Rick Mears compiled a phenomenal record in championship auto racing, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where, in 1991, he became the third person to win the Indianapolis 500 four times. A successful off-road racer early in his career, Mears made his National Championship debut with an eighth-place finish for Bill Simpson in the 1976 Ontario 500 in Ontario, California, and was signed just over a year later by Roger Penske. Mears spent his entire 15-year Indianapolis 500 career with Penske. He won Indianapolis 500 races in 1979, 1984, 1988, and 1991, sat on the pole a record six times, and was a front-row starter in 11 of his 15 starts from 1978 through 1992. In 1982, he came within 16 one-hundredths of a second of winning, edged by Gordon Johncock in a never-to-be-forgotten finish that, at the time, was the closest ever.
In 1991, he astonished many by grabbing his record sixth pole less than 24 hours after hitting the wall and landing upside down during a practice run. He won the 1991 race by taking the lead for the final time with a daring outside pass of Michael Andretti just 12 laps from the end. He won a total of 29 Indianapolis car races and captured the National Championship sanctioned by Championship Auto Racing Teams in 1979, 1981, and 1982. He also ranked sixth or higher in the Championship Auto Racing Team’s point standings in eight other years, including second in 1989. In 1991, he became the first driver to top $10 million in career earnings from IndyCar races. Retiring after the end of the 1992 race season, Mears remains an integral member of the Penske team, providing invaluable input as a driver-coach and consultant.
Courtesy of Indianapolis Motors Speedway Museum