Thursday, June 13, 2013

INDY 500: World’s Largest Autograph session - 2011

2011 Centennial Program magazine signed front with sixteen signatures...
As briefly mentioned before, I managed to obtain the following fourteen “John Hancock’s” (autographs) ‘Wayback in Two Thousand Eleven, my first of three autograph sessions to date, albeit “Greasy ‘Ol Salad bar” (Eliseo Salazar) was the only driver not willing to sign the cover, instead wanting to sign I-T on the page in the middle (somewhere) with him on it instead!

As tradition dictates, Ladies first; especially since we’re talking about the First Lady of the Indianapolis 500, aka Janet Guthrie. While the only winner in this grouping was the “Flying Dutchman” who now spends his time as part of the Indy Car Series Officiating Crew along with being one of Honda’s Fastest Seats in Racing 2X Seater Chauffer’s...

Other notable drivers abound below with a mix of ex-Formula 1 Piloto’s, RASCAR drivers and other walks of life...

Janet Guthrie
DOB: 3/7/38; USA
Age: 75
I500 Starts: 3
Best Finish: 9th
Years: 1977-79

Fun Fact
Janet went out of her way to mingle with all of the Fans, as she was the first driver I saw come out ‘N mingle with the crowd - and she kept signing so long that she finally had to quit because her hand was cramping up!

Gary Bettenhausen
DOB: 11/18/41; USA
Age: 71
I500 Starts: 21
Best Finish: 3rd place
Years: 1968-78, 1980-82, 1986-87, 1989-93

Arie Luyendyk
DOB: 9/21/53; Netherlands
Age: 59
I500 Starts: 17
Best Finish: Indy 500 Winner 1990, 1997
Years: 1985-99, 2001-02

Fun Fact
Just learn-ed that this two-time Indy 500 winner doesn’t like shaking hands and prefers fist bumping instead - which didn’t work out so well for Arie this year at Barrett Jackson when three-time NHRA champion Larry Dixon smacked him with his champion’s ring; Hooah! (Serves you right Arie...)

Roberto Guerrero
DOB: 11/16/58; Columbia
Age: 54
I500 Starts: 15
Best Finish: Runner-up (2nd place) twice
Years: 1984-88, 1990-99
Honours: 1984 Indy 500 rookie Of the Year

Fun Fact
While I’ll always recall this affable Columbian in that Granatelli Dayglo orange True Value racecar stalling on Pitlane whilst cheering for B-I-G AL to get by him, nevertheless, from 1984-87 this was the driver to have at Indy as he rolled off finishes of 2nd-3rd-4th-2nd in his first four starts at Mother Speedway before a nasty accident left him in a Coma, which he recovered from. While some may recall his pulling a “Scotty Sharp” on Raceday in 1992, which ironically was his only Pole at Indy which resulted in a 33rd place finish - with his best IRL result being fifth in 1996...

Mark Dismore
DOB: 10/12/56; USA
Age: 56
I500 Starts: 7
Best Finish: 11th
Years: 1996-2002

Fun Fact
While I’m certain its NOT a fun fact that I’ll always remember the ‘Diz for that wicked looking wreck he suffered while trying to make the show at Indianapolis in 1991; yet I’d forgotten that he’d won the 1993 Daytona 24 Hours race aboard one of those all conquering ‘lil Dan Gurney Toy-yoter 4-bangers!

Eliseo Salazar
DOB: 11/14/54; Chile
Age: 58
I500 Starts: 6
Best Finish: 3rd
Years: 1995-97, 1999-2001
(Team Scandia Alumni)

Fun Fact
What more can you say about someone who’s nickname is “Greasy ‘Ol Salad bar.” Although I suppose I should have a little more respect for the ex-Hometeam (Scandia) driver, eh?

Jonny Unser
DOB: 10/22/58; USA
Age: 54
I500 Starts: 5
Best Finish: 18th
Years: 1996-2000

Fun Fact
Johnny, who’s the son of Jerry and thus Uncle Bobby really is his uncle... Made me laugh when telling us upon Autosport Radio how at 53-years old here’s Uncle Bobby instructing him on how to wind up a garden hose correctly...

