1971 Indianapolis 500

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55th Indianapolis 500
Indy500winningcar1971.JPG
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning body USAC
Season 1971 USAC Trail
Date May 29, 1971
Winner Al Unser, Sr.
Winning team Vel's Parnelli Jones Racing
Average speed 157.735 mph (253.850 km/h)
Pole position Peter Revson
Pole speed 178.696 mph (287.583 km/h)
Fastest qualifier Peter Revson
Rookie of the Year Denny Zimmerman
Most laps led Al Unser, Sr. (103)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthem Purdue Band
"Back Home Again in Indiana" Peter DePaolo
Starting Command Tony Hulman
Pace car Dodge Challenger
Pace car driver Eldon Palmer
Attendance 300,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
Network ABC
Announcers Jim McKay, Jackie Stewart
Chronology
Previous Next
1970 1972

The 55th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 29, 1971. Al Unser, Sr. won for the second consecutive year, dominating most of the race. The race was marred by a crash involving the pace car at the start. Eldon Palmer, a local Indianapolis-area Dodge dealer, lost control of the Dodge Challenger pace car at the south end of the pit area, and it crashed into a photographers' stand, injuring 29 people, two seriously.

Peter Revson started on the pole with a speed of over 178 miles per hour, more than a mile per hour faster than any other qualifier, with defending champ Al Unser in the middle of the second row. Mark Donohue, who qualified in the middle of the front row, took the lead at the start of the race and led the first 50 laps. A mechanical issue ended his day after just 66 laps, and Unser assumed the lead. He and Joe Leonard swapped the lead several times during the middle portion of the race, but Unser led for the final 83 laps, giving him a win for the second year in a row.

Unser (born on May 29, 1939) became the first and only driver to date to win the race on his birthday. It was his second of an eventual four Indy victories. Unser also became the first winner to celebrate in the new victory lane. The new winner's area, now featuring black and white checkered ramps, was moved from the south end of the pits to the "horseshoe" area immediately below the Master Control Tower, near the start/finish line.

The 1971 Indy 500 was part of the newly re-organized USAC Marlboro Championship Trail, in which dirt tracks were separated from the paved ovals and road courses. From then on, the Gold Crown championship schedule would consist solely of paved tracks (both ovals and road courses), giving the national championship a decidedly new look for the 1970s and beyond. In addition, with 500-mile races at Ontario and Pocono now on the schedule, Indy car racing formed its first "triple crown."

The city of Indianapolis celebrated its Sesquicentennial in 1971, and the occasion was reflected on the bronze and silver pit badges for the month of May.[1] Durng the week leading up to the race, Indianapolis was also the site of 1971 NATO International Conference of Cities.[2]

Race schedule[edit]

Race schedule — May, 1971
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
Pole Day
16
Time Trials
17
Practice
18
Practice
19
Practice
20
Practice
21
Practice
22
Time Trials
23
Bump Day
24
 
25
 
26
Carb Day
27
 
28
 
29
Indy 500
30
 
31
Memorial Day

 

 

 

 

 
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

In the days leading up to the race, Speedway officials announced that female reporters would be allowed in the pit area and garage area for the first time.

Time trials[edit]

For the first time, USAC firmed up the rules regarding pole day qualifying. As had been done in previous years, a blind draw would be held to determined the order of qualifying on pole day. However, starting in 1971, all drivers/cars in the original qualifying draw order would be allowed the opportunity to make at least one attempt in the pole round regardless if rain halted the session and pushed it off to another day.[3] Previously, if rain interrupted the qualifying line on pole day, any cars left in the original qualifying order at the time the track closed (due to rain or at the 6 o'clock gun) were simply out of luck, and had to qualify on the next round.

During practice, McLaren arrived at the track with the new M16 chassis, drawing attention and some controversy due to presence of a large rear wing affixed to the engine cover. USAC rules through 1971 required that any aerodynamic devices were to be an integral part of the bodywork.[4] After inspection, officials ultimately approved the device, as McLaren argued it was part of the engine cover. The engine cover was not much more than a flat, plate-like shape that ran along the top of the engine, with the wing affixed to the rear.[5] As practice began, the McLaren entries quickly established themselves as favorites for the pole position.

