1970 Indianapolis 500

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54th Indianapolis 500
Indy500winningcar1970.JPG
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC
Season 1970 USAC Trail
Date May 30, 1970
Winner Al Unser, Sr.
Winning team Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing
Average speed 155.749 mph (250.654 km/h)
Pole position Al Unser, Sr.
Pole speed 170.221 mph (273.944 km/h)
Fastest qualifier Al Unser, Sr.
Rookie of the Year Donnie Allison
Most laps led Al Unser, Sr. (190)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Al Hirt
"Back Home Again in Indiana" Saverio Saridis
Starting Command Tony Hulman
Pace car Oldsmobile 442
Pace car driver Rodger Ward
Attendance 250,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
Network ABC's Wide World of Sports
Announcers Jim McKay, Rodger Ward
Chronology
Previous Next
1969 1971

The 54th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 30, 1970.

Al Unser, Sr. dominated the race, winning the pole position and leading 190 laps en route to victory. He joined his brother Bobby as the first duo of brothers to win the Indianapolis 500. It was the first of four victories for Al at Indianapolis. Car owner Parnelli Jones, who won the race as a driver in 1963, became the first individual to win separately as both a driver and as an owner.

Unser took home $271,697 out of a record $1,000,002 purse. For the first time in Indy history, the total prize fund topped $1 million.

Rain on race morning delayed the start by about thirty minutes. On the pace lap, Jim Malloy smacked the outside wall in turn four, which delayed the start further.

All 33 cars in the field were turbocharged for the first time. This would be the final 500 in which the winner celebrated in the old victory lane at the south end of the pits. Victory lane would be relocated for 1971.

Race schedule[edit]

The race start time was scheduled for 12:00 noon local time, a slight departure from the traditional 11:00 am start time that was used during most of the 1960s. With the race scheduled for Saturday May 30, Speedway management announced that Sunday May 31 would be the designated rain date, the first time the race would be permitted to run on a Sunday. However, despite a brief rain delay on race morning, the full 500 miles was completed Saturday, and Sunday was not needed.

Race schedule — May, 1970
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

 

 

 

 

 
1
Practice
2
Practice
3
Practice
4
Practice
5
Practice
6
Practice
7
Practice
8
Practice
9
Practice
10
Practice
11
Practice
12
Practice
13
Practice
14
Practice
15
Practice
16
Pole Day
17
Time Trials
18
Practice
19
Practice
20
Practice
21
Practice
22
Practice
23
Time Trials
24
Bump Day
25
 
26
Parade
27
Carb Day
28
 
29
Meeting
30
Indy 500
31
Rain date

 

 

 

 

 

 
Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out*
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track activity
was significantly limited due to rain

Practice and Time trials[edit]

Al Unser, Sr. set the fastest speed during practice, with a lap of 171.233 mph. Unser led the speed chart on five of the practice days, and was the only driver to crack the 170 mph barrier during the first two weeks. A. J. Foyt (169.173 mph) and Art Pollard (169.1 mph) were close behind.

John Cannon wrecked on Sunday May 10, and was unable to qualify. On Monday May 11, defending race winner Mario Andretti] spun and wrecked in turn four. His car hit the inside wall twice, and the car was heavily damaged. Andretti was not injured.

On Tuesday May 12, Dennis Hulme's car caught fire in turn three. He bailed from the moving machine, suffering burns to his hands and feet. He withdrew due to the injuries.

Pole Day - Saturday May 16[edit]

Al Unser, Sr. won the pole position over Johnny Rutherford by 0.01 seconds, a record closest margin for the pole position at the time. A. J. Foyt rounded out the "all over 170 mph" front row. Unser's pole speed of 170.221 mph (his fastest single lap was 170.358 mph) was not a record - which marked the first time since the 1940s that two consecutive years went by without track records set during time trials at Indy.

Rain halted pole day qualifying at 3:42 p.m. with 17 cars in the field . A few cars (namely Lloyd Ruby, Gary Bettenhausen, and Peter Revson) were still waiting in line when the rains came. USAC officials closed the track for the day, and those cars were deemed ineligible for the pole round. In subsequent years, the rules would be changed to allow all cars in the original qualifying draw order at least one chance to make an attempt during the pole round, regardless if it extended into an additional calendar day due to rain.

Rookie Tony Adamowicz suffered bad luck during his attempt. On his first qualifying lap, the yellow light was turned on by error. He slowed down, and his first lap was turned in at 160.829 mph. The green light came back on moments later, and he completed the run. Though he had two laps over 166 mph, his first lap pulled his average down to 164.820 mph, and made him the second-slowest car in the field for the day.