Stefan Johansson
DOB: 9/8/56; Sweden
Age: 56
I500 Starts: 3
Best Finish: 11th
Years: 1993-95
(Team Scandia Alumni*)

Fun Fact
Although ‘lil “Stevie Johnson” was the fastest rookie in 1993, starting P6 on the outside of Row-2, having outqualified the “Works” Penske team of Emerson Fittipaldi & Paul Tracy.

unfortunately Johansson was overshadowed by some reigning F1 world champ named Bloody ‘Nige, whilst Mansell’s arch nemesis Nelson Piquet was also making his debutant appearance at Mother Speedway upon returning from his horrific wreck the preceding year. Other rookies included “Steven George” (Stephan Gregoire and Robby Gordon.

 And although Johansson finished a respectable eleventh, that Mansell chap actually led the race before getting snookered on a late restart - ultimately finishing third, being classified as the rookie Of the Year while Johansson finished second-in-class...

(Note,* Johansson won the 1997 12hrs of Sebring aboard Andy Evan’s Team Scandia Ferrari 333SP co-driving with Yannick Dalmas, Fermín Vélez and team owner Evans...)

Shigeaki Hattori
DOB: 11/3/63; Japan
Age: 49
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 20th
Years: 2002-03

Fun Fact
Contrary to popular belief, Takuma Sato wasn’t the first Japanese driver to pilot one of ‘SuperTex’s racecars, as ‘Shiggy beat ‘Taku-san to the punch by a decade...

Herm Johnson
DOB: 3/4/53; USA
Age: 60
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 8th
Years: 1982, 1984

Fun Fact
Wasn’t aware that this was the same Herm as in Just Herm Helmets - which I’m pretty certain I used to see advertised in the back of my “Autoleak” (Autoweek) magazine many Moons ago. And according to ‘WICKEDpedia, Herm has a pretty good sense ‘O humour; having painted on the back edge of his rear wing for the 1982 Rex Mays Classic at the Milwaukee Mile: “rick, if You can READ this, you’re too CLOSE!” Which was in deference to Rick ‘The Rocket Mears having bumped into him in the pits on L183 in the preceding race - the 66th Indy 500! Which is even funnier since that’s the race that Mears lost by a whisker to Gordon Johncock, not to mention being the reigning CART champion en route to winning the title once again that year...

Max Papis
DOB: 10/3/69; Italy
Age: 43
I500 Starts: 2
Best Finish: 14th
Years: 2002, 2006

Fun Fact
I seem to recall the entire family, including Father-in-Law “EMMO,” nee Emerson Fittipaldi being on hand for Papis’s last non-successful foray to qualify for Indianapolis in ‘Twenty-oh-Eight, when EMMO was the Pace car driver.

But for Mwah, Papis will always be associated with that mesmerizing drive in the Ferrari 333 at Daytona where he was christened MAD MAX, prior to taking the stricken Jeff Krosnoff’s ride in CART. As I was also present for his victory at Portland in 2001, when he won the second of his three CART victories for Team Rahal before being dumped for colliding with Bobby’s star driver and teammate Kenny Brack once too often...

Andy Hillenburg
DOB: 4/30/63; USA
Age: 50
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 28th
Year: 2000
Car name: SUMAR Special by Irwindale Speedway

Fun Fact
I’ve just learn-ed some two years after the fact that this is the same Andy Hillenburg who bought “The Rock,” nee Rockingham Motor Speedway out of bankruptcy for a cool $4.4-million and has since revived Stock Car racing there - including ‘Dem PickemUp Trucks at the track too tough to tame...

Ted Prappas
DOB: 11/14/55; USA
Age: 57
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 16th
Year: 1992
Car name: P.I.G. Say NO to Drugs

Fun Fact
Although his car number should have been #69 in honour of temporary (Indy Lights) teammate Vince Neil - Prappas ran the No. 31 instead to a very unremarkable 16th place finish, since I don’t recall anythingy ‘bout him...

Cory Witherill
DOB: 12/17/71; USA
Age: 41
I500 Starts: 1
Best Finish: 19th
Year: 2001

Fun Fact
According to ‘WICKEDpedia, Cory is the only Native American (Navajo) to have ever contested the Indy 500...