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Original Issue


A Fatal Crash

The wreck looked relatively mild, and it came at a relatively slow speed. Yet last Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, this deceptive crash killed rookie driver Jovy Marcelo, 27, who was practicing for this Sunday's Indy 500.

Marcelo, a native of the Philippines who attended Armstrong College in Berkeley, Calif., had just completed a lap at 172.328 mph when he entered Turn I of the 2.5-mile oval. For reasons unknown, Marcelo's Lola-Cosworth went into a three-quarters spin and skidded 440 feet until the left front of the car hit the wall. The left side of the car then smashed into the wall broadside—in what drivers call a pancake collision—in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2. The car kept sliding until it came to rest in the middle of Turn 2. When rescue crews reached Marcelo, he was unconscious. Twenty-eight minutes later he was pronounced dead at Methodist Hospital from head injuries. Marcelo was the first driver to die at the Speedway since Gordon Smiley hit the wall head-on 10 years to the day before Marcelo's crash.

Rick Mears and Nelson Piquet had survived more violent crashes (SI, May 18) at higher speeds on May 6 and 7, respectively, so the question is, Why did Marcelo die? "It's a little bit of a mystery to everyone involved how such a minor wreck could cause such an injury," said Andreas Leberle, an engineer with the Euromotorsport Racing team, for which Marcelo drove. An autopsy conducted by the Marion County coroner's office discovered that the cause of Marcelo's death was "a blunt force head injury." Leberle said the injury was apparently caused by the impact of Marcelo's helmeted head against the rim of the carbon-fiber protective cocoon that surrounds the driver in an Indy Car. Veteran driver Michael Andretti said the theory from a consensus of track experts was that the sudden deceleration of Marcelo's car had caused the bottom edge of his helmet to catch on the top rim of the cocoon.

But Piquet's car had decelerated suddenly, too, and he escaped without a head injury. Andretti says that he had noticed earlier in the week that Marcelo "sat a bit high" in the cockpit—that is, higher than most drivers. This position may have allowed Marcelo's head to snap farther from side to side.

Marcelo was a stranger to most Indy drivers. He was the 1991 SCCA Toyota Atlantic Series road-racing champion, but his only previous oval-racing experience had been on the one-mile track in Phoenix, where he finished 19th in April. His father, Edward, who was a motorcycle-racing champion in the Philippines, said that it had been his son's "dream to drive in the Indianapolis 500."

There is a rule of thumb in racing that the worse a crash looks, the less severe the injury to the driver. Tragically for Marcelo, and fortunately for Mears and Piquet, the rule proved to be true the past two weeks at Indy.

Impeachable Source
IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch has recently criticized several journalists for portraying him unfairly in books they've written about him. Samaranch certainly knows what it takes to be an objective reporter. From 1943 to '49, Samaranch wrote a regular column about roller hockey for La Vanguardia, a newspaper in Barcelona. He wrote the stories under the pen name Stick, and he often quoted a roller hockey expert named Juan Antonio Samaranch.

Magic Touch
Here are two unsolicited pieces of advice for Orlando Magic general manager Pat Williams, whose team won the NBA draft lottery on Sunday and with it the right to make LSU center Shaquille O'Neal the first pick of next month's draft. First, get a bigger uniform. The Magic jersey with O'Neal's name on it that Williams displayed after the lottery would probably be a better fit for one of the seven dwarfs at nearby Disney World than it would be for the 7'1", 295-pound O'Neal.

Disney World brings us to suggestion number 2: Convince O'Neal that Los Angeles isn't the only place he can earn a ton of endorsement and entertainment money and that Orlando's land of make-believe would open up a world of marketing possibilities for a budding NBA superstar. The educated guess is that although O'Neal and his agent, Los Angeles-based lawyer Leonard Armato, would like to force a Hade to either the Clippers or the Lakers, their minds could be changed if the opportunities for outside earnings were great enough. Coming soon to a theater near you: a remake of Disney's Cinderella starring Shaq and the Magic.