Pole Day - Saturday May 15[edit]

McLaren M16 cars dominated qualifying during a record-shattering afternoon. The chassis took 1st, 2nd, and 4th starting positions, with Peter Revson the surprise pole position winner.[1] Revson's four-lap track record of 178.696 mph put the pole position far out of reach for the rest of the field. Penske Racing driver Mark Donohue (177.087 mph) qualified for the middle of the front row, while Bobby Unser in an Eagle chassis, squeezed between the McLaren cars by qualifying third.

Second Day - Sunday May 16[edit]

Three drivers completed runs, with Bud Tingelstad (170.156 mph) the fastest of the afternoon. Mike Mosley returned after two crashes the previous day, and qualified solidly over 169 mph.[2]

Third Day - Saturday May 22[edit]

A busy day saw the field filled to 33 cars car. The day concluded with Steve Krisiloff bumping out rookie Sam Posey.[3] [4]

Bump Day - Sunday May 23[edit]

Strong winds kept speeds down, and only three drivers successfully bumped their way into the field. The windy conditions led to six crashes, and hopefuls waited until the final 45 minutes before they took to the track. The session started out with Mel Kenyon bumping out Carl Williams. Bob Harkey bumped Dick Simon, and Art Pollard got back into the field by bumping Jim McElreath.[5]

Jim Hurtubise once again tried to qualify his front-engined roadster, but on his second lap, hit the outside wall at the head of the mainstretch. His first two laps would not have been fast enough to bump his way in. The day ended as Dick Simon (waved off) and Jerry Grant (waved off) made unsuccessful attempts.

After qualifying, car owner Dick Simon announced he was going to take over the machine qualified by John Mahler. By rule, the car must move to the rear of the grid (33rd) on race day.

Pace car crash[edit]

For 1971, none of the Big Three auto manufacturers chose to supply pace cars for the Indianapolis 500, as the muscle car market had dried up and marketing efforts were shifted elsewhere. Four local Indianapolis-area Dodge dealers, spearheaded by Eldon Palmer, stepped up to supply the fleet of pace cars. The vehicle chosen was the Dodge Challenger 383-4V.[6] Palmer was chosen to drive the pace car at the start of the race.

In preparation for the race, Palmer set up an orange flag (sometimes reported as a traffic cone) in the pit lane to provide himself with a braking reference point. During the parade and pace lap, Tony Hulman, ABC broadcaster Chris Schenkel, and John Glenn served as passengers in the car. Palmer practiced the run the day before the race.

As the field came down the mainstretch for the start, Palmer pulled into the pits and accelerated down the pit lane. However, his reference flag (or cone) had been removed and he missed his planned braking spot. Moving upwards of perhaps 125 mph, Palmer realized he was going too fast, and rather than perilously veering back on to the racing surface, he stood on the brakes (the car was equipped with drum brakes) and lost control. The car swerved and skidded to the end of the pit lane, and crashed into a photographers' stand.[7] The stand collapsed, injuring 29 people, however, no people were killed. Dr. Vicente Alvarez, a freelance photographer from Argentina, was one of two on the stand who were seriously injured. Alvarez survived, and died in the late 1990s.[8] Tony Hulman suffered a sprained ankle, and a shaken Schenkle sat out the remainder of the ABC broadcast.

Palmer maintained possession of the car, and eventually it was repaired and restored. In 2006, it was sold to a collector.[9]

Race details[edit]

First half[edit]

Despite the pace car crash near the exit of the pits, the green light came on, and the race continued underway. Mark Donohue grabbed the lead from the middle of the front row.

On lap 12, Steve Krisiloff blew an engine, spilling oil in turn three. Gordon Johncock slid in the oil, collecting Mario Andretti and Mel Kenyon. All four cars were out of the race, and the yellow light was on for 19 minutes to clean up the accident.

Donohue led the first 50 laps, then the lead traded hands during pit stops between Joe Leonard, Bobby Unser, as well as Al Unser. After leading a total of 52 laps, Mark Donohue dropped out on lap 66 with broken gears. He came to a stop in turn four, and parked the car in the infield, just north of the entrance to the pits.

Lloyd Ruby led at the halfway point.

