Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

1997 Indianapolis 500

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Sanctioning body  USAC/IRL
Date  May 25-26-27, 1997
Winning team  Treadway Racing
Season  1996-97 IRL season
Winner  Arie Luyendyk
Average speed  145.827 mph
1997 Indianapolis 500

The 81st Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana over three days, May 25–27, 1997. It was originally scheduled for Sunday May 25, however, rain washed out all activities for the day. The race was started on Monday May 26, but rain halted the race after only 15 laps had been completed. On Tuesday May 27, the race was resumed, and was run to completion. The rain delay, as well as two controversies (one during time trials, and one during the race), put a damper on the month.


It was the second Indianapolis 500 held as part of the USAC-sanctioned Indy Racing League, and was part of the 1996-97 Pep Boys Indy Racing League season. It marked the introduction of a new production-based, normally aspirated engine formula as well as a new chassis design.

A controversy during qualifying saw two additional cars added to the field after the close of time trials. It was only the second time since 1933 that more than the traditional 33 cars composed the starting grid.

With two laps to go, polesitter Arie Luyendyk led teammate Scott Goodyear. A caution came out on the 199th lap, but the pace car did not come out to pick up the field. Drivers and crews expected the race would finish under the caution. Without warning, the green and white flag were displayed at the starter's stand on the final lap, signifying the track was back to racing conditions. None of the cars in the field were prepared for the restart, and yellow lights around the course remained illuminated for many seconds afterwards. Luyendyk held on to win, but controversy erupted regarding the officials' poor handling of the situation. Less than a month later, USAC was permanently removed from sanctioning the IRL and Indy 500, in favor of in-house officiating.

The win by Arie Luyendyk marked the milestone 50th Indianapolis 500 victory for Firestone. It was Luyendyk's second Indy victory (he also won in 1990), as well as Scott Goodyear's second runner-up finish (1992). It was the third time in his career that Goodyear narrowly lost the Indy 500 in the closing stages. Luyendyk became the first driver since A. J. Foyt to win the race with both a turbocharged and a normally-aspirated engine.

Race schedule

The 1997 race utilized the traditional three week / four weekend schedule that had been in use since the mid-1970s. Practice started on the Saturday 22 days prior to the race, and four days of time trials were utilized. With changes to the schedule in subsequent years, 1997 would be the final year that used the 23-day month of May schedule. It was also the final year that used the traditional four days of time trials, along with the original four-day qualifying format that had dated back to 1952.

New engine and chassis package

New engines and new cars arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for 1997. In 1996, it was announced that all races of the Indy Racing League would switch to a normally aspirated stock block formula starting in January 1997. In addition, a new contingent of chassis rules accompanied the powerplants. All engines for 1997 would be 4.0 L, 32-valve production-based engines. There would be two manufacturers involved, Oldsmobile Aurora (L47) and Nissan Infiniti (VH). The chassis were constructed by Dallara and G-Force. Riley & Scott also was selected as a chassis manufacturer, but they were not yet ready for competition.

The changes were in the interest of cutting costs, lowering speeds, and bringing the racing closer together. After setting an all-time track record of over 237 mph a year earlier, Arie Luyendyk's top lap for qualifying in 1997 would drop to 217 mph.

With turbochargers legislated out of the series, the 1997 race was the first since the early 1960s to feature a full 33-car field of piston-powered, normally aspirated powerplants.

Track changes

The track was repaved in the fall of 1995. Following the 1996 Brickyard 400, the apexes of the four turns were breaking up. Over the offseason, track crews repaved the apexes of the turns with a different compound of asphalt. The result was a better surface, but a visibly darker area in the apexes of all four turns.

Continuing split from CART

The ongoing IRL/CART split continued into its second year. No major teams from the CART ranks entered at Indianapolis. With the new IRL chassis and engine rules for 1997, the two series now had substantially different and incompatible equipment. The alternative U.S. 500, however, was cancelled after only one running. Instead of running another race the same day as the Indy 500, CART teams participated in the Motorola 300 at the newly opened Gateway International Raceway on Saturday May 24, the day before the Indy 500 was scheduled.

Robby Gordon, a CART regular from 1992–1996, had switched his full-time focus to NASCAR for 1997, driving for Felix Sabates. Sabates arranged for Gordon to race the Indy/Charlotte Double Duty," planning to race at Indy and the Coca-Cola 600 in the same day. The effort was well-funded, and received considerable media attention.

