Johnny Rutherford, a three-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, made a tearful retirement from racing Saturday morning after driving A.J. Foyt's car around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a farewell lap.
"I had an urge to slip it in third or fourth gear and get it up to 225 (m.p.h.) and get in the qualifying line," Rutherford said. "It is still hard to believe that I'm not out there trying to get in the race."
The No. 14 car was the same one in which Foyt drove last year before announcing his retirement during qualifying.
Rutherford had not raced in the 500 since 1988. In 1989 and 1990, he qualified but was bumped from the field. His last Indy car race was in 1989.
He also won his only national championship in 1980.
Rutherford, 56, won the 500 in 1974 from the 25th starting position and in 1976 from the pole and again from the pole in 1980. He drove in 24 500s, fourth behind Foyt, 35; Mario Andretti, who will be in his 29th this year; and Al Unser, 27.
In the last 17 months, Indy car racing lost all three of its four-time winners: Rick Mears, who retired in December 1992; Foyt, who quit here one year ago, and Unser--plus three-time winner Rutherford.
With Nigel Mansell home in Clearwater, Fla., until Thursday, the Newman-Haas team asked rookie Bryan Herta to give Mansell's Lola-Ford Cosworth a five-lap shakedown. The Los Angeles driver took it easy, not running above 189 m.p.h.
The incident led to speculation that Herta might be the team's replacement next year for the retiring Mario Andretti.
The success of the Indiana Pacers in advancing to the NBA Eastern Conference playoffs is causing repercussions in Indianapolis. The third game of the playoffs--against either the Chicago Bulls or New York Knicks--will start Saturday at about the time and place that the Festival 500 parade is scheduled to end.
It will also mean a busy week for Bill York, press room steward for the 500 and Pacers.
York's worst scenario would be for the 500 to be postponed a day, meaning on Monday the race would start at 11 a.m. and the Pacers' game at 2:30 p.m.