1981 Kraco Car Stereo 150 (lost CART PPG IndyCar World Series race; 1981)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1981 Kraco Car Stereo 150 (also known as the 1981 Phoenix 150) was the inaugural race of the 1981 CART PPG IndyCar World Series. Occurring on 22nd March at the Phoenix International Raceway, the race would ultimately by won by Johnny Rutherford in a Chaparral-Cosworth, after achieving the final lead change on lap 99 of the 150-lap event.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1981 Kraco Car Stereo 150 was the 16th running of the event, with the annual race lasting 150 miles.[1] It was one of two 1981 CART PPG IndyCar World Series races to commence at Phoenix International Raceway, the other being the Miller High Life 150,[2] which occurred on 31st October and was won by Tom Sneva in a March-Cosworth.[3] The race, whose program paid tribute to 1958 Indianapolis 500 winner Jimmy Bryan,[4] would have ties with Phoenix events like the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, before Phoenix races were dropped from the IndyCar schedule after 2018 following low attendance.[5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Bobby Unser winning the pole position in a Penske-Cosworth with a speed of 143.055 mph.[1] Directly behind him was Wildcat-Cosworth's Gordon Johncock, with Johnny Rutherford lining up third out of 22 competitors.[1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1981 Kraco Car Stereo 150 commenced on 22nd March.[1] Unser maintained his lead from the start, holding it before Penske-Cosworth's Bill Alsup passed him on lap 44.[1] Wildcat-Cosworth's Mario Andretti moved into the first position a lap later, defending it for 30 laps before Rutherford took over on lap 75.[1] Rutherford would defend the lead until Phoenix-Cosworth's Tom Sneva moved by, the latter only holding it for a lap before dropping it to Unser on lap 92.[1]

Unser led seven laps, but Rutherford would then perform the final lead change on lap 99.[6][1] From there, Rutherford generally controlled proceedings, although Unser was only a few seconds behind by the final ten laps.[6][1] However, Unser would be forced to pit for fuel, enabling Rutherford to claim victory and $18,336 in prize money.[6][1] Unser was almost 20 seconds behind in second, with Sneva a lap down in third.[6][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, one hour of highlights were televised by NBC on 5th April 1981, being billed as the Phoenix 150 as part of its NBC Sportsworld alongside coverage of the 1981 Grand National.[7] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Nevertheless, some photos of the event can be found online.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]