1996–97 IRL season

For its first season, the IRL schedule was situated such that the Indianapolis 500 would be the final race of the season. That provided that the IRL championship would be crowned at the conclusion of the Indy 500. The arrangement proved unusual, and disruptive. The 1996–97 IRL season was originally scheduled to begin at Loudon in August 1996, and conclude with the 1997 Indy 500.

In October, league officials announced that the league would revert to the calendar-based season. To aid the transition, the 1996-97 season would include the two races run in late 1996, and all races run in 1997. The Indy 500 would no longer serve at the season finale.

Locked-in entries

For the 1997 Indy 500, 25 (of 33) starting grid positions were set aside for the top 25 cars in 1996-97 season IRL points standings. The arrangement was a controversial rule, known as the "25/8 Rule," introduced during the 1996 IRL season, and had been a key issue that led the CART teams to boycott the 1996 race.

The format (similar in practice to NASCAR's Top 35 rule introduced years later) provided that the top 25 entries (not drivers) in owner points were guaranteed a "locked-in" starting position, and could not be bumped, provided they completed a four-lap qualifying run over a minimum prescribed speed. Officials set 203 mph as the minimum. The grid would still be arranged by speed rank. The remaining eight positions would be filled by non-top 25 entries, and bumping could only occur amongst those participants.

Going into the race, the 25 entries that were eligible for a "locked-in" starting position were as follows:

The following two entries were eligible, but did not accept the berth:

  • #74 Della Penna Motorsports - participated in the first two races of the 1996-97 season with driver Richie Hearn, but left the IRL to join the CART series over the winter.
  • #15 Tempero-Guiffre Racing - car was eligible, and was entered, but no driver was named, and it did not take any practice laps.
  • Since only 23 of the 25 eligible "locked-in" entries accepted berths, 10 at-large starting positions were up for grabs at the onset of qualifying. Among the many drivers not locked-in were Lyn St. James, Steve Kinser, and Robby Gordon.

    Practice - week 1

    Saturday May 3 - Opening Day
    The first day of practice, set aside for Rookie Orientation, was rained out.

    Sunday May 4 - Rookie Orientation
    The first day of track activity saw six rookies take laps. Vincenzo Sospiri led the speed chart at 211.964 mph. Sospiri and Kenny Bräck both passed their rookie tests.

    Monday May 5 - Rookie Orientation
    A very light day of activity saw only four cars take a total of 80 laps. Kenny Bräck turned the fastest lap (205.597 mph), and Sam Schmidt passed his rookie test.

    Tuesday May 6
    The first full day of practice saw heavy activity. Tony Stewart set the early pace with a lap of 214.337 mph. The only incident of the day occurred when Jeff Ward blew an engine and spun into the wall in turn 3. Arie Luyendyk set the fastest lap thus far of the month at 5:24 p.m., at 218.707 mph.

    Wednesday May 7
    Scott Sharp crashed in turn 1 late in the afternoon, heavily damaging his primary car. He had just run a lap of 217.402 mph. Arie Luyendyk became the first driver over 220 mph, with a lap of 220.297 mph. Rain closed the track about 10 minutes early.

    Thursday May 8
    Rain kept the track closed until 3 p.m. The final three hours saw average activity. Just minutes after the track opened, Arie Luyendyk spun in the southchute, and tagged the wall, suffering minor nose cone damage. He was uninjured. later, Luyendyk returned to the track, and once again, led the speed chart at 217.318 mph.

    Friday May 9
    The final day of practice before pole qualifying saw heavy action, and cool temperatures (51 °F). Three incidents, however, shuffled the field. John Paul, Jr. crashed in turn four, and suffered a broken leg. Scott Sharp also crashed exiting turn four, and suffered a concussion. Both Paul and Sharp would be forced to sit out the rest of the month. The third incident involved Stéphan Grégoire, who spun, but made no contact.

    The speed chart was competitive, with Arie Luyendyk, Tony Stewart, and Robbie Buhl trading fast lap for the afternoon. At the end of the day, Luyendyk was fastest, sweeping the chart all four days of veteran practice. His lap of 218.325 mph was a mile per hour faster than Stewart in second place.

