What's more, there was fuel for a thousand barroom arguments in Parnelli's shrewd and fortunate use of yellow caution lights—by making his second and third pit stops while they were on, and by increasing his advantage over Clark, at times, while running under them.
Green lights around the track go out and yellow ones on when an accident occurs. Last week the yellows were on for an unusually long time—48 minutes 38 seconds of the race's 3� hours—as nine drivers spun, hit walls or had mechanical failures requiring workmen to clear the track.
Under the yellow the racing pace is supposed to slow to 120 mph and drivers are not supposed to improve their positions. This never works out very tidily. One driver's estimated 120 is actually 120 mph and another's 110. Some cars benefit, others suffer. Last week Jones clearly benefited—by how much is conjecture.
"I think," said Clark, "that I lost at least a minute on yellow lights. In the middle of the race I was stuck behind a fellow who wouldn't get going and I was losing three seconds a lap to Parnelli."
"Our inexperience under the yellow lights," said Colin Chapman, "dropped us just that little bit and cost us the race."
Maybe so, maybe not. "If" questions like this can never be satisfactorily answered, because a race obviously cannot be rerun—with wrongs righted—from the point at which controversy develops.
Parnelli had a pretty big if of his own. "If" he said, "we hadn't goofed by not taking on quite enough fuel at the start, I could have run the race on two pit stops instead of three and then nobody could have made it close. To get by on two stops I knew I had to make close to 70 laps on my first tank. I had to come in after only 63, and at that my engine nearly died in the pits. Then I knew I was committed to three stops."
About another important matter, however, there was no if at all. Clark gained much by making only one pit stop but lost a number of precious seconds because that stop was not up to Indy's high standards. Twenty seconds is excellent, 25 not bad, but the 32-plus expended by Clark's crewmen was mediocre. Worse was the 42.2-second job for Gurney when he pulled in a few laps earlier. This was perhaps to be expected of a group tackling the "500" for the first time; the future should bring sharp improvement.
Followers of racing had been kicking a good many ifs around for weeks—and a good thing, too, because the only real question to be settled during the past decade at Indy was which Offenhauser roadster would win.
New cast of characters