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Rick Mears - Respected By His Peers

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Despite all of his success, Mears did not garner as much public attention as other drivers of his time, such as the Unsers, the Andrettis, A.J. Foyt, or Emerson Fittipaldi. While other drivers were known for their aggressiveness, Mears was a calm and patient driver. "If my car is not working well, I try to let everybody else dictate the pace and work on not going a lap down," Mears explained his racing strategy to David Phillips of Auto Week in June of 1991. "If the car is good, I'll run at about 80 percent and just try to keep the leaders in sight." This laid-back attitude led the media to call him boring. "Rick Mears has fans, but not passionate followers. He has style, but not charisma," wrote Bruce Lowitt of the St. Petersburg Times in May of 1989. However, it was his skills that have earned Mears respect as a driver. "What makes Rick so great is his credibility with his peers," Penske told Sam Moses of Sports Illustrated in June of 1988. "Walking down pit row, you can't find a guy who doesn't have high praise for him, both as a driver and a man."

Mears won the most Indy car victories of any driver in the 1980s and was named Driver of the Decade by the Associated Press. However, Mears was not finished setting records yet. In 1991 he won the pole position at the Indianapolis 500 for a record-setting sixth time and he won the race for the fourth time. He tied A.J. Foyt and Al Unser, Sr. for the most wins at the Brickyard. He is also the only driver to win the Indianapolis 500 from the pole position three times.

Awards and Accomplishments

1973 Firecracker 250 Champion
1973-74 Japan Grand Prix Off-Road Champion
1974 Nor-Cal 100 Champion
1976 United States Auto Championship Rookie of the Year
1978 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year
1978 First Indy car win at Milwaukee
1979 First Championship Auto Racing Team National Championship
1979 Named Auto Racing All American by Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association
1979, 1982, 1986, 1988-89, 1991 Indianapolis 500 pole position
1979, 1984, 1988, 1991 Indianapolis 500 Championship
1980-81 Mexico City Race Champion
1981 Watkins Glen Race Champion
1981 Second Championship Auto Racing Team National Championship
1981 Received United States Driver of the Year Jerry Titus Memorial Trophy
1982 Third Championship Auto Racing Team National Championship
1985, 1987 Pocono 500 Champion
1988-89 Milwaukee Indy Car Race Champion
1989 Laguna Seca Race Champion
1989 Named Driver of the Year by Auto Racing Analysis
1989 Named Driver of the Decade by the Associated Press
1990 Phoenix Race Champion
1992 Named One of Ten Champions for Life by Driver of the Year Awards

Where Is He Now?

Rick Mears retired from auto racing in 1992, but he remained a member of the Penske team. For the past decade Mears has served as an adviser and driving coach for younger drivers. He and his brother, Roger, also formed an Indy Lights team to promote their sons' racing careers. Rick's older son Clint, and Roger's son, Casey, both began racing careers in the mid-1990s. In 2002 Mears' personal problems became public when he divorced his second wife, Christyn Bowen. He also admitted to a drinking problem and checked himself into a treatment program. Mears still experiences pain in both of his feet from his dangerous crash in 1984.

In 1992 Mears set out for his 15th run at the Indianapolis 500. He was looking for his fifth win so that he could become the single driver with the most wins at the Brickyard. Unfortunately, Mears crashed during a practice session. His car slid on water from a broken line and Mears hit the wall. Mears was lucky to escape with only a fractured foot and a sprained wrist. "This is a racetrack where you must be very precise," Mears described the Brickyard to the Toronto Star in May of 1986. "And at the speeds we're running at there, one mistake is all you get." He was able to compete on race day, but he finished only twenty-sixth because of another crash.

While Mears was recovering from his injuries he decided that 1992 would be his last year of racing, much to the surprise of his fellow drivers. "I truly admire the man," Mario Andretti told David Phillips and Larry Edsall of Autoweek in December of 1992. "He was a great racer, a real competitor, and it was truly fun to race against him." Although Mears did not win the recordsetting fifth Indianapolis 500, he still made his mark on the racing world. Mears had a total of twenty-nine Indy car victories, including four at the Brickyard. He won the pole position a total of forty times and he won the most pole positions in 500-mile races with fifteen. Mears is also tied in second place for the most career victories in 500-mile races. He was inducted into the International Motosports Hall of Fame in 1997.

Rick Mears - Awards And Accomplishments [next] [back] Rick Mears - Chronology

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