An Overlooked Career At Indianapolis

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At this time of year, it is usually a hot topic of discussion to debate who the best drivers were that never won the Indianapolis 500. The usual names tossed about are Lloyd Ruby, Michael Andretti, Ted Horn and Rex Mays along with several others. There is one name that is usually lacking from the discussion that should arguably be included – Scott Goodyear.

Today, fans primarily think of Scott Goodyear as an analyst with ABC/ESPN. Personally, I think Goodyear gets a bad rap as a broadcaster. I think he suffers from being paired with the underwhelming Marty Reid, but that’s another argument for another day. When taking Goodyear’s racing career into account, most fans think of the finish of the 1992 Indianapolis 500. Granted, he did a remarkable bit of driving when he came from his thirty-third starting position to within a few feet of winning – but his credentials go beyond that famous finish.

Scott Goodyear raced in a handful of CART races between 1987 and 1989. He became a full-time driver in 1990, driving for Canadian businessman Jim O’Donnell with MacKenzie Financial sponsorship. His first two full seasons in CART, driving for O’Donnell, produced two thirteenth place seasons in the points. His rookie year at Indianapolis in 1990, Goodyear finished with a decent tenth-place finish, but his Judd engine gave up after thirty-eight laps in 1991, relegating him to a forgettable twenty-seventh place result.

For 1992, Goodyear and his MacKenzie Financial sponsorship moved over to Walker Racing (or Walker Motorsports, as it was called then), headed by Derrick Walker – IndyCar’s new head of competition. Now with the Chevy engine to power him, Goodyear was finally able to showcase his talents. Heading into the Month of May, Goodyear already had a top-ten at Surfer’s Paradise and a fifth place finish at Long Beach in the young season. After the now-famous closest second-place in Indianapolis 500 history, Scott Goodyear went on to eight top-ten finishes – including an impressive win in the Michigan 500 and a third place finish in CART’s debut at New Hampshire. He went on to finish fifth in the CART point standings.

The first half of the 1993 season didn’t go as well as the season before, although he was in his second year with the team and now had the powerful Ford-Cosworth XB in his Lola. Still, Goodyear qualified for the 1993 Indianapolis 500 on the inside of the second row and finished seventh. He closed out the second half of the CART season with seven top-ten finishes, including a second, third and two fourth-place finishes in the last four races to salvage a ninth place finish in the points.

For 1994, Scott Goodyear moved to Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser King Racing, replacing Roberto Guerrero. The results were not good. Heading into the Michigan 500, Goodyear’s two best finishes were tenth at Surfer’s Paradise and also Toronto. He did manage to win the Michigan 500 for the second time in three years. His season improved slightly after Michigan. His best finish to close out the 1994 season was fourth at Vancouver. Budweiser King Racing closed the doors on their IndyCar team for good at the end of the season.

Goodyear had no ride for the 1995 season, but managed to snare a plumb ride in Steve Horne’s second car at Tasman Motorsports for the Indianapolis 500 as teammate to André Ribeiro. Goodyear and Ribeiro would be the only two cars in the field with Honda power, as they were trying to recover from a horrible debut season the year before with Rahal/Hogan. The two Tasman cars would also be one of only eight on the grid with Firestone tires, as the famed automaker was in it’s first year of IndyCar competition since 1974. As it turned out, the Reynard/Honda/Firestone combination would prove formidable in years to come.

Goodyear put his car on the front row and was credited with leading forty-two laps that day. I say credited, because he actually led more…about nine more to be exact. On a late re-start, Goodyear passed the pace car in Turn Four and was black-flagged as he built a huge lead over the second-place car of Jacques Villeneuve. Goodyear never answered the black flag, so USAC stopped scoring him after Lap 195. Though Goodyear crossed the finish line on Lap 200 before anyone else, he was credited with a fourteenth-place finish.

Some were unsympathetic towards Goodyear immediately after the 1995 race. I agree that video and track transponder evidence proved he passed the pace car on the re-start, but I was sitting in Turn Four that day and had witnessed how slow the pace car had been going on re-starts all day long. On the re-start in question, Goodyear laid back anticipating another slow start. His plan was to go slow as well and then punch the throttle in Turn Three. By the time he accelerated and caught up with the pace car, the pace car would be in the pits and Villeneuve would be left trying to catch up – at least that was the plan. What Goodyear didn’t anticipate was that the pace car would slow down even more than usual to allow the slowing Goodyear to catch up. He did…and then some. Put me in the camp with those that think Goodyear got a little screwed that day. It is my opinion that had he not passed the pace car that day, he still had the car underneath him to hold off Villeneuve anyway. The incident has made for a good punch line for him ever since. Kudos to Goodyear that he doesn’t keep insisting that he is the rightful winner, like another fellow Canadian driver does to this day about another controversial finish.