    World of Outlaws star Steve Kinser passed the final phase of his rookie test, and Jeff Ward completed a refresher test.

    Saturday May 10

    Pole day time trials took place under mostly sunny skies, but cool temperatures. At 8:30 a.m., the temperature was only 46 °F. Morning practice took place with temperatures rising to the 50's (°F), and Tony Stewart led the charts at 218.644 mph.

    The first car out on the track to qualify was Mike Groff. His 208.537 mph 4-lap average was the first normally aspirated car to complete a run since 1987, and the first to qualify since 1984. His speed also tentatively broke existing normally aspirated, stock block, track records.

    A total of nine cars went out for runs during the first segment, however, only five were run to completion. Jeff Ward sat on the provisional pole at 214.517 mph. Lyn St. James, one of the cars not "locked in" to the field, completed a run at 210.145 mph.

    Shortly after 3 p.m., Arie Luyendyk took to the track, and began the second wave of qualifiers. His run of 218.263 mph put him firmly on the pole position. Tony Stewart was close behind at 218.021 mph, and rookie Vincenzo Sospiri rounded out the front row at 216.822 mph.

    At the close of pole day, 21 cars were in the field, with Roberto Guerrero slowest thus far at just over 207 mph.

    Sunday May 11

    Only four drivers started qualifying attempts, and only two cars were added to the field. Rookie Steve Kinser completed a run early in the day, while Robbie Groff finished just before the track closed.

    Practice - week 2

    Monday May 12
    Another cool and windy day saw 18 cars practice. Arie Luyendyk continued his dominance, and led the practice chart for already-qualified drivers. Off the track, A. J. Foyt announced that he was working on a deal for John Andretti to replace Scott Sharp in the #1 entry. In addition, Billy Boat started getting Foyt's #11 car up to speed.

    Tuesday May 13
    Arie Luyendyk sat out practice for the day, allowing Buddy Lazier to lead the speed chart. Of the non-qualified cars, Billy Boat was over 214 mph, over 4 miles per hour faster than the others.

    Off the track, A. J. Foyt Enterprises announced that John Andretti would not attempt to qualify, as his NASCAR Winston Cup Series commitment with Cale Yarborough Racing would not provide the necessary travel time. Johnny O'Connell was named to replace Scott Sharp in the #1 car.

    Wednesday May 14
    Buddy Lazier and Billy Boat repeated their efforts from the previous day, as the fastest already-qualified, and fastest non-qualified cars of the day.

    Thursday May 15
    Most of the cars that took to the track were among those not yet qualified. Several veterans sat out the afternoon. Sam Schmidt found his way to the top of the speed chart, at over 211 mph.

    Friday May 16
    The final full day of practice saw heavy activity among qualified and non-qualified drivers. Tony Stewart led the speed chart, while Arie Luyendyk sat out for the fourth day in a row. During the first hour, Johnny O'Connell, driving for Foyt Racing, lost an engine and crashed hard in the southchute. He suffered a foot and ankle injury, and was sidelined for the rest of the month.

    Saturday May 17

    The third day of qualifying saw sunny skies and warm temperatures. A busy day of time trials saw the field fill to 31 cars. Billy Boat set the early pace with an average of 215.544 mph. Greg Ray, however, lost an engine. Several "locked-in" drivers took runs, and within an hour, eight consecutive time trials were run to completion.

    When the track closed for the day, only two positions were unfilled. 22 of the 23 original "locked-in" entries were already in the field. The only original "locked-in" entry yet unqualified was the #1 Foyt Racing entry. After crashes by Scott Sharp and Johnny O'Connell, the car had no driver currently named.

    Sunday May 18

    Going into the final day of qualifying, two positions were open. One final "locked-in" position was available (#1 Foyt Racing), as 22 of the 23 eligible cars had already completed their runs. Once the field was filled to 33 cars, the ten "non-exempt" positions were all up for grabs amongst the non-exempt entries. During the week, competitors and officials alike, were growing apprehensive of the 25/8 rule. It was becoming increasingly possible that by enforcing the rule, the "fastest 33 cars" (a cornerstone Indy tradition), would not necessarily make the field. On the morning of Bump Day qualifying, several non-exempt teams were uneasy about their chances of making the field, despite having speeds amongst the fastest 33.

