1976 Indianapolis 500 (partially found footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1976)

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Program for the race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1976 Indianapolis 500 was the third race of the 1976 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 30th May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by polesitter Johnny Rutherford in a McLaren-Offenhauser, in a race that ended after only 102 of the 200 laps were completed because of rain.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Indianapolis 500 was the 60th 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 1974 Indy 500 winner Johnny Rutherford winning the pole position with a speed of 188.957 mph.[4][5] Directly behind him was 1973 winner Gordon Johncock in a Wildcat-Bignotti, with McLaren-Offenhauser's Tom Senva lining up third.[1] Nevertheless, three-time winner A.J. Foyt was considered the pre-race favourite for the event, qualifying fifth in a Coyote-Foyt.[6] Also considered a favourite was 1969 winner Mario Andretti, who entered the race despite originally claiming that he would not appear in order to concentrate on Formula One.[7][6] He qualified 19th in a McLaren-Offenhauser.[1] Two other previous Indy 500 winners, Al and Bobby Unser, qualified fourth and 12th out of 33 competitors, driving a Parnelli-Cosworth and Eagle-Offenhauser respectively.[1]

Meanwhile, Janet Guthrie attempted to become the first woman to enter the event, but she failed to qualify as she drove an uncompetitive car.[8] She instead made history by becoming the first woman to qualify for a NASCAR superspeedway event by entering the 1976 World 600.[8] During a practice session, disaster struck when Eddie Miller crashed his Eagle-Offenhauser.[9] The resulting impact fractured two neck vertebrae, although no paralysis was detected.[9]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Indianapolis 500 commenced on 30th May.[1] Rutherford maintained his lead on the opening lap, until Foyt passed him on lap four.[5][1] Foyt led the next ten laps, making a pitstop during a caution.[5][1] However, as he left his pit, he clipped a jack handle that latched onto his vehicle.[5][1] He was almost disqualified for this, but was able to continue after being black-flagged into the pits.[5] This resulted in an extension to the caution period, with Eagle-Offenhauser's Pancho Carter in the lead.[1][5] Following the restart, Wally Dallenbach took over as race leader on lap 17, before Johncock moved into the first position on lap 20.[5][1]

Johncock held the lead until he was passed by Sneva on lap 38.[1][5] Rutherford then moved back into the first position on lap 39, with the race for the lead ultimately turning into a duel between him and Foyt.[5] Foyt moved into the lead on lap 61, holding it for 19 laps before Rutherford made what was ultimately the final lead change of the race.[5][1] He led the next 23 laps, only for the race to be red flagged as a result of downpour.[10][5][1] It ultimately did not restart as officials deemed after two hours and 20 minutes that there was not enough time for the track to sufficiently dry to enable racing to continue.[5][10] Thus, Rutherford claimed his second Indy 500 victory and $255,321 in prize money, in the shortest Indy 500 race in history.[11][5][10][1] Foyt finished second despite enduring a broken front sway bar, while Johncock took third.[5][10][1] Post-race, Foyt lodged a protest claiming Rutherford had closed an interval during a yellow caution period, but this was dismissed by the stewards.[5]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, the full race was broadcast by ABC on tape delay, airing a few hours after the race occurred at 8pm.[12] It managed to draw 25.6 million, about 34% of the television share.[12] While most Indianapolis 500 television broadcasts since 1971 are now publicly available, the 1972 and 1976 editions remain mostly missing. Nevertheless, films of the race are publicly available.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Videos[edit | edit source]

Speedvision film of the race.
Legends of the Brickyard film of the race.
Rutherford discussing his win.
nascarman History's Top 10 Lost IndyCar Broadcasts detailing the ABC broadcast of the event (2:31-2:49).

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]