Nigel Mansell's dramatic switch from Formula One to Indy cars has created several opportunities other than racing an Indy car for the popular British driver. Among them:
--An invitation from Darrell Gwynn to test-drive Gwynn's top-fuel dragster.
--A request to speak at the Washington Press Club, something usually reserved for politicians or business leaders.
--An invitation to fly with the Navy's Blue Angels.
--An opportunity to visit the Indianapolis office of the FBI and use its firing range. Mansell is a member of the Isle of Man's police force.
--Numerous invitations to play in celebrity golf tournaments. Mansell is a four-handicap golfer who has played in the Australian Open.
Mansell is willing to try most anything and seems successful at what he tries. Last year, before the Adelaide Grand Prix, he went deep sea fishing off the coast of Australia and hooked a 330-pound shark.
Nine of the first 10 qualifiers for the 500 are foreign born. In order, they are from: Holland, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Albuquerque, N.M., Sweden, Canada, England, Brazil, Colombia. Farther back in the field are drivers from Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Australia, Scotland and Belgium--16 of the 33 in all.
Mario Andretti's reaction: "To me, a driver's a driver. We all speak the same language."
Bobby Rahal: "The Indianapolis 500 is the greatest race in the world. It ought to be international. There is nothing like it, so why shouldn't drivers from all over the world want to be here? It's just like the Masters in golf. It attracts the best foreigners, too."
The return of the 2 1/2-mile track to its original rectangular oval configuration brings to mind a comment on entering the first turn by the late Jack McGrath after he had set a qualifying record in 1955:
"It's like drag racing down a boulevard and turning into a narrow alley."
Jeff Andretti, youngest of Mario Andretti's sons, will be driving the car in which he unofficially broke Rick Mears' U.S. closed-circuit speed record with a run of 234.5 m.p.h. at Texas World Speedway in February.
Mears' record of 233.934 m.p.h., set Nov. 17, 1986, at Michigan International Speedway remains official, however, because Andretti's run was not observed by the proper authorities.
Jeff Andretti's car is a 1992 Lola-Buick, which was purchased by Pagan Racing from Kenny Bernstein's King Motorsports team. It was qualified last year by Jim Crawford.