1970 Bobby Ball 150 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1970)

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1970bobbyball1501.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1970 Bobby Ball 150 (also known as the 1970 Phoenix 150) was the final race of the 1970 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 21st November at the Phoenix International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by Swede Savage in an Eagle-Ford, achieving his only USAC victory by passing Scorpion-Ford's Roger McCluskey on the final lap.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1970 Bobby Ball 150 was the 21st running of the event, with the annual race being shortened from 200 to 150 miles.[1][2] It was one of two 1970 USAC Championship Car Season races to occur at Phoenix International Raceway, the other being the Jimmy Bryan 150,[3] which occurred on 28th March and was won by Al Unser in a Colt-Ford.[4] Named in memory of AAA driver Bobby Ball, the race has ties with Phoenix events like the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, before Phoenix races were dropped from the IndyCar schedule after 2018 following low attendance.[5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Unser winning the pole position with a speed of 132.256 mph.[6][1] Directly behind him was brother Bobby Unser in an Eagle-Ford, with Coyote-Ford's A.J. Foyt lining up third.[1][6] Swede Savage qualified fourth out of 24 competitors.[1] Meanwhile, Mario Andretti crashed his McNamara-Ford while spinning out of Turn 4, causing terminal damage.[6] He therefore was forced to take the Brawner-Ford driven by Steve Krisiloff for the event.[6]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1970 Bobby Ball 150 commenced on 21st November.[1] Bobby Unser shot into the lead on the first lap by passing his brother heading into Turn 1, leading the first 61 laps.[6][1] For the early stages of the race, the Unsers and Foyt were well-clear at the front, with Bobby holding a strong lead over Al.[6] However, Foyt would retire after 35 laps after a brakes failure.[1][6] Then, following 61 laps, Bobby retired following a broken gearbox that also punched a hole into his vehicle's transmission case.[6][1] Al Unser therefore retook the lead, but his margin in front was nullified when Lloyd Ruby crashed out in a Laycock-Ford, forcing a caution period.[6][1]

When the race resumed, Unser began to rebuild his lead.[6] Nevertheless, second place Johnny Rutherford was making gains when he suddenly lost control of his Eagle-Ford coming out of Turn 4.[6] While he recovered, he lost several positions, with McCluskey moving into the second position.[6] On lap 120, Unser reported issues with his engine to his race crew, which slowed his pace.[7][6] His issues worsened when he was forced to dodge a spinning Vollstedt-Ford driven by Dick Simon, slamming into a guardrail rear-first.[6] While he recovered, Unser pitted to enable the car to be inspected, with the only damage being a bent nerf bar.[6] As he pitted, McCluskey and Savage passed him to take first and second respectively.[6][7][1]

McCluskey would then lead the next 22 laps of the race.[1] It seemed likely he would take victory when the final lap approached, but he was forced to slow as his car ran out of fuel.[6][7] Savage closed up the gap, and achieved an overtake with two turns to go when McCluskey went too high coming out of Turn 2, caused by the car drifting due to its lack of fuel.[6][7][1] Savage therefore claimed what was ultimately his only USAC victory and $11,500 in prize money.[6][7][1] It also turned out to be the first victory for new car owner Dan Gurney, who had recently retired from racing.[6] Unser also passed McCluskey to take second.[6][7][1] Initially, he was disqualified when a post-race inspection deemed his car was carrying more fuel than the 75 gallon maximum.[6] However, his second place was reinstated a few weeks later when it was discovered that the container USAC utilised to measure the fuel was not calibrated accurately.[6] McCluskey meanwhile finished third, blaming the lack of fuel for losing places at the end.[6][7][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, the race received live flag-to-flag coverage by ABC as part of its Wide World of Sports, being billed as the Phoenix 150.[8] While it was claimed that the broadcast had been uploaded to YouTube, analysis of the video reveals it was actually the coverage of the Jimmy Bryan 150, with Savage notably not even competing in that race.[9][4] The confusion may have arisen by the fact ABC billed both races as the Phoenix 150.[9][8] As of the present day, the broadcast has yet to resurface, with no footage of the race being publicly available. Nevertheless, photos and newspaper clippings of the event can be found online.[6]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]