1972 Indianapolis 500 (partially found footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1972)

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Program for the race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1972 Indianapolis 500 was the third race of the 1972 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 27th May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Mark Donohue in a McLaren-Offenhauser, scoring his sole Indianapolis 500 victory and the first for car owner Roger Penske.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1972 Indianapolis 500 was the 56th running of the event, with the annual race lasting 500 miles.[1] It is one of the most prestigious races in motorsport, and alongside the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, forms the Triple Crown of Motorsport.[2] Additionally, from 1971-1980 it formed part of another Triple Crown, also consisting of USAC's Pocono 500 and California 500.[3]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with 1968 Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser winning the pole position in an Eagle-Offenhauser with a speed of 195.94 mph.[4][5][1] He therefore was considered the pre-race favourite for the event, in a field noted for being the fastest in Indianapolis 500 history at the time, which posted an average qualifying speed of 183.655 mph.[5] The McLaren-Offenhausers were considered Unser's main competition, with Peter Revson and Mark Donohue lining up second and third respectively, out of 33 competitors that qualified for the event.[4][5][1] Also lining up on the field was the three-time 500 winner A.J. Foyt, who qualified 17th in a Coyote-Ford; two-time victor Al Unser, who started 19th in a Parnelli-Offenhauser; and 1969 winner Mario Andretti, who lined up fifth in a Parnelli-Offenhauser.[5][1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1972 Indianapolis 500 commenced on 27th May.[1] The start was botched as the green flag was flown a lap earlier than expected, resulting in confusion and most drivers being in the incorrect gear.[6] Nevertheless, Bobby Unser held the lead from the start, maintaining it for the first 31 laps. Suddenly, he pitted to retire from the race, as his car suffered a broken distributor.[1] McLaren-Offenhauser's Gary Bettenhausen took over as the leader, holding it for 23 laps until being passed by Mike Mosley in an Eagle-Offenhauser.[1] Mosley led for three laps, but then lost a wheel that resulted in his car slamming into the outside wall at Turn 4.[7][1] The impact resulted in Mosley's McLaren catching fire resulting from a ruptured fuel tank.[7] Though he was able to escape, Mosley suffered minor burns.[7] Meanwhile, Foyt retired after 60 laps due to a broken turbocharger, having made progress after stalling before the start.[6][1]

With Mosley out, Bettenhausen moved back into the first position, leading for the longest uninterrupted duration of the race at 105 laps.[1] On lap 162, Eagle-Offenhauser's Jerry Grant passed Bettenhausen for first, although the latter regained it four laps later.[1] Grant however regained the lead on lap 176, with Bettenhausen ultimately being unable to challenge again after retiring 182 laps in due to an ignition failure.[8][1] Grant appeared to have been controlling proceedings, when he suddenly made an unplanned pitstop as a result of vibrations being caused by an imbalanced left front wheel.[9] The pitstop however was deemed illegal, because not only did Grant roll into the pit of his teammate Bobby Unser, but his pit crew attached a fuel hose from Unser's pit tank instead of Grant's.[9]

Following Grant's pitstop, Donohue took the lead in what proved to be the final lead change of the event.[9][1] While a caution period resulted in Donohue losing a lap lead over Grant, he nevertheless remained in front for the final 13 laps to claim his and car owner Roger Penske's first Indy 500 win and $218,767 in prize money.[10][11][12][8][1] He also set two records, including the fastest average speed of 162.2 mph, and the fastest lap of the race at 187.539 mph.[13] Grant crossed the line second, but a post-race protest over his illegal pit stop meant his race ended after lap 188 according to race stewards, dropping him to twelfth.[9][1] Thus, Al Unser finished second, with fellow Parnelli-Offenhauser driver Joe Leonard taking third.[9][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, two-and-a-half hours of race footage was televised by ABC on 27th May 1972.[14] In addition to this, a 30-minute trackside report was broadcast.[14] While most Indianapolis 500 television broadcasts since 1971 are now publicly available, the 1972 and 1976 editions remain mostly missing. According to YouTuber epaddon, only a 20-minute French kinescope of the ABC broadcast is currently available, with them also uploading a video that synced the radio broadcast of the start to the French footage.

On 28th January 2016, IndyCar planned to upload the entire broadcast to YouTube to celebrate Team Penske's 50th anniversary.[15] While they found a copy in its tape library, the tape ultimately cut out midway through the event.[15] The organisation promised to obtain a new copy of the broadcast, although an upload of this footage has yet to occur as of modern times.[15] Nevertheless, some films of the race are publicly available.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Film of the race.
Speedvision film of the race.
Start of the ABC telecast synced with the radio broadcast.
nascarman History's Top 10 Lost IndyCar Broadcasts detailing the ABC broadcast of the event (4:00-4:20).

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Racing-Reference detailing the qualifying and race results of the event. Retrieved 29th May '22
  2. Bwin detailing the Triple Crown of Motorsport. Retrieved 29th May '22
  3. ESPN detailing USAC's Triple Crown. Retrieved 29th May '22
  4. 4.0 4.1 The New York Times reporting on Bobby Unser winning the pole position. Retrieved 29th May '22
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 The New York Times reporting on Bobby Unser being deemed the favourite to win the event. Retrieved 29th May '22
  6. 6.0 6.1 The New York Times reporting on the botched start. Retrieved 29th May '22
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 The Crash Photos Database detailing Mosley's crash. Retrieved 29th May '22
  8. 8.0 8.1 Autoweek summarising Donohue's win and Bettenhausen retiring due to an ignition failure. Retrieved 29th May '22
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 The New York Times reporting on Grant being dropped from second to 12th after a protest regarding an illegal pitstop was upheld. Retrieved 29th May '22
  10. The New York Times reporting on Donohue winning the race. Retrieved 29th May '22
  11. Autoweek noting this was Roger Penske's first win. Retrieved 29th May '22
  12. Autosport noting the prize money Donohue received for winning the event. Retrieved 29th May '22
  13. Nevada Musclecars noting the records Donohue set at the event. Retrieved 29th May '22
  14. 14.0 14.1 IndyCar on TV detailing the ABC broadcast of the race. Retrieved 29th May '22
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 IndyCar detailing finding a tape of the broadcast that was cut out midway through. Retrieved 29th May '22