1975- Unser Wins in the Rain

For 1975 the Indianapolis 500 hoped to build off of the momentum generated by a smooth 1974 event which was much needed after the disastrous race in 1973. That race took three days to run, finishing after just 332 miles because of rain, and marred by the death of driver Swede Savage and crew member Armando Teran.

The 1975 program celebrated the 1974 race and Johnny Rutherford’s great victory. Rutherford, by some accounts, “saved” the 500. I wouldn’t go that far, but he did restore a sense of order and propriety to an event that probably should have been cancelled the year before.

The program in 1975 was the last one to have the wing and wheel emblem and the race flags on the cover. Beginning in 1976, the speedway went for artsy covers with, in my opinion more misses than hits.

The tire war between Goodyear and Firestone still raged. In 1974 Goodyear tires were on Rutherford’s winning car and the rest of the top 10 finishers.

The 1975 program heralded the under construction Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, scheduled to open in time for the 1976 race. It is hard to believe that the building is now 45 years old.

The Electropacer lights were still in use for 1975. The eight light panels, 1,650 feet apart, were to aid drivers in maintaining their “relative position” during a caution period. Prior to 1972, when the system was first put in place, drivers were trusted to slow down and stay in the same basic position. Many drivers took advantage of the rules to actually gain time under the yellow.

, I didn’t think this system worked much better than the old honor system. A driver would see a number on the first panel he passed when they yellow flag came out. He should see that number on each panel as he drove past it. Just watching from the stands, I’m not so sure the drivers adhered to this all the time. The speedway eventually adopted the current system of packing up behind the pace car.

An ad which I found odd to be in the program was for a book published in reaction to the 1973 race. The Indy 500, An American Institution Under Fire by Ron Dorson, promised to tell the real inside story of the 500 based on interviews he conducted with some prominent people in the paddock. I have never read the book. The ad contained a coupon to mail order (remember that?) and get a free bonus book.

The program included what was one of the last ads for Stark & Wetzel, the meat packing company which sponsored the Rookie of the Year award. They would be gone by the next decade. I loved their radio commercials with the whistle.

Bobby Unser won his second Indianapolis 500 in a race shortened to 174 laps when a rain storm flooded the track after what had been a nice day. Unser had retaken the lead just nine laps before the race was stopped. Wally Dallenbach seemed to have the race in hand, leading 96 laps, but a burned piston dropped him from contention on lap 162. he had led the 37 previous laps. Unser only led 11 laps.

Unser’s second win tied him with his younger brother Al, who won back to back in 1970 and 1971. The Unser clan was now almost halfway to its total of nine victories in the 500 Mile Race.

The rain shortened race was the second of what would be three rain shortened races in a span of four years. The 1976 race was called at 102 laps, just one lap than needed to make the race official.