Allan Bristow, coach of the Charlotte Hornets, is nearly as happy with the second pick as Williams is with the first. The Hornets, who finished with the seventh-worst record in the league, are now in line to add Georgetown center Alonzo Mourning to a nucleus that includes NBA Rookie of the Year Larry Johnson and superb second-year guard Kendall Gill.

But all eyes will be on the negotiations between Orlando, which had the league's second-worst record, and O'Neal, and Williams is confident that Shaq will be wearing a Magic uniform next season. "We'll get him signed," he says. "Everybody else wants to come to Orlando. Thirty million people come to Disney World every year. It's the Number One tourist attraction in the world. So now if we can attract one more big tourist to come down here, I think he'll be very happy."

Slugging It Out
In a recent poll of news organizations and college administrators, the Banana Slugs of UC Santa Cruz were deemed to have the best college nickname. Banana Slugs are slimy, yellow mollusks and one of the slower creatures around, but they easily outdistanced the No. 2 vote-getter, the Stormy Petrels of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. Here's the rest of the Top 10, in order: the Wonderboys of Arkansas Tech: the Anteaters of UC Irvine; the Northern Lights of Northern Montana; the Geoducks of Evergreen State in Olympia, Wash.; the Mastodons of Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis; the Ichabods of Washburn University in Topeka. Kans.; the Student Princes of Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio: and the Railsplitters of Lincoln Memorial in Harrogate, Tenn.

As the Tide Turns

Wimp Sanderson and Alabama basketball had become synonymous. Except for the 1959-60 season, when he coached Carbon Hill (Ala.) High, Sanderson, 54, has never coached any team but the Crimson Tide. After 20 years as an Alabama assistant, he took over as head man 12 years ago and amassed a record of 267-119, which made him the winningest basketball coach in school history. Under Sanderson the Tide went to the NCAA tournament 10 times. Because of the plaid jackets Sanderson wore when he paced the sideline, Coleman Coliseum became known as the Plaid Palace, the center circle there was painted plaid, and the members of the pep band wore plaid jackets and called themselves the Plaid Players. Sanderson was even given the sacred office that had belonged to Bear Bryant.

On Monday, Sanderson resigned. His announcement was made 11 days after his longtime secretary, Nancy Watts, accused him of striking her. According to a sex discrimination complaint filed by Watts, Sanderson hit her in the right eye on March 17, the day before the Crimson Tide left to play in the NCAA subregional in Cincinnati. Watts accompanied 'Bama on the trip, but she has not returned to work since filing the complaint.

Watts has not commented on the specifics of the allegation, and Sanderson made his only statement about it on May 7, when he told the Birmingham Post-Herald. "I just can't talk about it. I think it's all going to be taken care of."

Apparently, though, it was not taken care of. Moreover, Watts alleges that the assault was part of a history of sex discrimination by Sanderson and the university against her, but it was only after this incident that she felt compelled to come forward. The school has no comment.

As for Sanderson, he will continue to collect his $115,627 annual salary until June 30, 1994, and then he will receive an annual pension of more than $75,000. And Alabama will have to find a new coach to reside in the Bear's office.




After the left front of Marcelo's Lola-Cosworth hit the wall, the car skidded along the wall toward Turn 2.



In this composite photo, O'Neal rules the Magic's kingdom.



Sanderson checks out of Alabama under a cloud.

Judgment Calls

[Thumb Up]To Boston Celtics forward Ed Pinckney, for volunteering to serve as commissioner of a summer basketball league in Providence. Four hundred inner-city youngsters, ages nine to 17, will take part.

[Thumb Down]To the Milwaukee Brewers, for not allowing a marketing class from Trouper High in Kenosha, Wis., to organize a varsity baseball game at Milwaukee County Stadium. The Brewers said they "did not want to set a precedent." The Milwaukee Bucks cooperated with a similar proposal on Feb. 11.

They Said It

Fran Curci, coach of the Cincinnati Rockers of the Arena Football League, on the possibility of former Cincinnati Bengal fullback Ickey Woods signing with the Rockers: "If lie joined our league, we'd let him do the shuffle standing on his head."

Steve Webber, Georgia baseball coach, after the Bulldogs played a game in the Louisiana Superdome: "It was a little different. It was like playing inside."