1976 Trentonian 200 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1976)

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1976trentonian2001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Trentonian 200 (also known as the 1976 Trenton 200) was the second race of the 1976 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 2nd May at the Trenton Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Johnny Rutherford in a McLaren-Offenhauser, capitalising when Wildcat-DGS' Gordon Johncock ran out of fuel with two laps remaining.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Trentonian 200 was the 15th running of the event, with the annual race lasting just over 200 miles.[1] It was one of two 1976 USAC Championship Car Season races to commence at Trenton, the other being the Trenton Times Auto Classic,[2] which occurred on 15th August and was won by Gordon Johncock.[3] Trenton would host IndyCar races until 1979 before being dropped from the schedule, with the circuit being demolished in 1980.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with A.J. Foyt winning the pole position in a Coyote-Foyt with a speed of 166.307 mph.[1] Directly behind him was Johnny Rutherford, with Johncock lining up third out of 22 competitors.[1] The race was originally set to be held on 25th April, but rain forced a delay until 2nd May.[5][1]

Media reports meanwhile focused on Janet Guthrie, who became the second woman after Arlene Hiss at the 1976 Jimmy Bryan 150 to qualify for an IndyCar race, where she would start 14th in a Vollstedt-Foyt.[6][7][5][1] Like with Hiss, Guthrie received both positive and negative attention from the other drivers, including most notably Bobby Unser.[6][5][7] Unser, who did not compete in the race because his Eagle-Offenhauser's front suspension broke in practice,[8] did not believe women drivers could compete against men, stating "If it were possible for women drivers to do well against men in racing, I would love it. It won't happen."[6] He claimed that the inclusion of Hiss and Guthrie was a mere publicity stunt originating "just because of the women's lib kick we're in", while also claiming that his life could be endangered by them, this belief most likely originating from Hiss' performance at the Jimmy Bryan.[6][7] Despite this, he stated "I have nothing against a woman driver, if she can hack it."[6] Guthrie responded by labelling Unser as a "male chauvinist pig."[6] She also defended her lack of experience, claiming "Very few people in the world have driven 1,500‐pound cars with 743 horsepower", and likely in response to Unser's publicity stunt claim, insisted "I am a racing driver who happens to be a woman."[6]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Trentonian 200 commenced on 2nd May.[1] Rutherford shot into the lead on the opening lap, leading the first 34 laps.[1] A caution period saw Rutherford briefly lose the lead to Foyt, but he regained it a lap later on lap 36.[1] Not long after the race resumed however, Johncock overtook Rutherford for the first position on lap 40, leading the next 38.[1] Foyt meanwhile retired after 57 laps when his engine failed.[1] The race therefore centred into a duel between Johncock and Rutherford, the latter moving back into the first position on lap 78.[1] He would lead the next 20 laps, before Johncock moved past on lap 98, only to lose the lead to McLaren-Offenhauser's Tom Sneva a lap later.[1] Sneva however could only defend it for another nine laps before Johncock moved back into first.[1] With 27 laps remaining, it appeared that Johncock was set to win.[8][1] However, with just two laps remaining, Johncock was forced to pit when his car ran out of fuel.[8][1] Rutherford capitalised to take the lead, thus claiming victory and $13,290.[8][1] Johncock would take second despite his fuel issues, with Sneva a lap down in third.[8][1]

Meanwhile, Guthrie was running 11th and could possibly have finished in the top ten when her year-old Vollstedt's gearbox broke after 79 laps, likely caused by an incident on lap 73 when she lost control on Turn 2 that caused the engine to cut off briefly.[8][1] Despite this, Guthrie received significant praise from several of the other drivers, including noted critic Billy Vukovich, Jr..[8] He stated that while he firmly believed women could not compete with men in the sport, he admitted "I was a little leery of her when I came up on her during practice, but from the way she handled herself I think she's definitely more qualified than I thought. I know I said I'd eat my hat if she beat me, but I've eaten humble pie before."[8] Rutherford meanwhile stated "She did an excellent job; she didn't get in the way, it's a shame she didn't have a better car."[8] Guthrie was satisfied with her performance, stating "I think I ran strong while I ran. I felt good and I hope the other guys felt the same way about me."[8]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, 45 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 8th May 1976 as part of its Wide World of Sports, along with a vide of USSR gymnasts visiting Disneyland.[9] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]