Second Day - Sunday May 17[edit]

Three drivers shut out from the pole round came back to qualify on the second day. Peter Revson (167.942 mph) was the 9th-fastest car in the field, but lined up 18th due to being a second day qualifier. Lloyd Ruby had a lap over 169.4 mph, but blew the engine on his final qualifying lap. Ruby went out again later in the day, but waved off after one slow lap.

Third Day - Saturday May 23[edit]

After a disappointing first weekend, Lloyd Ruby rebounded to complete his qualifying attempt at 168.895 mph. A busy day saw 14 attempts, and the field was filled to 33 cars. Two drivers (Bentley Warren and Tony Adamowicz) were bumped.

Bump Day - Sunday May 24[edit]

Jim McElreath put the fourth Foyt entry in the field, bumping Bartlett. No other cars, however, were able to show enough speed to make the field. Jigger Sirois, infamous for missing the 1969 race, fell far short in Jack Adam's Turbine car.

Race recap[edit]

Start[edit]

Rain delayed the start of the race by about 25 minutes. On the final pace lap, the field was coming through turn four to take the green flag. Suddenly, Jim Malloy on the outside of the third row, suffered a rear suspension failure, and smacked the outside wall. His car veered across the track to the inside, but narrowly avoided contact with any other car. The field was halted on the mainstretch under the red flag to clean up the accident. During the delay, team were permitted to top off their fuel tanks, after burning three laps of methanol.

The field was restarted after the red flag, and 32 cars took the green flag. Johnny Rutherford swept across to take the lead into turn one. Down the backstretch, Al Unser, Sr. tucked in behind, and took the lead going into turn three. Unser led the first lap.

Lloyd Ruby, who started 25th, notably passed ten cars on the first lap. By the third lap, Ruby was in the top ten.

First half[edit]

The early laps focused on the mad charge of Lloyd Ruby, who was up to 5th place by about lap 28. The yellow flag came out when Art Pollard blew an engine. Under the caution, Mario Andretti was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to repair loose bodywork. He rejoined the race, but lost many positions.

As the race passed the 100-mile mark, Al Unser, Sr. led, with Johnny Rutherford running second, and A. J. Foyt and Lloyd Ruby battling for third.

Al Unser, Sr. led the first 48 laps. He gave up the lead to A. J. Foyt during a pit stop on lap 49. One lap later, Foyt entered the pits, giving the lead to Lloyd Ruby. Suddenly Ruby was given the black flag for smoke due to broken drive gears. Ruby's dramatic race was over after completing only 54 laps. Meanwhile, Johnny Rutherford stalled exiting the pits, losing considerable track position.

Unser re-took the lead on lap 54, and led until the halfway point. Mario Andretti once again had to make an unscheduled pit stop, this time to change the right rear tire. Through most of the race, he was experiencing handing issues with the right rear suspension.

Second half[edit]

Al Unser moved back to the front on lap 106, and he would not relinquish the lead. Johnny Rutherford, who was a factor in the first half, dropped out after 135 laps due to a broken header.

Roger McCluskey, who had dropped out on lap 62 with suspension damage, relieved Mel Kenyon on lap 112.

On lap 172, Roger McCluskey (driving for Kenyon), spun going into turn three, and crashed hard into the outside wall. Ronnie Bucknum was collected in the crash. Sammy Sessions locked up the brakes, and nearly slid into the crashed cars. Sessions, gained control, and weaved his way through, and continued. Spilled fuel started pouring from one of the crashed cars, and a small fire broke out. As the field approached the scene, several cars got into the fluid and spun. Wally Dallenbach and Jack Brabham spun but continued. Mario Andretti nearly spun out, but he made it through the scene unscathed. The fire was quickly extinguished, but the yellow light was on for over 14 minutes to clear the track.

Finish[edit]

With about 25 laps to go, Al Unser, Sr. had lapped the entire field. Unser's crew gave his the "E-Z" sign on his chalkboard, and both Mark Donohue and A. J. Foyt got their lap back.

With Unser leading comfortably, the focus became the battle for second between Mark Donohue and A. J. Foyt. With only a handful of laps left, Foyt suddenly slowed in turn one. He pulled to the apron, but stayed out on the track attempting to nurse the car to the finish line.

Al Unser, Sr. led a total of 190 laps en route to his first Indy victory. Unser won by 32.19 seconds over second place Mark Donohue. A very slow A. J. Foyt fell to 10th in the final standings.

