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Thread: 1981 Indy 500

  1. #1

    1981 Indy 500

    Who should have ultimately been declared the winner? Bobby or Mario? And who were Bobby's USAC enemies he was talking about and why would they conspire to take it away from him?

  2. #2
    Registered User noivson's Avatar
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    Vern Shuppan

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    Had he not caught fire, Rick Mears.

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    Registered User The Weasel's Avatar
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    Sheldon Kinser, obviously.
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    Registered User uh_clem's Avatar
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    I would have rather seen Mario win.

    Quote Originally Posted by Mears4time View Post
    And who were Bobby's USAC enemies he was talking about and why would they conspire to take it away from him?
    Was he claiming there was a conspiracy against him?

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by noivson View Post
    Vern Shuppan
    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.

    The controversy was nothing more than an attempt to drive a wedge between CART owners Pat Patrick and Roger Penske.

  7. #7
    500 History Buff! Pelican Joe's Avatar
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    Good point about Penske and Patrick.
    Real drivers don't need fenders!

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    Registered User Tree0404's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelP View Post
    Please - let's drop this fallacy once and for all.
    Eh, I don't mind the rehashing of controversial subjects. There are/will always be always new / young Indycar fans that don't know the full story behind a lot of these kind of events which much of the background isn't on Wikipedia or told with 100% truth in books.. Its always nice to get different people's perspectives.

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    Insider BADGER's Avatar
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    Had Bobby been assessed a penalty to start at the back after the yellow, there is little doubt in my mind he would have caught and passed Mario.

  10. #10
    At the end of the day neither Unser or Andretti actually violated any rules. The entire USAC "rule" was ambiguous at best when it came to blending in and just what defined the racing surface. The Penske team had planned to have Unser do exactly what he did after pit stops because the rule was so poorly defined.

    And in the end they were proven to be correct.

  11. #11
    Supreme Hoser of Pick 5 senorsoupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mears4time View Post
    Who should have ultimately been declared the winner? Bobby or Mario? And who were Bobby's USAC enemies he was talking about and why would they conspire to take it away from him?
    As has been mentioned, it wasn't so much a conspiracy against Bobby Unser directly, but USAC was trying to drive a wedge between Roger Penske and Pat Patrick, the two most powerful members of CART at the time. It was essentially a USAC conspiracy against CART, unfortunately Uncle Bobby and Mario were caught up in it.

  12. #12
    Supreme Hoser of Pick 5 senorsoupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BADGER View Post
    Had Bobby been assessed a penalty to start at the back after the yellow, there is little doubt in my mind he would have caught and passed Mario.
    Oh for sure, Uncle Bobby had the best car and was the best driver on the day.

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by BADGER View Post
    Had Bobby been assessed a penalty to start at the back after the yellow, there is little doubt in my mind he would have caught and passed Mario.
    I think you are right.

    But when you think about it outside of some drive thru penalties (or maybe a stop and go) for running over pit hoses there really weren't all that many penalties called in Indy racing back then at any track.

    And there certainly weren't all of the judgment calls like "avoidable contact" called. Those kind of things were settled between the drivers themselves and they pretty much had their own code about it. Blocking was unheard of and for the most part is a product of the more modern blocking coach (otherwise known as spotters) era of the last 20 years or so.

    Some of the younger drivers don't believe Rick Mears when he tells them that he ran his entire career without spotters. They can't see how it's even possible.

  14. #14
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    Bobby won it.

    But, hey, Sneva might have been the fastest car that day.

    And there were over 30 drivers who entered and did not make the race. Like a whole field worth of driver/car combinations!

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    Resident of the NE Vista Mario4ever's Avatar
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    Paul Tracy?


    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!
    "If you wait, all that happens is you get older" - Mario Andretti

  16. #16
    The Ladder Broke in 74
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    I will jump on the bandwagon that says there is no way Mario would have beaten Bobby on the track...After Sneva and Mears fell out it was pretty much a cake walk for Unser. I was in Paddock that day across from Mears' pit. You could feel the heat from the fire across the track, it was pretty intense. Not to mention Sneva had just had pit issues just in front of Mears and that section of pit lane was a mess
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  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by preacher View Post

    And there were over 30 drivers who entered and did not make the race. Like a whole field worth of driver/car combinations!

    It's interesting that in 1981, there were 67 different drivers on track during the month, including 22 rookies !!!!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by WIBCRacing View Post
    It's interesting that in 1981, there were 67 different drivers on track during the month, including 22 rookies !!!!
    2 full fields +1
    And people wonder why some of get upset with the current situation

  19. #19
    Quote Originally Posted by WIBCRacing View Post
    It's interesting that in 1981, there were 67 different drivers on track during the month, including 22 rookies !!!!
    This just seems crazy too me. Was it because the cars were so much cheaper more people were able to afford an attempt? Or was sponsorship so good companies were willing to put forth the money for even an "attempt" to qualify? I know Crusher Murray said he had a big sponsor willing to sign for Matt Brabham this year but only if he was guaranteed in the field (which at the time we all thought there would be bumping).