    In the first hour of qualifying, the non-exempt entries of Johnny Unser and Greg Ray filled the field to 33 cars. Since 22 of the cars were locked-in, the move put Alessandro Zampedri (209.094 mph) on the bubble. Zampedri was the 28th-fastest car in the field at the time, but the five cars that were slower than he were "locked-in" with exemptions.

    About an hour later, Paul Durant took to the track in the #1 Foyt Racing entry. The car was the final entry eligible for a "locked-in" position. Durant had secured the ride that morning, and climbed into the car for the first time at 12:21 p.m., his first laps of the entire month. By 1 p.m., he was safely in the field at 209.149 mph. His run bumped Zampedri (a non-exempt entry) from the field of 33.

    Johnny Unser now found himself on the bubble. His qualifying speed of 209.344 mph was the 26th-fastest car in the field, but as the slowest non-exempt entry, he was first in line to be ousted. Shortly after 2 p.m., Claude Bourbonnais took to the track for a qualifying attempt. His speed of 210.523 mph easily bumped Unser.

    At 2:15 p.m., Lyn St. James was now on the bubble. Her speed of 210.145 mph was the 25th-fastest car in the field, but as a non-exempt entry, the eight cars below her were all "locked-in." With rain approaching, Alessandro Zampedri scrambled his back-up car for practice, and hoped to re-join the field. His run of 211.757 mph was enough to bump St. James.

    Rain started falling and closed the track for the next hour. Despite being bumped, Lyn St. James made no effort to bring her car back onto the track. Rumors began circulating the garage area that USAC officials were considering reinstating bumped cars to the field. Scott Harrington was the lone car to make an attempt after the rain, but wrecked on his second lap.

    Post-qualifying controversy

    USAC officials expressed their concern that due to the 25/8 rule, the "fastest 33 cars" were not going to start the race. The three cars that were bumped earlier in the day had posted qualifying speeds faster than eight of the "locked-in" entries.

    A decision was made to reinstate any non-exempt cars that were bumped, if they were among the "fastest 33." The ruling added Lyn St. James and Johnny Unser back to the field. They were placed in the 34th and 35th starting positions, respectively.

    It was the first time since 1979 that more than the traditional 33 cars constituted the field. The debacle was a public relations black-eye, but the officials were applauded in the media for rightfully adding the cars back to the grid. The 25/8 rule was from that point abandoned, and would not be used in 1998.

    Final practice

    The final scheduled practice session was scheduled for Thursday May 22. Robby Gordon blew an engine, while three other cars experiences mechanical trouble. Tony Stewart turned the fastest lap of the day, at 215.502 mph.

    Polesitter Arie Luyendyk completed only two laps at speed, using the session mostly as a system check exercise.

    Pit Stop Contest

    The Coors Indy Pit Stop Challenge for 1997 featured eight teams competing for a $40,000 top prize. Galles Racing and driver Kenny Bräck defeated Team Cheever with driver/owner Eddie Cheever in the finals.

    System check runs

    On Saturday May 24, the day before the race, arrangements were made for a special practice session. Due to the new engine package, some teams had requested additional track time for system check runs. A very brief green light period, with a 190 mph speed limit, was conducted for five cars.

    Starting grid

         Green indicates the two cars reinstated to the field by the officials after the close of time trials      Yellow indicates the driver dropped out during the pace laps, and did not start the race


  • First alternate: #34 No driver listed (Alessandro Zampedri's primary entry - bumped)
  • Failed to qualify

  • Scott Harrington (#36 G/O Johansson Motorsports) - wrecked during qualifying
  • Sunday May 25

    The race was originally scheduled for 11 a.m. EST on Sunday May 25. Rain in the morning delayed the activities, but the skies appeared to lighten, and the cars were placed in the grid at 11:45 a.m. At 12 noon, the skies opened up, and heavy rain began to fall. The cars were wheeled back to the garage area.

    At 1:30 p.m., track officials rescheduled the race for Monday.

    Robby Gordon, driving for Felix Sabates' SABCO Racing, had planned on driving the Indy 500/Coca-Cola 600 "double duty." At 1:45 p.m., Gordon left the grounds, and flew to Charlotte. The Coca-Cola 600 also suffered from a rain delay, but did eventually see the green flag fall. Gordon wrecked out on lap 186, and finished 41st.