Box score[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 1 2 United States Al Unser 170.221 1 200 190 Running
2 5 66 United States Mark Donohue 168.911 5 200 5 Running
3 11 48 United States Dan Gurney 166.860 15 200 0 Running
4 23 83 United States Donnie Allison (R) 165.662 29 200 0 Running
5 33 14 United States Jim McElreath 166.821 16 200 0 Running
6 8 1 United States Mario Andretti (W) 168.209 9 199 0 Flagged
7 29 89 United States Jerry Grant 165.983 26 198 0 Flagged
8 15 38 United States Rick Muther (R) 165.654 30 197 0 Flagged
9 19 75 United States Carl Williams 166.590 18 197 0 Flagged
10 3 7 United States A.J. Foyt (W) 170.004 3 195 2 Flagged
11 7 3 United States Bobby Unser (W) 168.508 8 192 0 Flagged
12 32 67 United States Sammy Sessions 165.373 33 190 0 Flagged
13 26 32 Australia Jack Brabham 166.397 22 175 1 Piston
14 31 44 United States Dick Simon (R) 165.548 32 168 0 Flagged
15 27 19 United States Ronnie Bucknum 166.136 23 162 0 Crash T3
16 22 23 United States Mel Kenyon
(Relieved by Roger McCluskey; Laps 112-160)
165.906 27 160 0 Crash T3
17 24 22 United States Wally Dallenbach, Sr. 165.601 31 143 0 Coil
18 2 18 United States Johnny Rutherford 170.213 2 135 0 Header
19 13 27 United States LeeRoy Yarbrough 166.559 19 107 0 Turbo Gear
20 10 84 United States George Snider 167.660 12 105 0 Suspension
21 12 9 United States Mike Mosley 166.651 17 96 0 Radiator
22 16 73 United States Peter Revson 167.942 10 87 0 Magneto
23 30 58 United States Bill Vukovich II 165.753 28 78 0 Clutch
24 18 15 United States Joe Leonard 166.898 14 73 0 Switch
25 4 11 United States Roger McCluskey 169.213 4 62 0 Suspension
26 20 16 United States Gary Bettenhausen 166.451 21 55 0 Valve
27 25 25 United States Lloyd Ruby 168.895 6 54 2 Drive Gear
28 17 5 United States Gordon Johncock 167.015 13 45 0 Piston
29 14 97 United States Bruce Walkup 166.459 20 44 0 Timing Gear
30 6 10 United States Art Pollard 168.595 7 28 0 Piston
31 21 20 United States George Follmer 166.052 25 18 0 Oil Gasket
32 28 93 United States Greg Weld (R) 166.121 24 12 0 Piston
33 9 31 United States Jim Malloy 167.895 11 0 0 Crash T4

Alternates[edit]

Race statistics[edit]

Tire participation chart
Supplier No. of starters
Goodyear 21 
Firestone 12*
* - Denotes race winner

Qualifying chronology[edit]

