1977 Schaefer 500 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1977)

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1977schaefer5001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1977 Schaefer 500 was the seventh race of the 1977 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 26th June at the Pocono International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by Tom Sneva in a McLaren-Cosworth, taking victory after teammate Mario Andretti nearly crashed into his pitcrew during a pitstop.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1977 Schaefer 500 was the seventh running of the event, with the annual race lasting 500 miles.[1] The only 1977 USAC Championship Car Season race to commence at Pocono,[2] it 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.[3] Pocono IndyCar events would be run on an on-and-off basis, before the track was dropped from the IndyCar schedule from 2020 onwards.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with A.J. Foyt winning the pole position in a Coyote-Foyt with a speed of 189.474 mph.[5][6][1] During this time period, the crowd was heavily against him following accusations that he made insulting gestures towards fans, with Citicorp threatening to withdraw its sponsorship of USAC if Foyt was not disciplined.[7][6] Foyt was critical of the fans, stating "I don't like the way the people act, why should I? Those guys who boo don't know what they're booing about. I think by going out and taking the pole I answered any questions that needed to be answered."[6] Directly behind him were the McLaren-Cosworths of Johnny Rutherford and Mario Andretti, in second and third respectively.[6][1] Andretti somewhat sympathised with Foyt, stating "I don't condone what A.J. did, but I know how he feels and I might do the same thing in that situation. After you hang your guys out in qualifying, you sure deserve better appreciation than that from the fans."[6] Tom Sneva qualified fourth, while Janet Guthrie was the only woman to compete, lining up 22nd out of 33 competitors.[6][7][1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1977 Schaefer 500 commenced on 26th June.[1] Foyt maintained his lead from the start, holding it for 13 laps before dropping it to Wildcat-DGS' Gordon Johncock.[1] He led until being passed by Rutherford on lap 31, although he would regain it eight laps later.[1] Following a caution period, Lightning-Offenhauser's Mike Mosley emerged in front on lap 47, but would lose the first position to Foyt on lap 51.[1] Foyt would then be passed by Johncock on lap 61, the latter holding it for a further 20 laps before Rutherford passed him.[1] With the race for the lead still being an open competition, Foyt remained in contention until he retired after 118 laps following a burned piston.[7][1] According to The New York Times, the attendance of around 80,000 generally applauded his retirement from the event.[7]

On lap 129, Andretti overtook Sneva for the first position, defending it for 22 laps.[1] He lost it to Sneva on lap 151, the latter then dropping it a lap later to Wally Dallenbach in a Wildcat-DGS.[1] Dallenbach would be passed by Andretti, with Andretti holding a six-second lead on Sneva when he made what was meant to be his penultimate pitstop on lap 161.[8][7][1] The pitstop almost ended in disaster, as he was unable to sufficiently slow down, his crew having to leap out of the McLaren's way to avoid being hit at almost 100 mph.[7] Andretti post-race explained the incident, stating "My right rear tire was going flat, and my brakes were going bad."[7][8] Aside from almost seriously injuring his crew, Andretti was forced to drive out of the pits and make a stop a lap later, because he was more than two pit areas down from where he was supposed to stop.[7][8] Had the crew reversed him back, he would have been penalised a lap.[7]

Sneva therefore not only took the lead, but now had a lap advantage over Andretti.[7][8][1] It seemed he would cruise to victory; however, Mosley crashed out after 183 laps, the accident not only spreading debris across the track, but also requiring hospitalisation for Mosley who was suspected to have suffered neck and back injuries.[7][8][1] Andretti was able to pit for fresh tyres, and unlapped himself when another caution occurred.[7][8][1] It meant he was directly behind Sneva when the race resumed on lap 196.[7][8][1] Sneva's lead of 3.5 seconds would be depleted to 1.75 seconds by the end.[7] This ultimately was not enough, with Sneva therefore claiming victory and around $86,000 in prize money.[7][8][1] Andretti finished second to make it a 1-2 victory for car owner Roger Penske.[8][7][1] Post-race, Penske proclaimed the 1-2 to be his greatest achievement since Mark Donohue won the 1972 Indianapolis 500 with one of his cars.[8] He stated "A lot of people said when we lost Mark we were going downhill. We were snake bit. We put in a lot of long, hard hours and worked very hard. It took a number of years, but here we are now trying to win the national championship now."[8] He also praised Sneva, stating "Tom has come of age. He's a very dedicated, clean cut, exemplary young man."[8] Johncock finished a lap down in third.[7][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, an hour of highlights was televised by CBS on 2nd July 1977 as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular.[9] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Nevertheless, photos and newspaper clippings of the event can be found online.[5]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]