    Monday May 26

    On Memorial Day, Monday May 26, the race was scheduled for 11 a.m. EST. Skies were partly cloudy in the morning, but there was no rain at the time. The pre-race ceremonies were held on-time, but some subtle changes were made. The Purdue Band was unable to return for Monday, and therefore Florence Henderson's rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner" was done a cappella. In addition, "Taps" was played by a local musician as a substitute. The most noteworthy change, however, was the absence of Jim Nabors. He had left the grounds Sunday night, and was not present to sing the traditional "Back Home Again in Indiana." At his request, a recording from a previous year (1993) was played for the fans. Mari Hulman George followed, officially taking over the family tradition (from her mother Mary F. Hulman) of delivering the starting command. Mary F. Hulman had been inducted into the Auto Racing Hall of Fame earlier in the month, but was in declining health. Also absent was longtime Speedway public address announcer John Totten, who had fallen ill.

    On the first parade lap, Dr. Jack Miller got sideways with cold tires and nearly spun in turn 4. He continued, and rejoined the field. On the final pace lap, all three cars of the fifth row, Stéphan Grégoire, Affonso Giaffone, and Kenny Bräck came together, and crashed in turn 4. Meanwhile, Sam Schmidt and Alessandro Zampedri ducked into the pits with mechanical trouble. Robbie Groff stalled on the backstretch, and was restarted in the pits. In total, five cars were out of the race before the green flag. The crash delayed the start by five extra pace laps.

    Tony Stewart took the lead when the race finally got underway. On the 10th lap, the yellow came out due to a blown engine by Claude Bourbonnais. Moments later, a light drizzle started falling around the track. On lap 15, the rain was falling harder, and the race was red flagged.

    With rain continuing to fall, the cars returned to the garage area at 12:30 p.m., and fans began to leave the grounds. The race had to go at least 101 laps to be considered official. With only 15 laps completed, the race would have to be resumed when the officials deemed appropriate. After negotiations between Speedway officials, series officials, and television executives, the decision was made at 2:15 p.m. to resume the race at lap 16 the following day, Tuesday May 27 at 11 a.m. The arrangement differed from a similar situation during the 1986 race. Many expected the conclusion of the race to be postponed until Saturday (May 31). However, officials agreed that due to the upcoming race at Texas, and the good forecast for Tuesday, it was in the best interest to finish the race as soon as possible.

    Tuesday May 27

    With skies finally clearing, the race finally was able to get underway. Mari Hulman George delivered the "re-start" command at 11 a.m., and the race resumed at lap 16. Of the 35 qualifiers, 29 cars lined up single-file for the restart. The grandstands were only partially full, and it marked the first time since 1973 that the race was held mid-week. ABC-TV made a special arrangement to cover the race live as planned.


    The race picked up single-file from the pits at lap 16. The first two laps were run under caution as warm-up laps, however, they counted towards the race total. On lap 18, the green flag came out with Tony Stewart resuming the lead.

    On the first green lap of the day, Robby Gordon was racing down the backstretch and suddenly veered to the warm-up lane in turn three. He stopped the car, which was on fire. Gordon jumped out of the car with his driver's suit burning, and began rolling vigorously in the grass to put the fire out. The caution came out as crews put out the fire, and towed the car back to the pits. Gordon would drop out of the race.

    As the field looked to go back to green on lap 23, four cars tangled in turn 4, causing mostly cosmetic damage, and prolonged the yellow until lap 28. Mark Dismore was the only car of the four unable to continue. The first significant green flag racing of the week finally began at lap 28.

    First half

    Tony Stewart led Robbie Buhl leading up to the 40-lap (100-mile) mark. Also in the top five were Arie Luyendyk, Buddy Lazier, and rookie Jeff Ward. The first series of green flag pit stops began on lap 50. After the field shuffled through pitting, Stewart was back in the lead with Luyendyk second.

    Jim Guthrie brought out the yellow on lap 59 due to an engine failure. On the restart, Arie Luyendyk got the jump and passed Tony Stewart for the lead. Deeper in the field, Steve Kinser hit Eliseo Salazar in the rear, damaging Salazar's suspension.

    Another sequence of green flag pit stops around laps 85-90 saw Luyendyk and Stewart again emerge as 1-2.