Att
#
Time Car
#
Driver Laps Qual
Time
Qual
Speed
Rank Start Comment
Saturday, May 16, 1971
1   38 RICK MUTHER 4 3:37.32 165.654 30 15  
2   31 JIM MALLOY 4 3:34.32 167.973 10 9  
3   5 GORDON JOHNCOCK 3 FLAGGED OFF
4   5 GORDON JOHNCOCK 2 WAVED OFF
5   7 A. J. FOYT 4 170.004 3 3  
6   97 BRUCE WALKUP 4 3:36.27 166.459 20 14  
7   36 TONY ADAMOWICZ 4 164.820 BUMPED BY #58
8   84 GEORGE SNIDER 4 3:34.72 167.660 12 10  
9   48 DAN GURNEY 4 3:35.75 166.860 15 11  
10   95 SAM POSEY 0 BLOWN ENGINE
11   2 AL UNSER 4 3:31.49 170.221 1 1  
12   66 MARK DONOHUE 4 168.911 5 5  
13   92 STEVE KRISILOFF 4 162.448 BUMPED BY #89
14   18 JOHNNY RUTHERFORD 4 170.213 2 2  
15   23 MEL KENYON 2 PULLED OFF
16   10 ART POLLARD 4 3:33.5300 168.595 7 6  
17   76 KEVIN BARTLETT 1 WAVED OFF
18   27 LEE ROY YARBROUGH 4 3:36.0700 166.613 18 13  
19   9 MIKE MOSLEY 4 3:36.0200 166.651 17 12  
20   94 BENTLEY WARREN 0 PULLED OFF
21   1 MARIO ANDRETTI 4 3:34.0200 168.209 9 8  
22   93 GREG WELD 3 ACCIDENT
23   11 ROGER MCCLUSKEY 4 3:32.7500 169.213 4 4  
24   3 BOBBY UNSER 4 3:33.6400 168.508 8 7  
25   74 JIM MCELREATH 1 PULLED OFF
Sunday May 17, 1971
26   16 GARY BETTENHAUSEN 4 3:36.2800 166.451 21 20  
27   73 PETER REVSON 4 3:34.3600 167.942 11 16  
28   19 RONNIE BUCKNUM 2 WAVED OFF
29   12 LLOYD RUBY 3 BLOWN ENGINE
30   22 WALLY DALLENBACH 4 3:37.3900 165.601 31 24  
31   23 MEL KENYON 4 3:36.9900 165.906 27 22  
32   74 JIM MCELREATH 4 163.592 BUMPED BY #32
33   75 CARL WILLIAMS 4 3:36.1000 166.590 19 19  
34   76 KEVIN BARTLETT 3 WAVED OFF
35   12 LLOYD RUBY 1 PULLED OFF
36   83 DONNIE ALLISON 4 3:37.3100 165.662 29 23  
37   15 JOE LEONARD 4 3:35.7000 166.898 14 18  
38   5 GORDON JOHNCOCK 4 3:35.5500 167.015 13 17  
39   20 GEORGE FOLLMER 4 166.052 25 21  
40   56 JIM HURTUBISE 3  
Saturday May 23, 1971
41   94 BENTLEY WARREN 4 3:38.4400 164.805 BUMPED BY #44
42   56 JIM HURTUBISE 3  
43   67 SAM SESSIONS 4 3:37.6900 165.373 33 32  
44   19 RONNIE BUCKNUM 4 3:36.6900 166.136 23 27  
45   93 GREG WELD 4 3:36.7100 166.121 24 28  
46   25 LLOYD RUBY 4 3:33.1500 168.895 6 25  
47   77 KEVIN BARTLETT 4 3:37.8400 165.259 BUMPED BY #14
48   89 JERRY GRANT 4 3:36.8900 165.983 26 29 BUMPS #92
49   78 LARRY DICKSON 1 PULLED OFF
50   32 JACK BRABHAM 4 166.397 22 26 BUMPS #74
51   50 ARNIE KNEPPER 2 WAVED OFF
52   17 JOHN CANNON 2 WAVED OFF
53   44 DICK SIMON 4 3:37.4600 165.548 32 31 BUMPS #94
54   58 BILLY VUKOVICH II 4 3:37.1900 165.753 28 30 BUMPS #36
Sunday May 24, 1971
55   54 JIGGER SIROIS 4 3:38.5900 164.692 TOO SLOW
56   14 JIM MCELREATH 4 3:35.8000 166.821 16 33 BUMPS #77
57   95 SAM POSEY 0 ACCIDENT
58   99 DENNY ZIMMERMAN 4 3:46.5400 158.912 TOO SLOW
59   21 JOHN CANNON 3 WAVED OFF
60   53 ARNIE KNEPPER 4 3:37.7600 165.320 TOO SLOW
61   8 LARRY DICKSON 4 3:47.1600 158.479 TOO SLOW

Broadcasting[edit]

Radio[edit]

The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. Sid Collins served as chief announcer for the 23rd consecutive year. Len Sutton served as "driver expert" for the fifth year. At the conclusion of the race, Lou Palmer reported from victory lane. The entire on-air crew remained mostly consistent from 1966-1969. The broadcast came on-air at 11:30 am local time, with a thirty minute pre-race show scheduled. However, the rain delay increased the pre-race coverage to almost an hour. After the death of Bill Dean, Jack Morrow assumed the role of producer.

The broadcast was carried by over 1,000 affiliates in all fifty states, AFN, the CBC, and reached locations such as Vietnam and had four foreign language translations. The broadcast had an estimated 120 million listeners worldwide.

Among the celebrity interviews Sid Collins conducted in the booth were Edie Adams, Dennis Hulme, Billy Shaw, Chris Economaki (ABC Sports), Larry Bisceglia, Sam Hanks, Pete DePaolo, Bill Holland, Senator Vance Hartke, Tony Hulman, Duke Nalon, Johnnie Parsons, and J. C. Agajanian. Astronaut Pete Conrad, who was a fellow passenger with Tony Hulman in the pace car for the second year in a row, was also interviewed during the pre-race coverage.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Sid Collins
Driver expert: Len Sutton
Statistician: John DeCamp
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Mike Ahern
Turn 2: Howdy Bell
Backstretch: Doug Zink
Turn 3: Ron Carrell
Turn 4: Jim Shelton

Chuck Marlowe (north)
Luke Walton (center)
Lou Palmer (south)

Television[edit]

The race was carried in the United States on ABC's Wide World of Sports. The broadcast aired on Saturday June 6. Jim McKay anchored the broadcast with Rodger Ward and Chris Economaki as analysts. Ward drove the pace car at the start of the race. It was the last time the "500" was not seen on over-the-air television the day of the race.

For the final time, the race was shown live on MCA closed-circuit television in numerous theaters across the United States. Charlie Brockman served as anchor.

The broadcast has re-aired on ESPN Classic starting in May 2011.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Rodger Ward

Chris Economaki

Notes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Works cited[edit]


1969 Indianapolis 500
Mario Andretti
1970 Indianapolis 500
Al Unser
1971 Indianapolis 500
Al Unser