Second half[edit]

On lap 111, David Hobbs blew an engine on the mainstretch. Rick Muther spun in the oil, his car veered to the inside wall, then bounced across the track, hitting Hobbs, and lifting up on two wheels. Hobbs car was pushed head-on into the wall, but he was not seriously injured. Both car slid down the mainstretch, and came to a rest just beyond the start/finish line. The track was blocked except for a narrow portion on the inside where other cars were able to skirt by. The incident happened right in front of Al Unser, who was the leading the race at the moment. The yellow light came on for 12 minutes to clean up the crash.

After a series of pit stops by the leaders under the yellow, the green eventually came back out with Al Unser leading.

With less than 40 laps to go, Al Unser continued to lead, with Peter Revson second, Bobby Unser third, and A. J. Foyt fourth.

On lap 167, Mike Mosley lost a wheel in turn 4. He smacked the outside wall in turn four hard, then bounced across the track and hit the inside wall. Leader Al Unser was ahead of the crash, and second place Peter Revson just slipped by. Third place Bobby Unser spun to avoid Mosley, and hit the outside wall. Mosley's car then crashed into the parked cars of Mark Donohue and Steve Krisiloff, that were sitting near the entrance to the pits. A fire broke out, at which time Gary Bettenhausen stopped his car, and ran to the scene to help. Fire crews quickly doused the flames, and Mosley suffered a broken leg. Bill Vukovich II also spun to the avoid the crash, but he was able to continue. The yellow remained on for 22 minutes to clean up the crash.

The green light came back on with less than 20 laps to go. Al Unser held a comfortable lead, and won his second 500 in a row. Despite four yellows for 53 minutes (about 48 laps), the average speed of 157.735 mph was a new record at the time.

Race results[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Led Status
1 5 1 United States Al Unser (W) 174.621 5 200 103 Running
2 1 86 United States Peter Revson 178.695 1 200 0 Running
3 6 9 United States A.J. Foyt (W) 174.317 6 200 0 Running
4 10 42 United States Jim Malloy 171.838 11 200 0 Running
5 11 32 United States Bill Vukovich II 171.674 12 200 0 Running
6 20 84 United States Donnie Allison 171.903 10 199 0 Flagged
7 17 58 United States Bud Tingelstad 170.156 24 198 0 Flagged
8 28 43 United States Denny Zimmerman (R) 169.755 27 189 0 Flagged
9 22 6 United States Roger McCluskey 171.241 15 188 0 Flagged
10 13 16 United States Gary Bettenhausen 171.233 16 178 0 Flagged
11 7 12 United States Lloyd Ruby 173.821 7 174 3 Gears
12 3 2 United States Bobby Unser (W) 175.816 3 164 21 Crash T4
13 19 4 United States Mike Mosley 169.579 29 159 0 Crash T4
14 33 44 United States Dick Simon 170.165 23 151 0 Flagged
15 29 41 United States George Follmer 169.205 32 147 0 Piston
16 14 21 United States Cale Yarborough 170.770 19 140 0 Cam Cover
17 4 85 New Zealand Denis Hulme 174.910 4 137 0 Valve
18 24 18 United States Johnny Rutherford 171.152 18 128 0 Flagged
19 8 15 United States Joe Leonard 172.761 8 123 21 Turbocharger
20 16 68 United Kingdom David Hobbs (R) 169.571 30 107 0 Crash FS
21 18 38 United States Rick Muther 169.972 25 85 0 Crash FS
22 32 99 United States Bob Harkey 169.197 33 77 0 Gears
23 15 95 United States Bentley Warren (R) 169.627 28 76 0 Gears
24 23 22 United States Wally Dallenbach, Sr. 171.159 17 69 0 Valve
25 2 66 United States Mark Donohue 177.087 2 66 52 Gears
26 31 64 United States Art Pollard 169.499 31 45 0 Valve
27 25 98 United States Sammy Sessions 170.357 20 43 0 Valve
28 26 45 United States Larry Dickson 170.285 21 33 0 Engine
29 12 7 United States Gordon Johncock 171.388 14 11 0 Crash T3
30 9 5 United States Mario Andretti (W) 172.612 9 11 0 Crash T3
31 27 20 United States Steve Krisiloff (R) 169.835 26 10 0 Oil Leak
32 30 23 United States Mel Kenyon 170.205 22 10 0 Crash T3
33 21 80 United States George Snider 171.600 13 6 0 Stalled

