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1979 Indy 500: Repeat winners duel, fall short

1979 Indy 500: Repeat winners duel, fall short
1979 Indy 500: Repeat winners duel, fall short
Posted at 4:43 PM, Apr 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-21 16:43:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- In 1979, Indiana basketball legend Larry Bird took the Indiana State Sycamores to the NCAA championship game where they eventually lost to a Magic Johnson-led Michigan State Spartans team.

In April of '79, the general assembly created the White River State Park Development Commission to oversee the transformation of 250 acres into what is now one of the city's biggest attractions.

And the legendary attraction down the road at 16th and Georgetown, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, turned 70 years old. 

Getting on the starting grid for the 63rd Indianapolis 500 created quite a bit of controversy as illegal waste gate exhaust pipes caused several cars to be disqualified. 

The field was first set with a traditional 33 cars, but later a special qualifying session allowed two more to make the field, for a total of 35, which was the most since 1933.

In an effort to make the race safer, for the first time the pace car would return to the track during caution laps.

Rick Mears was on the pole in only his second Indy 500, but he had his hands full with the Unswer brothers. Bobby and Al led 174 of the 200 laps, but soon mechanical issues would slow them down.

A mechanical failure ended Al's day on lap 105 and and  Bobby's dominating run ended with gearbox trouble.

Those issues kept the door open for Mears, who took the lead with 18 laps to go and never looked back. 

Mears won his first 500 with a 45-second lead over second place AJ Foyt, who coasted across the finish line when his engine quit.

 

MORE ON THE ROAD TO 100

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