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IT WASN'T A GREAT DAY FOR EX-CHAMPS

Danny Sullivan's broken arm hurt, but it held up longer than the clutch on his car.

A.J. Foyt had his best finish in 10 years, and Mario Andretti came in fourth - the best finish among eight former Indianapolis 500 champions starting Sunday's race.Gordon Johncock, the split-second 1982 victor over Rick Mears, was the first of the former winners to drop out when his engine stopped after 19 laps.

Sullivan went next and was followed by 1983 winner Tom Sneva, whose car was damaged in a pit fire.

Bobby Rahal, the 1986 champion, left with engine trouble after 58 laps.

"It dropped a valve or something and started making ugly noises," he said.

The same clutch problem that frustrated Penske Racing teammate Sullivan knocked out Al Unser after 68 laps.

"They came over the radio and told me, so we were trying to be careful," the four-time Indy winner said. "When the clutch slips, the engine revs up and it won't move. And that's all there is."

A blown engine after 113 laps took out Mears, the defending champion, who was already being cautious after teammates Sullivan and Unser were eliminated.

"We were just seeing what everything was going to do," said Mears, who had hoped to join the short list of four-time Indy victors. "We just didn't run long enough. We had a good month up to this point. At least it's not like this every year."

Foyt, who owns car dealerships in Houston, among other things, hasn't done so well at Indianapolis since he came in second in 1979.

"I think selling part of my interest in the dealership and getting back into the race shop has made a big difference," he said. "I finished fifth. I can't brag about that. God willing, if I'm not crippled or hurt I'll be back next year."

Sullivan, the 1985 winner, broke his right forearm in the first week of practice when he slid into the outside wall in Turn 3.

Therapy and a set of electrodes that helped kill the pain, enabled him to drive a specially modified backup car.

The team's mechanics notched the steering wheel to make it easier for Sullivan to grasp, moved the gear shift and cut out part of the seat so he could drive with as little movement - and pain - as possible.

Sullivan's orthopedic surgeon warned him the arm would throb as the race wore on, but the driver never had the chance to see how much he could take.

The bad clutch turned out to be a lot more painful than his arm.

"It's hard to accept. It hasn't really sunk in yet," he said later at the team's garage. "You're here for the entire month, and there's such a buildup. And then `boom,' it's gone."

Unser didn't feel any better.

"It's bad," he said. "You don't like to go out of this race - or any race. When you fall out this early it really takes a lot out of you and the whole team."