- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
With Gurney in trouble, Foyt was No. 2 and driving with that unearthly confidence of winning. On one pit stop, rolling past Jones's quarters, he waved to Granatelli with a cavalier gesture of nice vulgarity.
Jones was on his 197th lap with but three to go to the checkered flag when it happened. His pit crew had been flashing "easy," and "save fuel" signs at him. Parnelli had heeded them. But then, on the backstretch, the jet began to slow down. A $6 ball bearing had failed, crippling the gearbox. In effect Jones was in neutral, and all he could do was roll around to his pit.
Foyt came past his pit, nodding his grasp of the situation, and held up one orange driving glove, his thumb and finger together in a triumphant circle. As he headed around for his last lap, that sixth sense signaled danger. Ahead a pack of snarling cars was pouring out of the fourth and last turn. The suspension snapped on Bobby Grim's turbo-charged Offy. He slowed abruptly, and nearby Chuck Hulse and Carl Williams bumped. Williams careened into Grim. All three went skittering into the track walls while two more cars, those of Bud Tingelstad and Larry Dickson, spun out trying to avoid them. Driving slowly, Foyt studied the mess, then came through the field like a motorized quarterback, bursting out from under a blanket of smoke. He waved to the crowd as though it had been easy.
"With all respect to Parnelli," he said later, "that ol' jet car has twice the horsepower of anything here and it just ain't fair to run it in this engine class. If that kind of car isn't restricted to a fair place next year, everybody's going to have to get one to stay competitive. I'll get one myself if I have to."
Needless to say, Jones and Granatelli were sad about the breakdown, but at the same time thrilled over what the turbine had shown Indy. "At least I think I had the best car," said Jones. "I was driving the last four laps so slow I thought nothing could go wrong. It was like a Sunday drive down the highway."
By Thursday morning, while Foyt was at breakfast and Jones was on the links, another battle was developing—the one to decide the turbine's future. Obviously the gearbox troubles could be corrected with a little development work. The car's brakes, which had been suspect, too, had worked fine.
This week the United States Auto Club started debating ways to keep turbines in the 500 yet put them on a roughly equal footing with the piston cars. It appeared unlikely that turbines would be barred, and equally unlikely that turbines as powerful as Jones's would be let in again.
Either way, the old Brickyard clearly will never be the same. There will be no keeping them down on the farm now that they've seen the jet.
As for Granatelli, he announced that he aimed to stay in the turbine business and was getting a steady stream of inquiries about copies of the Jones car. "Soon as we have firm orders," he said, "we'll build 10 of them for Indy and championship racing next year. Although we were knocked out in the final minutes, we proved without question that this car is the racing machine of tomorrow."
Foyt was not so sure. "Ah've always said," he drawled, "that the Indianapolis Speedway is a proving ground for cars, not airplanes."