Race fans remember the 1982 Indianapolis 500 for the late-race duel between "500" winners Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock. Johncock qualified his STP Wildcat for the fifth starting position and survived the accident at the beginning of the race that eliminated contenders Kevin Cogan and Mario Andretti. Mechanical problems forced race favorites A.J. Foyt and Tom Sneva out of the race, which led to a late-race showdown between Mears and Johncock. Errors in Mears’ final pit stop—the team added more fuel than required to finish the race—cost him precious time on the race track.. Three laps later, Johncock's team performed a trouble-free pit stop, and he returned on the track with a 12-second lead over Mears, with only 12 laps to go.

Mears caught up to Johncock, however, cutting the gap to 9.5 seconds with 10 laps to go and less than four seconds with five laps remaining. Mears caught Johncock as the two received the white flag at the start-finish line, starting the final lap. Mears attempted a pass on Johncock entering Turn 1, but Johncock aggressively blocked him. Mears regrouped for one last attempt, but it was too late as Johncock crossed the line first with a margin of victory of .16 seconds.