So they stayed below the white line until they blended in. Since everybody exiting the pits HAD to run below the white line for some distance, how far could they run below the white line? Nobody ever made a rule about that. There was no "end of blend" rule or marking.

    Unser took advantage of the situation, but he violated no rule, crossed no line.

    If Andretti wanted to win, he had only to drive faster. Andrettis were not only cursed at Indy, they were crybabies.

    Of course the Unsers had some crybaby genes too. Lil' Al whined like a two year old when he tried to intimidate Emmo, and Fittipaldi took away his pacifier in 1989.

  21. #51
    500 History Buff! Pelican Joe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveK51 View Post
    The version of events from Bobby as of a few weeks ago was that Mario put the bug in ABC's ear that there was an issue, which in turn forced USAC to do something about it, which would contradict his autobiography. But Bobby Unser is never wrong, after all...
    Good ole' Bobby! If I recall, he also states that Pat Patrick was on his side during the lawsuit.

  22. #52
    Proud to be a Furriner :) Michael Ferner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jnormanh View Post
    Good grief. Unser won the race, and he didn't cheat.
    Quit preaching to the choir

  23. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by indyrjc View Post
    Laurie Gerrish was Unser's chief mechanic and he has stated in interviews that the Penske team went through their pit exit "blending" strategy in detail the day before the 500 that year. Unser followed that strategy completely. Their plan was to exploit the blend rule, as written, to their advantage as much as possible.
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  24. #54
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    Also, if he hadn't crashed, I think Danny Ongais would of had something for Uncle Bobby for the 2nd half of the race. The batmobile was bad-fast all month long and Ongais was a beast at that stage of his career. Unser would of had better stops, but Ongais had worked his way to the front just before he crashed.

  25. #55
    Quote Originally Posted by Waiting for May View Post
    Also, if he hadn't crashed, I think Danny Ongais would of had something for Uncle Bobby for the 2nd half of the race. The batmobile was bad-fast all month long and Ongais was a beast at that stage of his career. Unser would of had better stops, but Ongais had worked his way to the front just before he crashed.
    And if Tom Sneva hadn't have broke he could have challenged for the win too. But to finish first, you must first finish.
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  26. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveL View Post
    And if Tom Sneva hadn't have broke he could have challenged for the win too. But to finish first, you must first finish.
    Yep. I believe that was the debut of the March chassis at Indy. Sneva had a rocket ship as well that day.

    Outside of Ongais, I was probably most disappointed that Mosely went out so quick. The Pepsi Challenger was a cool car and it would of been neat to see it last and challenge. Imagine how awesome it would of been to see Bobby and Al, Ongais, Mosely, and Sneva all fighting it out. You would of had 5 different drivers in 5 dramatically different cars fighting for the win. We can only dream.

  27. #57
    Proud to be a Furriner :) Michael Ferner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Waiting for May View Post
    We can only dream.
    ... or try to write intelligble English.

  28. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michael Ferner View Post
    ... or try to write intelligble English.
    Intelligible. .

  29. #59
    Proud to be a Furriner :) Michael Ferner's Avatar
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  30. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pelican Joe View Post
    Good ole' Bobby! If I recall, he also states that Pat Patrick was on his side during the lawsuit.
    Well...He was signed with Patrick for the 1983 season before he decided to stay retired....that said, I'm guessing he probably got wind of what a dog the 83 Wildcat was
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