    By the halfway point, several cars had dropped out. Greg Ray and Eddie Cheever were out with mechanical failures, and Roberto Guerrero was sidelined with a damaged suspension.

    Second half

    On lap 114, Billy Roe and Paul Durant crashed in turn 3. On lap 137, Dr. Jack Miller wrecked in the south chute. The lead was trading among Arie Luyendyk, Tony Stewart, and Robbie Buhl. Jeff Ward and Buddy Lazier were also in contention.

    On a lap 142 restart, Ward moved into the lead. He pulled out to a 4-second lead over Luyendyk over the next 20 laps.

    Tyce Carlson brought out the yellow on lap 164 after a spin in turn 2. The yellow sent the leaders to the pits. Tony Stewart stalled his engine, and fell down to in the standings. Ward came back out in the lead, with Lazier second. Scott Goodyear had worked his way up to third, and Luyendyk still held on to the top 5.

    With 20 laps to go, Ward continued to lead, and Stewart had climbed back up to second. With a 13-second lead, Ward was in need of one final splash-and-go fuel stop before the finish.

    Controversial finish

    With eleven laps to go, Steve Kinser crashed, and collected Lyn St. James. The ensuing caution flag saw leader Jeff Ward, who knew he could not make it to the finish on fuel, head to the pits. The shuffle saw Arie Luyendyk emerge into the lead, with his teammate Scott Goodyear running second.

    The green flag came back out on lap 194. Only one lap was completed under green before the yellow came out for debris. The caution period was quick, and lasted only two laps. Luyendyk still led as the green came back out at the conclusion of lap 197 (three laps to go).

    As Luyendyk and Goodyear crossed the start/finish line to complete lap 198 (two laps to go), Tony Stewart brushed the wall in turn 4. The car was not seriously damaged, and Stewart continued. However, USAC still brought out the yellow. The pace car did not enter the track to pick up the leader, as was the normal procedure.

    Luyendyk guided his teammate Goodyear (second place), and the rest of the field around at a slow pace. As the cars came out of turn four, they anticipated seeing the white flag (indicating one lap to go), and it was clear to them the race would finish under caution. Without any warning, USAC officials suddenly displayed the white and green flag at the starter's stand, and the race was back underway. A startled Luyendyk, running about 85 mph, hastily dropped a gear, and punched the throttle to accelerate. The entire field was caught off-guard, and to make matters worse, the yellow caution lights around the track remained illuminated. The confusion made some drivers unsure if the green flag was in error, and if the conditions were safe to race.

    Most of the cars, including Goodyear hesitated, and the yellow lights around the track did not go off until the leaders were on the backstretch. The botched restart prevented any significant challenge by Goodyear, and Luyendyk cruised around the final lap to take the victory. It was Luyendyk's second Indy 500 win, and he became the 16th driver to win from the pole position.

    Arie Luyendyk was emotional in victory lane as he stated:

    "I saw the green and white flag wave and I thought 'Hell they better know what they're doing' and I will keep doing what I've been doing. This is a lot better than my first in 1990."

    His teammate Scott Goodyear was satisfied but still disappointed at the outcome:

    "That's the key lap of the whole race obviously because you want to get a draft, get the guy going and lead coming out the backstretch. I don't think Arie even expected it. Overall a 1-2 finish for Treadway is a bonus but...disappointed that I didn't win."


  • (W) - Former Indianapolis 500 winner
  • (R) - Indianapolis 500 rookie
  • C Chassis: D=Dallara, G=G-Force
  • E Engine: I=Infiniti, O=Oldsmobile
  • T Tire: F=Firestone, G=Goodyear
  • Aftermath

    After the 25/8 qualifying controversy, rain delays, and bungling of the final lap by the officials, as well as the scrapping of the split-calendar IRL schedule, the 1997 Indy 500 represented a relative low-point for the then-fledgling IRL. The high attrition exposed growing pains for the new chassis and engine formula. The battle of the engine suppliers was completely one-sided, as Oldsmobile dominated, taking the top 12 finishing positions. Infiniti saw no cars in contention during most of the race.

    The race also marked the end of the IRL's lucrative initial exclusive contract with ABC Sports, which was not renewed in its entirely. While the Indy 500 itself would remain on ABC, only a handful of other races would stay on the network for several years to come.

