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Rick Mears

Mears' 1991 Champ Car


Rick Ravon Mears (born December 3, 1951 in Wichita, Kansas) is a retired American race car driver. He is the third of three men to have won the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race four times (1979, 1984, 1988, 1991), and the current record-holder for pole positions in the race with six (1979, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991). Mears is also a three-time CART national champion (1979, 1981 and 1982).

Biography

Mears was raised in Bakersfield, California, and began his racing career in off-road racing. He switched to Indy Car racing in the late 1970s, making his debut for the small Art Sugai team, driving a Eagle-Offenhauser. His speed attracted the attention of Roger Penske. Although at the time Penske Racing had the services of Tom Sneva and Mario Andretti, Andretti was also racing in Formula One with Lotus at the time and Penske wanted another young driver who would focus exclusively on American racing. For 1978 Mears was offered a ride in nine of the eighteen championship races, including the Indianapolis 500.

Mears qualified on the front row at Indy, but did not lead a lap and retired at 104 laps with a blown engine. Two weeks later, at the Rex Mays 150 at Milwaukee, he bounced back to win his first race. He added another win another month later at Atlanta and rounded off the year with his first road course win at Brands Hatch as the USAC cars made their only visit to England. In 1979 the National Championship sanction changed from the USAC to Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART). At Indianapolis he won his first "500" by virtue of staying at the front of the field and taking the lead as other drivers dropped out with mechanical problems. Three wins and four seconds in the eleven CART-eligible races won Mears his first championship. His worst finish in the season was fifth. In 1980 the ground effect Chaparral was technologically more advanced that the other chassis. Mears finished in fourth place in the points with one win, scored at Mexico City.

1981 and 1982 were two more championship seasons for Mears. Despite facial burns during a pit fire in the 1981 Indianapolis 500, Mears' ten wins in the two-year span were enough for another two championship titles. At the 1982 Indianapolis 500 he came within 0.16 of a second of adding a second Indy win. With less than 20 laps to go, during Mears' final pit stop, the crew filled the entire tank rather than giving him only the amount he needed to finish. The delay put him behind over 11 seconds behind Gordon Johncock. Mears made up the difference when Johncock suffered handling problems, but failed to secure the win. The photo-finish would stand for ten years as the closest finish to an Indy 500.

For 1983 the Penske team would acquire the Pennzoil sponsorship with its yellow paint scheme. Teammate Al Unser took the title, the team switched to the March chassis for the 1984 Indianapolis 500 after the Penske chassis proved unsuccessful in the first two races of the year. Mears scored his second Indy win that May but suffered severe leg injuries later in the year in a crash at Sanair. The March chassis, like most contemporary open-wheel racing cars, sat the driver far forward in the nose, with little protection for the legs and feet.

Mears in 1984

In 1980 Mears had tested a Formula One Brabham and he declined an offer. After 1984 he was slowed by the injuries to his right foot and the 1985, 1986 and 1987 years saw Mears win two races, both scored at the tri-oval Pocono Raceway.

In 1988, after several years using the March chassis, the Penske team utilized a new car, the PC-17, with a Chevrolet racing engine. Mears used the new car to win the Indy 500. A year later, he took a record-setting fifth pole position at Indy, but retired from the race with mechanical problems. Emerson Fittipaldi took the 500 and also beat Mears to the Championship in the last race at Laguna Seca, despite Mears winning that race. Also, that last race of 1989 set Mears apart from all other Indycar racers as he broke a tie with Bobby Rahal for race wins and became the most successful Indycar racer of the 1980s.

Fittipaldi joined Mears at Penske for 1990, but the year belonged to Al Unser, Jr., who scored six wins. 1990 would be Mears' last in the Pennzoil paint scheme as Marlboro took over as sponsor of the team.

Twenty laps from the end of the 1991 Indianapolis 500 it looked like Mears was set to be the runner-up behind Michael Andretti. However, when a subsequent yellow flag period erased Andretti's 15 second lead, Mears gained the lead as Andretti opted to pit for fuel. It would be a short-lived lead as Andretti passed Mears around the outside into the first turn. A lap later he returned back into the lead. Turning up his turbo-boost he then pulled away to win a fourth Indy 500, making him one of only three individuals to win the event four times. In August 1991 at Michigan he won his last race. At the 1992 Indy 500 Mears broke a wrist in a crash during practice and then crashed out of the race for the first time in his career as he could not avoid Jim Crawford's spinning car in turn 1. He raced only four more times in 1992 and announced his retirement from racing Indycars at the Penske team's Christmas party. He had just turned 41 years old, and nobody except for his wife and Roger Penske himself knew about it.

As of 2008, Rick Mears continues to work as a consultant to Penske racing, the team with which he won all of his Indycar races.

He is the brother of Roger Mears and the uncle of NASCAR driver Casey Mears.