This would not be the last controversial finish for Scott Goodyear at the Indianapolis 500. Two years later, Goodyear was running second to his teammate Arie Luyendyk, when a series of late cautions came out in the last ten laps. On Lap 198, another yellow came out when Tony Stewart grazed the wall. Oddly enough, the pace car never came out. As Luyendyk led the field around at a slow pace, with Goodyear just behind in second place – it appeared to everyone that the white flag would come out and the race would finish under caution. As Luyendyk approached the white flag, USAC suddenly flew the green flag as well. Adding to the confusion was that the yellow lights around the track never went out. Had Goodyear and the rest of the field been aware that the green would fly, Luyendyk could have been a sitting duck as Goodyear could have made a last-lap pass on his Treadway Racing teammate. Instead, Goodyear was left to wonder what might have been – again.

Altogether, Scott Goodyear drove in the Indianapolis 500 eleven times. He finished agonizingly close with two second-place finishes along with the highly controversial 1995 finish that haunts him to this day. In addition to the two second-place finishes, Scott Goodyear has three top-ten finishes. That’s not too shabby for eleven starts.

Granted – Ted Horn, who never finished lower than fourth in his last nine races at Indianapolis, has a much better record. But the great Rex Mays is always considered one of the best to have never won the Indianapolis 500, yet aside from two second-place finishes along with a sixth – his best finish was sixteenth in a total of twelve starts. To be fair, Mays did lead a total of 266 laps.

Lloyd Ruby had eighteen starts at Indianapolis from 1960 to 1977. He led 126 laps, seven top-ten finishes with his best finishes being third in 1964 and fifth in 1968; although he led many races before falling out with mechanical woes. Michael Andretti had sixteen starts in the Indianapolis 500. Aside from Ted Horn, his record may be the most impressive of those in the conversation. In those sixteen starts, he had nine top-ten finishes including a second-place in 1991 and third in 2001 and 2006.

So, I’m not saying that Scott Goodyear is the best driver to have never won the Indianapolis 500 – far from it. But when you look at his career at The Speedway, I do feel that it’s fair that he be in the discussion. After all, it’s all a matter of opinion anyway.

George Phillips

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8 Responses to “An Overlooked Career At Indianapolis”

  1. Everyone in the early 90′s CART series considered him to be a possible threat…not always in the top-tier, but he was quick enough that it seemed odd if he qualified and raced outside of the top-10-to-12. We just never saw how well he would do if it came to a shootout with one of the top guns of the day…and the near-miss at the Speedway against Al Jr in the fickle Galmer raised the question even more as to if he could really go head-to-head with the best.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    It is unfortunate that Goodyear never got to race at Fontana or Pocono, as he seemed to be at his best on the large, flat ovals. It’s also unfortunate that he did not get a better farewell than a Grill2Go-sponsored and Infiniti-powered car at the 2001 Indy 500.

    I’ve long enjoyed the factoid that Goodyear raced part of his career on Firestone tires while Dennis Firestone raced his whole career on Goodyear tires. It’s not quite “curse of the Smiths” level trivia, but its still quite fun.

  3. Scott Goodyear should always be in the discussion. Scott, by the way, started LAST in ’92 and was so close.

  4. Savage Henry Says:

    As I recall, there were a lot of problems with the pace car in 1995. Wasn’t Villeneuve penalized 2 laps for passing the pace car earlier in the race?

    I always liked Goodyear as a driver. It must keep him up at night that he was so close to an indy 500 win twice.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I’ve only encountered Scott Goodyear once, in an autograph line at a 1999 IRL race at Texas. I had made it my quest to get autographs from all of the active drivers in my collection of 1992 Hi-Tech Indy 500 trading cards, and Goodyear, Cheever, and Lazier were at this race.

      Cheever beamed when he saw the card, proclaimed it a “golden oldie” and happily signed it. Lazier was equally as friendly, though that may have been relief that the guy in front of me, who was holding up the line trying to sell spark plugs to Buddy, was finally gone. Goodyear was not unfriendly, incredibly polite as a matter of fact, but his face fell a little as he read “Goodyear – 2nd” on the front of the trading card. He signed it, though.

      First time I kinda realized how tough losing is on a driver.

  5. “Kudos to Goodyear that he doesn’t keep insisting that he is the rightful winner, like another fellow Canadian driver does to this day about another controversial finish.”

    Oh. Ouch. But oh, so true.

    I was always in the camp of those who thought Goodyear was a bit underrated. In fact, I even picked him as my winner in the ’95 500, and was basically doing victory laps around our living room as they came back to the green flag on that last restart (nobody had anything for Scott, so winning should have been a total layup…). Good thing I also liked Jacques, or I’d have been even more embarrassed/ticked. Anyway, great post and great take on an interesting career, George.

  6. To be honest, I don’t have much sympathy for him when it comes to 1995. The rule is the rule: if the pace car’s gonig 5 mph, you go 4 mph.

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