Youngest Andretti Bumped : Indy 500: Moran becomes final qualifier when he knocks out Walther, who had replaced Jeff Andretti. Rutherford also fails to make the field.
There will be no fourth Andretti in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. Nor will three-time winner Johnny Rutherford get a chance to drive in his 25th race.
Jeff, the youngest of the four Andrettis, was among the 33 qualifiers for a day before he was bumped late Sunday by Salt Walther, a relic who has not raced seriously since 1979.
Walther had not run a lap this month better at than 204 m.p.h. until he stunned the huge Indianapolis Motor Speedway crowd by putting together four laps that averaged 210.558 to drop Mario Andretti’s son, Michael’s brother and John’s cousin from the starting grid. The Nazareth, Pa., family had hoped to become the first to have four drivers in an Indianapolis 500.
Rutherford, who knows something about the process after being the last driver dropped from the field a year ago by 0.007 second, was not up to the speed needed to bump Walther. This left the door open for Arcadia’s Rocky Moran, and he responded with a 211.076 run that dropped Walther and made Moran the 33rd starter.
“I’m on Cloud 9, making the race at the last minute, but I felt kind of sad about bumping Salt because it was his father, George Walther, who gave me my first chance here back in 1987,” Moran said.
Jeff Andretti, with another car, was in line waiting to make an attempt to get back in the race but ran out of time. Moran was in the middle of his four laps when the 6 p.m. gun sounded, signaling the end of qualifying for the 1990 race.
“We were running strong late in practice, and I know I could have qualified if I’d had the chance,” Andretti said. “There was some confusion around the starting line because Moran’s crew snuck their car in front of us and butted in line.”
What Andretti didn’t realize was that his second car could not be placed in line unless the team first withdrew his qualified car or waited until it was bumped by Walther or someone else.
Bob Andrew of the Amoco team that sponsored Andretti explained the situation: “We let Rocky in front of us. We wanted to bump Rocky. We didn’t want to give Rocky the opportunity to bump us. We wanted to play our own cards. We just ran out of time.”
Walther, a veteran of seven Indy 500s between 1972 and 1979, was one of the first persons to congratulate Moran after his dramatic, last-minute run.
“This was the biggest point of my entire life, just getting in the lineup for even five minutes,” Walther said. “I really didn’t think I could do it, but God has been with me. To be this close with only a half-hour to go only makes me and the team more determined than ever. We’ll definitely be back next year.”
During his absence from racing, Walther had lived the fast life in Hollywood and been involved with drugs.
“The reason I quit driving was that I would never drive a race car while under the influence,” he said. “I went to a rehab center two years ago and have been clean for the last 15 months. That was the only way I would have come back to driving.”
The month was a disappointing one for Rutherford. He crashed during preseason testing and twice again after practice started. Saturday, he got in the race temporarily only to be bumped the same day by Stan Fox.
When he was unable to get his car up to 210 m.p.h. in his final effort late Sunday, he pulled in after two laps.
“This doesn’t top last year (as a disappointment), but it’s close,” Rutherford said. Last year, he was bumped by Rich Vogler on the final day.
Moran credited his new-found speed to a switch in engines, from a Cosworth to a Buick.
“We didn’t have a chance with the Cosworth, and we didn’t get the Buick fitted in the car until Friday,” he explained. “The crew worked their hands to the bone getting it ready, and after we got the engine in, we had trouble getting the chassis right.
“These older cars are so sensitive to set up to make it through all four corners. We ran 211 early in the day and decided to make some changes to get a little more speed and we dropped to 207. Then it was a struggle to get it back up to what we needed to get in the race.
“I’m just awful glad to be here. It’s my dream to have a car some day that’s good enough to sit on the pole and maybe win the race, but today I’m just happy to be in the race.
“When I was sitting in line, I looked at my watch and wondered if we’d get out in time.”
It was so close that if Rutherford had been near qualifying speed and had taken his last two laps, Moran might have been left sitting at the gate.
INDIANAPOLIS 500 LINEUP
No.Driver (Hometown), Car-Eng. Speed FIRST ROW 1.Emerson Fittipaldi (Brazil), Penske-Chevy 225.301 2.Rick Mears (Bakersfield), Penske-Chevy 224.215 30.Arie Luyendyk (Netherlands), Lola-Chevy 223.304 SECOND ROW 18.Bobby Rahal (Dublin, Ohio), Lola-Chevy 222.694 3.Michael Andretti (Nazareth, Pa.), Lola-Chevy 222.055 6.Mario Andretti (Nazareth, Pa.), Lola-Chevy 222.025 THIRD ROW 5.Al Unser Jr. (Albuquerque, N.M.), Lola-Chevy 220.920 14.A.J. Foyt (Houston), Lola-Chevy 220.425 7.Danny Sullivan (Louisville), Penske-Chevy 220.310 FOURTH ROW 41.John Andretti (Indianapolis), March-Porsche 219.484 86.Dominic Dobson (Fairfax, Calif.), Lola-Cosworth 219.230 12.Randy Lewis (Hillsborough, Calif.), Penske-Buick 218.412 FIFTH ROW 16.Tony Bettenhausen (Indianapolis), Lola-Buick 218.368 25.*Eddie Cheever (Phoenix), Penske-Chevy 217.926 11.Kevin Cogan (Palos Verdes Estates), Penske-Buick 217.738 SIXTH ROW 23.Tero Palmroth (Finland), Lola-Cosworth 217.423 19.Raul Boesel (Brazil), Lola-Judd 217.381 51.Gary Bettenhausen (Monrovia, Ind.), Lola-Buick 217.264 SEVENTH ROW 21.Geoff Brabham (Australia), Lola-Judd 216.580 70.Didier Theys (Belgium), Penske-Buick 214.033 28.*Scott Goodyear (Canada), Lola-Judd 213.622 EIGHTH ROW 29.Pancho Carter (Brownsburg, Ind.), Lola-Cosworth 213.156 4.Teo Fabi (Italy), March-Porsche 220.022 39.*Dean Hall (Olympic Valley, Calif.), Lola-Cosworth 216.975 NINTH ROW 9.Tom Sneva (Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Penske-Buick 216.142 22.Scott Brayton (Coldwater, Mich.), Lola-Cosworth 215.028 97.Stan Fox (Janesville, Wis.), Lola-Buick 213.812 TENTH ROW 20.Roberto Guerrero (San Juan Capistrano), March Alfa-Romeo 212.652 15.Jim Crawford (Scotland), Lola-Buick 212.200 40.Al Unser (Albuquerque, N.M.), March Alfa-Romeo 212.087 ELEVENTH ROW 81.Bill Vukovich III (Fresno), Lola-Buick 211.389 98.John Paul Jr. (West Palm Beach, Fla.), Lola-Cosworth 214.411 91.Rocky Moran (Pasadena), Lola-Cosworth 211.076
Average speed of field--217.437 (qualifying record, old mark, 216.588, 1989)