This city's annual celebration of life in the fast lane has subsided.

The Indy 500 Speedway was fender-deep in rubbish yesterday. Thousands of stale pretzels stood in a heap at the corner of 16th and Georgetown Streets. They were almost invisible, camouflaged by the general chaos of litter.

Auto racing's ocean of fans, nearly 400,000 of them, had receded.

Almost the only man left behind was Al Unser. He was left in relative solutide on his 39th birthday, celebrating his third victory in the race of races in a city that looked like an evacuated war corridor.

What did Unser get for his birthday?

"Sorry, I didn't hear the question," UNser grinned, "I was busy counting money."

Naturally, Unser's gift was a car. And he gave it to himself.

By golly, I asked for a ride in that fancy pace car last week," said Unser. "And, you know I was turned down. I said to myself, "Well, I'll just have to win it, by golly."

Many an Indy 500 has ended in a rubble of controversy. This one left behind a clearly defined residue.

Unser was king. Janet Guthrie was queen.And the Cosworth engine was the winner and new monarch of speed.

"The old four-banger Offy engine is dead," said Goerge Bignotti, who built the third-and the fourth-place cars which were the only four-cylinder buggies in the top six Sunday. "Anybody who enters a four-cylinder here next year has got to be an idiot, or he doesn't have anything else."

Guthrie defended her trusty four-cylinder difference was between her and the likes of Al Unser, she replied, "I think it's something called a Cosworth."

Guthrie and Wally Dallenbach each fell back a position when a final, official standings were announced yesterday, Guthrie going to ninth and Dallenbach to sixth. Scorers discovered that George Snider and Bobby Unser had each gone one lap farther than they were credited for, so they moved up to eighth and fifth.

The candid Guthrie took that in stride, but she had a couple of backfires to lay on the Sppedway brass.

"I've complained to the Speedway about no women's restrooms in the garage area but they still haven't done anything after three years," she said. "I also think there is too much socializing and playing around in the garages." She was referring to drivers like Jim Hurtubise who maintain garages for parties while drivers like Guthrie have to hope for last-minute space to open up.

Guthrie and the crowd heard Mary Hulman, widow of former speedway owner Tony Hulman, begin the race with the traditional command, "Gentlemen, start your engines." The PA system did not pick the preliminary words, "Lady and gentlemen."

"She should have recognized that there was a woman in the field," Guthrie first said. "It's old-fashioned and I feel sorry for her."

When told later about the "Lady and" omission, Guthrie broke into her customary down-to-earth, floppy-hat grin, took a sip of her beer, and laughed, "Sabotage."

"I anturally retract everything I said before," said Guthrie.

Unser, on the other hand, scored poorly in tact. When asked about Guthrie's much cheered performance, her grit in hiding her broken wrist from officials, then driving one-handed, Unser simply said, "All I know is that I passed her several times . . . she did a good job of letting me past."

Two safety-related questions still hang in the air after this injury-free Indy. How can the speedway improve its extremely ragged stampede starts, and will the general outcry from drivers against the pacer light system kill that congestion-reducing device?

Danny Ongais beat pole-sitter Tom Sneva to the starting line by two car lengths, a clear violation of rules. Nevertheless, Ongais' quick break - like jumping the gun in a marathon - seemed to help the field string out in a hurry, reducing the first-turn danger.

"It may have been a technical infraction," said Chief Steward Tom Binford. "But I let them go.I didn't want to think what they'd look like if they 'paced' around again."

As it was, the back-row chargers, A. J. Foyt, Madio Andretti and Bobby Unser, passed a total of 20 cars in a hectic first lap. The concern over a turn one holocaust will only get worse with more and faster Cosworths coming.

If Unser, the man who knocked himself "goofy" and destroyed his top car in a Texas crash in April, and Guthrie, who feared this might be her last Indy, were the happiest pair in town, they had one rival in glee.

Perhaps the granddaddy of all "squirting-flower-in-the-lapel" jokes was played in the infield Sunday. More than 100,000 folks picnicked and frolicked inside the oval, about half of them on a nine-hole golf course.

Someone found a way to turn on the golf-course sprinkler system, drenching perhaps 50,000 fleeing a spectators.

Police arrested 184 people in the field for various illegalities during the race. The Sprinkler Phantom, however, got away.