Wednesday, May 28, 1997
Only Goodyear's engine whined

The Cincinnati Enquirer

INDIANAPOLIS - Scott Goodyear's bitterness was brief. He will always wonder about the finish of Tuesday's Indianapolis 500, but he has already stopped whining about it.

He had lost the renowned automobile race for a second time by a fraction of a second, and this time he had cause to consider himself the victim of official blundering. He might have made a scene, and stomped his little leaden foot in indignation, but he applied his emotional brakes well before he reached rage.

"I guess I'm still in just disbelief," Goodyear said. "There's no emotion to it because you can't be emotional when you're (hacked) off."

With a little more than one lap left before the checkered flag could be waved at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Goodyear was cruising along in second place behind Arie Luyendyk. Both drivers believed the race was destined to end under a yellow caution flag, which prohibits passing.

But just before Luyendyk reached the signal platform at the start - finish line, the track again went green. Part of it, anyway.

Chief Steward Keith Ward, eager to provide the fans with a memorable finish, called for a green flag for the final lap. Flagman Brian Howard responded promptly, but chief observer Claude Fisher, charged with turning on the corresponding lights, did not hear Ward's order and let the lights linger on yellow.

Goodyear's chance to get the jump on the decisive restart was inevitably compromised in the confusion. His hesitation in changing gears and applying the accelerator might have meant all the difference in a race that was decided by .57 seconds. He would have had good reason to feel robbed, particularly in light of his unhappy history at The Brickyard.

No yelling or screaming

Yet except for describing the United States Auto Club's execution error as "bloody stupid," Goodyear deserved a Good Conduct medal. He spoke of his disappointment without raising his voice or pounding his fists. He would swallow the defeat with dignity, the digestive process improved because Luyendyk is Goodyear's teammate with Treadway Racing. That Luyendyk likely had the better car also made it easier to rationalize.

"I'm not sure if we would have had enough to pass him there at the end, anyway," Goodyear said. "There was a little too much drag in the car. but it would have been nice to give 110 percent . . . "Coming off that yellow, Arie just ate me up . . . It caught me completely by surprise. It's green on the tower, but yellow all around. I saw yellow (lights) all the way around the bloody straightaway and then they went green."

Luyendyk said he remembered seeing a similar situation unfold in a race he watched on television. Memory told him to observe the green flag and ignore the yellow lights.

"I missed that show," Scott Goodyear said.

"It's a mistake that we shouldn't have made," said Ward, the steward. "But remember, regardless what the light is, the flag at the flag stand is the governing factor . . . This doesn't diminish the effect of the race at all for me. Arie clearly had the fastest car."

Luyendyk best in stretch

Before it was interrupted by rain Monday afternoon, Luyendyk had started the race from the pole position. Though Tony Stewart would lead more laps, recorded the fastest single lap (215.626 miles per hour), and once forced Luyendyk's left tires onto the infield grass, the Dutch driver was superior down the stretch.

Goodyear led the race twice, each time for only one lap. He might have won under slightly different circumstances, but this near-miss was not nearly so frustrating as two of his previous Indy finishes. In 1992, Goodyear was the 500's closest-ever runnerup, losing to Al Unser Jr. by .043 seconds. In 1995, he was leading the race with 10 laps to go only to be black flagged for passing the pace car on a restart.

"I don't feel jinxed," Goodyear said. "I'm just disappointed. If I got to Lap 199 three times in a row and the engine blew up, that would be very weird."

Tuesday's finish was weird in its own way, but it didn't pose Scott Goodyear any handling problems.

"Second place," he said, cheerfully, "does go in the record books."