Awards

USAC Champ Car career results

Year Team Wins Points Finish
1976 Art Sugai 0 390 16th
1977 Art Sugai/Theodore Racing 0 555 20th
1978 Penske Racing 3 2171 9th


CART Indy Car career results

(key) (Races in Bold indicate pole position)

Year Team 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 Rank Points
1979 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHX
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL2
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
INDY
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
TRE
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
TRE2
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS2
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
WGL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
TRE3
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ONT
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS3
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL3
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHX2
3
      1st 4060
1980 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
ONT
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
INDY
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
12
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
9
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
WGL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ONT2
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS
3
22px-Flag of Mexico.png
MEX
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHX
7
          4th 2866
1981 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHX
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL2
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
RIV
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL2
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIS2
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
WGL
1
22px-Flag of Mexico.png
MEX
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHX2
8
            1st 294
1982 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
15
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
12
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
RIV
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
25
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
2
            1st 294
1983 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
ATL
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
17
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
RIV
19
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
9
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CEA
13
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
17
        6th 92
1984 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
18
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
10
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
10
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
5
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
SAN
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAV
  5th 110
1985 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
30
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
SAN
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIA
    10th 51
1986 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
19
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
20
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
16
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
19
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
4
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
12
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
17
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
SAN
18
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
17
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
20
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIA
3
8th 89
1987 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
9
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
20
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
23
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
17
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
7
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
10
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
21
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
9
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIA
5
    5th 102
1988 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
22
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
23
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
13
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
23
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
12
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIA
2
    4th 129
1989 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
23
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DET
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
4
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POC
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
1
    2nd 186
1990 Penske 22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DET
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
5
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
CLE
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
TOR
12
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
14
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DEN
7
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
VAN
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
4
  3rd 168
1991 Penske 22px-Flag of Australia.svg.png
SUR
3
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
4
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
15
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DET
5
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
17
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MEA
3
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
20
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
1
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DEN
8
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
VAN
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
6
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
15
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
15
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
5
4th 145
1992 Penske 22px-Flag of Australia.svg.png
SUR
2
22px-Flag of the United States.png
PHO
8
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LGB
9
22px-Flag of the United States.png
IND
26
22px-Flag of the United States.png
DET
22px-Flag of the United States.png
POR
7
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MIL
16
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NHA
4
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
TOR
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MCH
16
22px-Flag of the United States.png
CLE
22px-Flag of the United States.png
ROA
22px-Flag of the Canada.png
VAN
22px-Flag of the United States.png
MDO
22px-Flag of the United States.png
NAZ
22px-Flag of the United States.png
LAG
  13th 47


Total: 3 championships, 26 victories

Indianapolis 500 results

Year Chassis Engine Start Finish Note Team
1977 Eagle Offy Did not qualify Sugai
1978 Penske Cosworth 3rd 23rd Engine Failure Penske
1979 Penske Cosworth 1st 1st Running Penske
1980 Penske Cosworth 6th 5th Running Penske
1981 Penske Cosworth 22nd 30th Pit lane fire Penske
1982 Penske Cosworth 1st 2nd Running Penske
1983 Penske Cosworth 3rd 3rd Running Penske
1984 March Cosworth 3rd 1st Running Penske
1985 March Cosworth 10th 21st Gear linkage Penske
1986 March Cosworth 1st 3rd Running Penske
1987 March Cosworth 3rd 23rd Ignition Penske
1988 Penske Chevrolet 1st 1st Running Penske
1989 Penske Chevrolet 1st 23rd Engine failure Penske
1990 Penske Chevrolet 2nd 5th Running Penske
1991 Penske Chevrolet 1st 1st Running Penske
1992 Penske Chevrolet 9th 26th Crash Penske

Indy 500 Qualifying Results

Year Att # Date Time Qual
Day
Car # Laps Qual
Time
Qual
Speed
Rank Start Comment
1977 85 05-22 16:02 4 90 1 PULLED OFF
1977 96 05-22 17:21 4 90 2 WAVED OFF
1978 10 05-20 12:13 1 71 4 2:59.9300 200.078 4 3  
1979 34 05-13 16:39 1 9 4 3:05.8200 193.736 1 1  
1980 1 05-10 11:05 1 1 4 3:12.0100 187.490 7 6  
1981 34 05-16 13:41 1 6 2 PULLED OFF
1981 53 05-16 15:52 2 68 4 3:05.5500 194.018 10 22  
1982 2 05-15 11:09 1 1 4 2:53.9100 207.004 1 1  
1983 7 05-21 11:39 1 2 4 2:56.2110 204.301 3 3  
1984 2 05-12 12:25 1 6 4 2:53.2040 207.847 3 3  
1985 29 05-11 17:10 1 1 4 2:51.5950 209.796 10 10  
1986 9 05-10 12:40 1 4 4 2:46.0300 216.828 1 1  
1987 3 05-09 11:19 1 81T 4 2:50.2390 211.467 3 3  
1988 23 05-14 13:58 1 5 4 2:44.2350 219.198 1 1  
1989 20 05-14 14:09 1 4 4 2:40.7970 223.885 1 1  
1990 6 05-13 16:57 1 2 4 2:40.5600 224.215 2 2  
1991 16 05-11 12:51 1 3T 4 2:40.6330 224.113 2 1  
1992 21 05-09 17:48 1 4 4 2:40.2890 224.594 10 9  


Trivia

  • Mears has seven of the top ten best Indianapolis 500 five-year qualifying streaks in the 200 mph era.
  • Mears has the top six best Indianapolis 500 ten-year qualifying streaks in the 200 mph era.


Indianapolis 500 Winners
Four-time winners

A. J. FoytAl Unser, Sr.Rick Mears

Three-time winners

MeyerShawRoseRutherfordB. Unser

Two-time winners

MiltonVukovichWardJohncockFittipaldiLuyendykUnser, Jr.Castroneves

One win

HarrounDawsonGouxThomasDePalmaRestaWilcoxChevroletMurphyCorumBoyerDePaoloLockhartSoudersKeechArnoldSchneiderFrameCummingsPetilloRobertsDavisRobsonHollandParsonsWallardRuttmanSweikertFlahertyHanksBryanRathmannJonesClarkHillAndrettiDonohueSnevaSullivanRahalVilleneuveLazierCheeverBrackMontoyade FerranRiceWheldonHornish