1971 Schaefer 500 (partially found footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1971)

From The Lost Media Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Program for the race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1971 Schaefer 500 (also known as the 1971 Pocono 500) was the first IndyCar race to be held at the Pocono International Raceway. Occurring on 3rd July as race seven of the 1971 USAC Championship Car Season, the event would ultimately be won by polesitter Mark Donohue in a McLaren-Offenhauser, his first USAC victory, after narrowly edging out Colt-Ford's Joe Leonard in the process.


Even prior to the race being held, the Schaefer 500 was considered part of USAC's Triple Crown of 500-mile races that lasted between 1971-1980, also consisting of the Indianapolis 500 and California 500.[1][2][3][4] A few days before practice began on 19th June, a ribbon-cutting ceremony commenced, which also revealed that many of the track's facilities were still being installed.[2] Despite some being sceptical about the track achieving the objective of being "the Indy of the East", many USAC, CART, and IndyCar races would be held at Pocono to significant success.[2] It would however be dropped from the IndyCar schedule from 2020 onwards.[5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Mark Donohue winning the pole position with a speed of 172.393 mph.[2][4] His McLaren was built just three days beforehand as the previous car was written-off in a crash at the Indianapolis 500.[3] Directly behind him was Eagle-Offenhauser's Bobby Unser, with Colt-Ford driver Al Unser lining up third.[4] Mario Andretti meanwhile experienced multiple technical issues with his McNamara-Ford, including being forced to change his engine and turbocharger.[2] The last driver to compete in qualifying, he posted a time worthy for fifth in the field, out of 33 competitors.[2][4]

The Race

With the starting order decided, the 1971 Schaefer 500 commenced on 3rd July.[4] Donohue maintained his lead from the start, holding it for 32 laps before dropping it to Joe Leonard.[4] Leonard would lead 12 laps, with Bobby Unser achieving an overtake on lap 45, holding the first position for another 20 before Donohue regained it.[4] Throughout the 200 laps, there were four main contenders for the lead, with the first position being assumed by Donohue, Leonard, Unser, and briefly by Coyote-Ford's A.J. Foyt from laps 92-95 and 140-144.[4] Eight caution periods lasting a combined 55 laps contributed towards the 16 lead changes, as unlike at Indianapolis, where the cars maintained the distance between themselves prior to the yellow flags, Pocono forced the entire field to bunch up together, nullifying the lead margin.[2][3] Donohue was critical of the new procedure, stating "It's very heartbreaking. In my own mind, I knew I was going to lose my lead under yellow. When you get so far ahead you can't see the guy [behind you] anymore, there's little incentive to build any more of a lead."[2]

Nevertheless, Dononhue remained strong in-front, including leading from laps 157 to 190.[4] Meanwhile, a pit stop for Leonard almost ended in disaster as he pulled out of his pit prematurely due to a miscommunication, ripping a fuel hose and causing a spring-loaded clamp to remain attached to the car, forcing Leonard to pit again to remove it.[3] However, when another caution period occurred, Leonard capitalised on Donohue's briefly unresponsive engine to claim the lead on lap 191.[2][3][4] Being four car lengths behind, Donohue closed the gap from laps 192-194, before passing Leonard on his left side on the long main straight.[3][2][4] Despite Leonard providing significant pressure, Donohue was able to maintain a 1-2 second gap for the remaining seven laps to claim his first USAC victory and around $100,000 in prize money.[3][2][4] The win also marked the first victory for car owner Roger Penske.[6] Leonard finished second, with Foyt taking third, being the only other drivers on the lead lap.[3][2][4]


According to nascarman History's Top 10 Lost IndyCar Broadcasts, two hours of race highlights were shown on tape-delay by Century TeleSports Network. While audio from the original broadcast has surfaced, actual footage of it has yet to re-emerge. Nevertheless, a near-25 minute film of the race can be found online. Additionally, some photos are also publicly available.[6]



Film of the race.
nascarman History's Top 10 Lost IndyCar Broadcasts detailing the ABC broadcast of the race (0:59-1:33)


See Also