1970: The decade Begins With the Birth of a New Legend

Note: I know we all miss not being at the track today for Carb Day, one of the greatest days of May. Sunday will be a difficult day for most of us. I plan to immerse myself in old races. Whatever you do, stay safe and wash your hands. Please enjoy this piece about the 1970 program and race.

The ’60s belonged to A. J. Foyt. It appeared the ’70s would be the decade of Mario Andretti. It didn’t turn out that way.  Al Unser became the star of the era beginning with the 1970 race.

1970 was a milestone year for Tony Hulman. It was the 25th year of his ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, by far the longest tenure of the three track  owners. Oddly, the program does not make a big deal about this. there is a one page article on page 14 titled “Tony Hulman and the 500.” That is all the program says about an important anniversary. No one knew at the time that the Hulman family was merely a third of the way through their time as stewards of the track. On page 16 are two photos, one of the track in 1945, and one of the start of the 1969 race.

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Ads in the program were for Goodyear tires, still a factor in Indycar; Chase & Sanborn coffee (endorsed by Andretti); Monroe shocks, Thermo King, and Muriel Cigars. I can’t remember what year the last tobacco product ad appeared in a Speedway program.

The veterans’ page featured the eventual winner, Al Unser. Unser missed the 1969 race after a motorcycle accident in early may of the previous year. His car, the Johnny Lightning Special,had one the iconic liveries in Speedway history.

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The program was fairly standard for that time. It seems milestones then were  not the big deal they are today. I can imagine an entire month of tribute to an owner’s 25th year at the helm today. I am not sure we’ll ever see a tenure that long again.

Rookies in the field included Donnie Allison, Dick Simon, Greg Weld, and Rick Muther. Allison would win Rookie of the Year.

Unser dominated the race. leading 190 laps and winning by 32 seconds over Mark Donohue. Unser would win two more 500s in the 70s, the following year and 1978. He would add a fourth victory in 1987. Johnny Rutherford gave Unser some good competition for driver of the decade honors, winning in 1974 and 1976. Stiil, both drivers operated in the shadow of Foyt. Not to be outdone by the relative newcomers, Foyt won his fourth 500 in 1977.

Quick Survey

What are your plans for this Sunday? Leave a comment and I’ll talk about it next week.

 

 

2 thoughts on “1970: The decade Begins With the Birth of a New Legend

  1. Thanks Mike! Definitely planning for the enhanced replay of last year’s race after speaking at a church meeting on Zoom. For the Memorial Day remembrance, we’re going to redirect from Crown Hill to Fort Custer National Cemetery to honor a vet we knew who died from COVID-19 on March 31st and whose widow was unable to attend his burial.

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