It would be easy to forgive Scott Goodyear if he had a good hate on for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Goodyear looked headed to victory lane three times in 11 starts in the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" only to see circumstances conspire to pry an Indianapolis 500 win from his grasp.
Despite the disappointment of the three near misses, Goodyear doesn't regret a second of his time on the famed 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.
"I know we were capable and had the speed and every time that we were running at the end, we were usually in contention, so that makes you feel good about it," he said.
"I can still remember the first time I got in the car in a rookie test and drove out onto the Speedway. I came out on the apron in Turn 2 and looked down the straight - obviously there was no one there, it was empty and nothing was happening - but just to look down the length of that straight and see the 90-degree turn at the end was pretty cool."
Maybe Goodyear's frustration level doesn't eclipse the Andretti Curse that has prevented Mario, Michael and Marco from finding the winner's circle since the family's only victory in 1969 (Mario). But unlike the Toronto native, at least the most famous family in U.S. motorsport won the Indianapolis 500 once before the racing gods decided to keep it from victory. Mario, Michael and Marco have started 50 Indy 500s combined.
While he never won, Goodyear, 51, got closer than any driver in history. In his third Indy 500 start in 1992, Goodyear finished a record 0.043 seconds behind winner Al Unser Jr. after battling tooth-and-nail with the veteran in the final few laps. At the time, road racer Goodyear had only about a dozen oval races under his belt, while his more experienced rival had started hundreds.
When looking back on the race once the initial frustration abated, Goodyear realized the magnitude of his accomplishment.
"The emotions in 1992 when I got out of the car were about being disappointed, but when I went back and looked at it and people said to me: 'Golly, you can't be too disappointed because you were chasing down one of the Unsers.' So, I guess that's sort of the way I look at it," he said.
"When you look at the video of the last seven laps of him and me racing against each other, it's clear by watching it that I just didn't have the experience at that time to know exactly everything to do. I was searching around trying to find good air and get a proper run. Nothing beats experience."
While Goodyear is philosophical about his first near miss, the other two races where things went wrong still leave a bit of a bad taste.
In 1997, he again finished second, this time to Arie Luyendyk, after the yellow lights failed to go out around the track following a late caution period. Nevertheless, the flagman at the start-finish line waved the green for the final lap and Goodyear was caught out by the lights. He never got close enough to challenge Luyendyk for the win.
But that frustration pales in comparison to his feelings about the pace car that ruined his race in 1995. Late in that race, leader Goodyear passed a clearly too slow-moving pace car exiting Turn 4 on a restart and was given a stop-and-go penalty. Although he was showed the black flag to make him go into the pits to serve his punishment, Goodyear continued at the front of the field for the final 10 laps and crossed the line first, but officials had stopped scoring him five laps from the finish. He was classified 14th, while Jacques Villeneuve, of Iberville, Que., became the first and only Canadian to win the 500.
"I never agreed with that because the pace car is supposed to be doing 80 miles per hour and then accelerate to 100. The sensors afterward showed that in Turn 4 when he was supposed to be doing 100 or over to get off the track and into the pitlane, he was still just doing 78 miles per hour," he said.
"Apparently he had a tire going down and the rule is you don't pass the pace car. When you are leading the Indy 500 you are not going to take your foot off the gas and be passed, especially that close to the end."
That incident prompted a change in the procedures at the Speedway and the pace car can no longer play that role in determining the outcome of the race.
Goodyear now works as a television commentator and remains busy through the month of May as the drivers practice and qualify for the big race on U.S. Memorial Day weekend. The May 29 race this year marks the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500.
While being at the Brickyard almost every day in May and watching the cars doesn't make him want to get behind the wheel for another try at drinking the traditional milk in Victory Lane, it does bring perspective.
"It makes me realize how lucky I was and how fortunate I was to be there at the Speedway," Goodyear said.
"Nothing compares to Indianapolis and I don't know if it's just because of the massive amounts of people you have on race day or it's because of the history of Indy and it being the 100th this year, but I think it's also the sheer speed - there's no track like it in the world. You realize how special the Speedway is every time you go there."