The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will feature an exhibit honoring Rick Mears on the 30th anniversary of his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500 victory, which came after out-dueling Michael Andretti in the 1991 edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Mears’ likeness is also cast on the Borg-Warner Trophy for victories in 1979, 1984 and 1988.
Mears, who was born in Wichita, Kansas, stands alongside A.J. Foyt and Al Unser Sr. for most victories in Indy 500 history. Uniquely, though, it took Mears just 14 starts to capture his fourth, which was significantly fewer than Foyt (20) or Unser Sr. (22). Additionally, Mears still holds the record for most poles in the history of the race with six (1979, 1982, 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1991). In 15 starts, he sat on the front row a staggering 11 times.
The IMS Museum will showcase “Rocket Rick Mears presented by Racermaker Press” beginning on Sunday, May 2.
According to the IMS Museum press release, the feature will take guests on “a personal journey, giving context to Mears’ formative years and what molded the man, the driver and humble champion. The story begins when as a child, Mears watched his father, Bill, race on Kansas short tracks, followed by the family’s move to the hot Southern California oil and agricultural town of Bakersfield. It was there that Mears and his older brother, Roger, started racing dune buggies for fun, but soon became off-road racing champions.”
Some of Mears’ most iconic cars will be on display, including all four race-winning Indy 500 entries: the 1979 Gould Charge Penske PC6; the 1984 Pennzoil Z7 March 84C; the 1988 Pennzoil Penske PC17 and the 1991 Marlboro Penske PC20 (pictured above).
Also part of the attraction is the 1982 Gould Charge PC10, which was part of the famous race-ending battle in the 1982 Indy 500 duel between Mears and Gordon Johncock, who ended up beating Mears by 0.16s. The 1977 Eastside Cafe Special Eagle, a car that Mears first attempted to qualify (but didn’t make the field) for the Indy 500 with, will be another unique challenger from the archives. Mears’ 1976 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb-winning car will also be available to see, along with several examples of Roger and Rick’s championship off-road racing vehicles.
The exhibit will also feature artifacts, historic video and photographs from the museum’s collection, plus additional items loaned by Mears and the Penske collection, among others. The experience will provide a more in-depth scope on “The Mears Gang,” and Mears’ approach to racing as a whole.
Guests will learn of the early struggles Mears faced in Indy car racing, and how motorsports safety legend Bill Simpson played a critical role in his career. Another part of the Mears story is his perseverance following a 1981 pit fire that left him with facial burns, and a 1984 crash that nearly took both feet.
Lastly, the experience will allow guests to “relive the Mears-Penske dynasty, from team owner Roger Penske’s hiring of Mears for the 1978 season, to Mears’ surprise retirement announcement at the 1992 Team Penske Christmas party, and his continuing impact on the IndyCar Series as a driver consultant, coach and mentor for Team Penske.”
The exhibit will run through March 2022.