    Bear in my mind although i have foggy memories of the late 90's i didnt really start following Indy until 2002 so i dont have much knowledge of bump days of old.

  20. #20
    Quote Originally Posted by solidiumsnak View Post
    This just seems crazy too me. Was it because the cars were so much cheaper more people were able to afford an attempt? Or was sponsorship so good companies were willing to put forth the money for even an "attempt" to qualify? I know Crusher Murray said he had a big sponsor willing to sign for Matt Brabham this year but only if he was guaranteed in the field (which at the time we all thought there would be bumping).

    Bear in my mind although i have foggy memories of the late 90's i didnt really start following Indy until 2002 so i dont have much knowledge of bump days of old.


    It was just a much different time, you could run a truly low-budget operation and take your shot at making the field with 5-year old equipment, sometimes older.

    Now, some of those 67 drivers didn't have a real chance of making the field, only 46 cars actually completed qualifying runs.. 12 cars were bumped total, and one was too slow to bump-in.

    But 61 cars did at least make an attempt, which I believe is still the record.

    Those definitely were the days.

  21. #21
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    From my understanding of the situation, it was pretty much a rule that was not universally followed or enforced and it sounds like Mario might have broken the rule as well....

    The bottom line is, Bobby was the winner.

  22. #22
    The Ladder Broke in 74
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    Quote Originally Posted by WIBCRacing View Post
    It was just a much different time, you could run a truly low-budget operation and take your shot at making the field with 5-year old equipment, sometimes older.

    Now, some of those 67 drivers didn't have a real chance of making the field, only 46 cars actually completed qualifying runs.. 12 cars were bumped total, and one was too slow to bump-in.

    But 61 cars did at least make an attempt, which I believe is still the record.

    Those definitely were the days.
    I think Partly had to do with the fact that they didn't obsolete a car the moment a new chassis came out....well that and you could build your own engine.

  23. #23
    T-Loin/Beer Aficionado HopHead's Avatar
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    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.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by BSJracing View Post
    2 full fields +1
    And people wonder why some of get upset with the current situation
    Yep.

    Now imagine if there were only 33 spec Penskes entered that year and they were all driven within a few tenths of a second of each other.

    This is just me, but I preferred how it was in '81.
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  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by DaveL View Post
    Yep.

    Now imagine if there were only 33 spec Penskes entered that year and they were all driven within a few tenths of a second of each other.

    This is just me, but I preferred how it was in '81.

    Yes and no for me.


    I like all the entries in 1981, and all of the drivers & cars battling for starting spots.


    I don't personally care for the 6th place car being 5 laps down and the 10th place car being 14 laps down in 1982, but that's just me.

  26. #26
    Turned out to be Bobby's last 500. In 12 races that year, including 11 with CART, Bobby qualified on the pole 4 times, second 4 times, and 4th once. Atlanta ran two races that year and despite starting second in the first race you lined up for race two how you finished race one which is why he started 13th there. Pretty amazing stats for an old fart at the time! Between 79 and 81 his average starting spot was 3rd.

    He won the 2nd Iroc championship, here is Foyt giving him a bump draft.




  27. #27
    People forget that Bobby drives the roads of Albuquerque. Here when you get on the freeway, you just close your eyes and punch it.
    All roads lead to Indy except for State Road 39 which goes to Martinsville.

    "These cars are traveling faster than we can react" Eddie Sachs, race day 1964 (Indianapolis Times).

    I could join the "Mile High Club" without ever leaving my home.

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by solidiumsnak View Post
    Or was sponsorship so good companies were willing to put forth the money for even an "attempt" to qualify?
    There was not much big sponsorship in 1981 and what was there, most of it went to Penske and Patrick, with Hall carrying Pennzoil for JR. Gurney managed to snag Pepsi and Foyt Valvoline, but most teams were shoe strings. A lot of the cars were owner sponsored: Red Roof, Interscope, Alex Foods - i.e. the owner using their own businesses as sponsor to write off the expense, or a hodgepodge of small sponsors. Second hand cars were cheap, but they were also uncompetitive.

  29. #29
    I fear this thread has morphed from a discussion of the Indy 500 to another "the good old days were better" blog even though as stated, the finishes were not nearly as exciting as we see today.

  30. #30
    Registered User The Weasel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buzz View Post
    I fear this thread has morphed from a discussion of the Indy 500 to another "the good old days were better" blog even though as stated, the finishes were not nearly as exciting as we see today.
    Seems like the line between this section, the "Nostalgia Forums" and "Controversy" have all blurred.

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