    The first move to make amends was to drop the 25/8 rule permanently. Two weeks later at Texas Motor Speedway, during the inaugural True Value 500, the increasing dissatisfaction with USAC's officiating hit the boiling point. A malfunction in the electronic scoring system scored Billy Boat as the winner of the race. Meanwhile, Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk stormed victory lane, claiming he was robbed of the victory. The following day, the error was discovered, and was another black mark on USAC's record. Two weeks later, USAC was officially relieved of the duty of sanctioing the IRL, and was replaced by an in-house effort.

    On a competitive note, Arie Luyendyk became the first, and to-date only, driver to win an Indy 500 both before and after the open wheel "split." Luyendyk had previously won in 1990 Indianapolis 500, at a time when most of the field consisted of CART series regulars. Luyendyk also had the distinction of winning the race with both a turbocharged (1990) and a normally aspirated (1997) engine, as well as winning a race with Goodyear and Firestone tires.


    The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Bob Jenkins served as chief announcer for the seventh year. Johnny Rutherford served as "driver expert," and at the start of the race, also drove the pace car. The race was heard on roughly 500 affiliates.

    The crew for the 1997 race remained the same from 1996. The broadcast featured rain delay coverage on Sunday, live coverage of the start on Monday, and live coverage of the conclusion on Tuesday. All members of the crew participated on all three days. After serving as a guest booth analyst the previous two years, Chris Economaki spent all three days in the pits as a roving reporter. Economaki conducted interviews and offered observations at various points during the race. In the pit area, Marc Jaynes covered the north pits, Mike King began the race in the center pits, and Vince Welch began the race in the south pits. In the second half of the race, King and Welch shared duties in the south and center pits, focusing on the race leaders.


    The race was carried live flag-to-flag coverage in the United States on ABC Sports. Paul Page served as host and play-by-play announcer. Tom Sneva joined the crew, and served as booth analyst. Bobby Unser (turn 2) and Danny Sullivan (turn 4) served as turn reporters, and this would be the final 500 on ABC for both Unser and Sullivan.

    The race was scheduled for Sunday May 25, but rain postponed the start. ABC stayed on as scheduled on Sunday, and the broadcast was filled with highlights, interviews, and talk. On Monday May 26, ABC returned to broadcast the race live, pre-empting regularly scheduled programming. The broadcast came on-air live at 11 EDT, and featured a one-hour pre-race, mirroring the traditional Sunday broadcast format. The race started, but was halted again on lap 15 due to rain. When it was announced that the race would be postponed again, ABC signed off and returned to their regularly scheduled lineup.

    On Tuesday May 27, ABC returned once again to air the remainder of the race live. Unlike a similar situation in 1986, officials decided to resume the race on Tuesday, rather than wait until Saturday. ABC again pre-empted their afternoon lineup, and carried the entire conclusion.

    Practice and time trials were carried over three networks: ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2.

  • Live Daily Reports (ESPN2): Paul Page, Dave Despain, Jon Beekuis, Dr. Jerry Punch, Gary Gerould, Mike King
  • Time trials (ABC): Paul Page, Tom Sneva, Jack Arute, Gary Gerould
  • Time trials (ESPN): Dave Despain, Tom Sneva, Jack Arute, Dr. Jerry Punch, Gary Gerould
  • Time trials (ESPN2): Paul Page, Tom Sneva, Dr. Jerry Punch, Jon Beekuis, Mike King
  • Carb Day (ESPN): Dave Despain, Jon Beekuis, Dr. Jerry Punch, Mike King
  • RPM2Day at Indy (ESPN2): Kenny Mayne, Marlo Klain
  • Quotes

    "And the green flag is being waved, the white and green flag are showing the race is on, the race is on Jerry Baker"

    "What a shocker this is" - Bob Jenkins and Jerry Baker calling the confusion of the final lap of the race for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

    "Arie Luyendyk wins the 1997 Indianapolis 500, the 81st running of the edition by 7 tenths of a second" - Bob Jenkins described the finish of the race for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network.

    "That's yellow out there, it's green again, what the fuck are they doing?" - Race leader Arie Luyendyk on his two-way radio, regarding the confusing, controversial final lap.

    "I'm not too sure about that last start by USAC there." - Bobby Unser calling the final lap of the race for ABC-TV.


    1997 Indianapolis 500 Wikipedia

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