Later this month, NUVO will present 500 facts about the Indy 500. Between now and then, we'll be sharing five facts per day from our upcoming story. Yesterday we received a batch of photos from the Fasig family of Indy, including quite a few from 1979. So:
344. Rick Mears started his legendary series of wins in 1979.
He’d become the third, and so far the last, man to win four 500s.
345. CART teams were given the cold shoulder in 1979.
After a beef with USAC that led to the formation of Championship Auto Racing Teams (led by Roger Penske, Pat Patrick and a number of other team owners), CART’s entries for the ’79 500 were rejected by IMS. A judge overruled the IMS decision, which led to the Speedway’s insistence that the 500 would be limited to those they invited.
346. The lawsuits eventually led to a 35-car field.
Wrangling over exhaust system rules (as outlined in a lawsuit brought by angry would-be entrants) pressured USAC to give 11 cars another shot at quals. Two entrants — Bill Vukovich II and George Snider — bested Roger McCluskey’s bump speed and made the grid.
347. Tom Sneva was denied three poles in a row by Mears.
Sneva’s #1 car started in the middle of Row One in 1979.
349. "Ground effects” cars first ran in ’79.
Jim Hall’s Chaparral 2K — dubbed the “Yellow Submarine” — had tunnels on the underside of the body that created a suction effect and made for much faster cornering.