THE INDY 500 : Simon Back in Race; He’ll Share Wealth With Firestone Crew

Times Assistant Sports Editor

Dick Simon is in; Dennis Firestone is out.

Simon, the car owner-driver from Capistrano Beach, and Patrick Kehoe, the owner of the car in which Firestone crashed here Thursday, spent most of Friday going back and forth, then finally struck a deal.

Kehoe withdrew Firestone’s wrecked car from Sunday’s Indianapolis 500-mile race, allowing Simon in as the alternate.

Simon, who also has another car in the race, one driven by Raul Boesel, will drive his own car, using some of the Firestone car’s crewmen, spare parts and sponsorship. He and Kehoe, who also has another car in, one driven by Ed Pimm, will share starting and prize money for their joint entry.


Firestone, of Pomona, will watch.

Simon had made that same offer Thursday, but Kehoe countered, suggesting that Simon turn his car over to Firestone. That was unacceptable to Simon. “I live to race,” he said.

Kehoe then set about collecting parts from wherever he could, hoping to get Firestone’s car rebuilt by Sunday morning. Dave Thomas, Firestone’s chief mechanic, had his crew working through the night and facing the prospect of at least one more sleepless night, probably two. The longer they worked, though, the more nearly impossible the task looked.

“It’s a thrash,” Kehoe said. “There’s no question we could put something on the starting line. But is it right? Is it going to be safe for the driver?”

Simon, doubting strongly that Kehoe’s team could put together anything that would pass inspection, came close to withdrawing his offer. “I don’t need to do this,” he said.

He was right, too. He could have gambled, and probably won, on the assumption that Kehoe, Thomas, Firestone and Co. could not have an acceptable car on the line Sunday morning, in which case Simon would have started by default.

Simon also was a little miffed before the deal finally was hammered out. “We could have done all this yesterday,” he said.

As a result, Simon will start 33rd, outside in the last row, and everybody who had qualified behind Firestone will move up a spot. Firestone’s car had been in the middle of the seventh row.

Rick Mears, on the responsibilities of being the pole sitter, the driver who, in theory, at least, gets the race off to a safe, smooth, fast start: “If it’s a responsibility, I’m glad to have it.”

Folks from the Midwest do a double-take when they read that Dutch driver Arie Luyendyk has moved from Holland to Waukesha, Wis. Waukesha is a pleasant town of about 50,000, located 25 miles west of Milwaukee, and although there is a nice softball complex there, it is hardly a racing hotbed.

Could it be that Wisconsin’s dairy-farm country reminds Luyendyk of the Netherlands?

Maybe it could, but it doesn’t.

“Holland is very broad-minded,” Luyendyk said. “We have topless beaches there, for instance. Wisconsin is a little conservative. Compared to Europe, so is the whole U.S.”

So why, then, Waukesha?

“My sponsor and car owner, Aat Groenevelt (another native Hollander) has his business near there and also chose to have his race shop nearby. Actually, I don’t even live in Waukesha anymore. We just moved to Brookfield.”

Apparently, Luyendyk thrives in conservative surroundings. Brookfield is even more conservative than Waukesha.

Crews working on the race cars here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway may be reveling in the spaciousness of the new garages and garage area here, but almost nobody else appreciates the sterile atmosphere.

The old green-and-white wooden garages, although short on space, were long on atmosphere. The new poured-concrete garages are typically described as blockhouses and prison buildings.

No one, however, has lamented the passing of the see-through bathrooms that were part of the old garages. Built in the days when the garage area was strictly for men, the bathrooms made privacy while showering or answering calls of nature little more than a rumor.