1977 Michigan Grand Prix (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1977)

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1977michigangrandprix1.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1977 Michigan Grand Prix (also known as the 1977 Michigan 150) was the 13th race of the 1977 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 17th September at the Michigan International Speedway, the race would ultimately be won by Gordon Johncock in a Wildcat-DGS, after overtaking Parnelli-Cosworth's Al Unser with five laps remaining

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1977 Michigan Grand Prix was the fifth running of the event, with the annual race lasting 150 miles.[1] It was one of two 1977 USAC Championship Car Season races to commence at Michigan International Speedway, the other being the Norton 200,[2] which occurred on 17th July and was won by Danny Ongais in a Parnelli-Cosworth.[3] The track would continue hosting IndyCar races until being dropped from the schedule from 2007 onwards after failing to reach a deal with IndyCar's organisers.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Ongais winning the pole position with a speed of 200.949 mph.[5][1] Directly behind him were the Penske-Cosworths of Mario Andretti and Tom Sneva in second and third respectively.[1][5] Gordon Johncock qualified seventh out of 22 competitors, but nevertheless was seeking victory in his native state of Michigan.[6][1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1977 Michigan Grand Prix commenced on 17th September.[1] Ongais maintained his lead at the start, defending it for the first 19 laps.[1] When a caution period triggered by a spin by Wildcat-DGS' Larry Cannon, Ongais pitted, enabling Al Unser to briefly take the lead on lap 20.[1] Once all the pitstops were completed by the time racing resumed on lap 24 however, Ongais was back in front, and would lead the next 35 laps.[1] However, on lap 56, his Parnelli's clutch failed, allowing Unser to regain the lead.[1]

Unser maintained the first position for the next 15 laps, but Johncock had climbed the order, ultimately passing Unser on lap 71.[1] A lap later, Unser retired following a broken half shaft.[1] For the final five laps, Johncock's closest rival was McLaren-Cosworth's Johnny Rutherford, but the latter failed to overtake his rival, and would retire with a lap remaining after running out of fuel.[1] Johncock therefore claimed victory and $15,289 in prize money.[1] Rutherford performed well enough to take second, with Wildcat-DGS' Wally Dallenbach finishing third.[1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, 30 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 24th September 1977 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside a boxing match between Sugar Ray Leonard and Frank Santore, and a profile on Pele.[7] 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]