Alternates[edit]

Tire participation chart
Supplier No. of starters
Goodyear 15 
Firestone 18*
* - Denotes race winner

Qualifying chronology[edit]

Att
#
Time Car
#
Driver Laps Qual
Time
Qual
Speed
Rank Start Comment
Saturday, May 15, 1971
1   4 MIKE MOSLEY 0 ACCIDENT
2   9 A. J. FOYT 4 3:26.52 174.317 6 6  
3   66 MARK DONOHUE 4 3:23.29 177.087 2 2  
4   32 BILLY VUKOVICH II 4 3:29.70 171.674 12 11  
5   10 DICK SIMON 4 3:33.14 168.903 BUMPED BY #99
6   14 JIM MCELREATH 3 WAVED OFF
7   16 GARY BETTENHAUSEN 4 3:30.24 171.233 16 13  
8   68 DAVID HOBBS 4 3:32.30 169.571 30 16  
9   1 AL UNSER 4 3:26.16 174.622 5 5  
10   7 GORDON JOHNCOCK 4 3:30.05 171.388 14 12  
11   42 JIM MALLOY 4 3:29.50 171.838 11 10  
12   86 PETER REVSON 4 3:21.46 178.696 1 1  
13   77 CARL WILLIAMS 1 WAVED OFF
14   8 ART POLLARD 3 WAVED OFF
15   18 JOHNNY RUTHERFORD 0 BLOWN ENGINE
16   15 JOE LEONARD 4 3:28.38 172.761 8 8  
17   2 BOBBY UNSER 4 3:24.76 175.816 3 3  
18   83 DONNIE ALLISON 1 WAVED OFF
19   28 BILL SIMPSON 4 3:33.94 168.271 BUMPED BY #45
20   12 LLOYD RUBY 4 3:27.11 173.821 7 7  
21   5 MARIO ANDRETTI 4 3:28.56 172.612 9 9  
22   85 DENIS HULME 0 PULLED OFF
23   45 LARRY DICKSON 3 ACCIDENT
24   14 JIM MCELREATH 3 WAVED OFF
25   83 DONNIE ALLISON 4 3:34.12 168.130 WITHDRAWN 5/22
26   85 DENIS HULME 4 3:25.82 174.910 4 4  
27   92 JERRY GRANT 4 3:33.66 168.492 BUMPED BY #78
28   21 CALE YARBOROUGH 4 3:30.81 170.770 19 14  
29   14 JIM MCELREATH 4 3:34.52 167.817 BUMPED BY #6; REINSTATED BY #83; BUMPED BY #84
30   38 RICK MUTHER 3 BLOWN ENGINE
31   77 CARL WILLIAMS 4 3:33.29 168.784 BUMPED BY #23
32   8 ART POLLARD 4 3:33.82 168.366 BUMPED BY #46
33   95 BENTLEY WARREN 4 3:32.23 169.627 28 15  
Sunday May 16, 1971
34   4 MIKE MOSLEY 0 3:32.29 169.579 29 19  
35   38 RICK MUTHER 0 3:31.80 169.972 25 18  
36   58 BUD TINGELSTAD 0 3:31.57 170.156 24 17  
Saturday May 22, 1971
37   80 GEORGE SNIDER 4 3:29.79 171.600 13 21  
38   43 DENNY ZIMMERMAN 4 3:32.07 169.755 27 28  
39   44 JOHN MAHLER 3  
40   98 SAM SESSIONS 4 3:31.32 170.358 20 25  
41   22 WALLY DALLENBACH 4 3:30.33 171.160 17 23  
42   94 BRUCE WALKUP 2 WAVED OFF
43   45 LARRY DICKSON 3 WAVED OFF
44   41 GEORGE FOLLMER 4 3:32.76 169.205 32 29  
45   44 JOHN MAHLER 4 3:31.56 170.164 23 33 REPLACED BY DICK SIMON
46   18 JOHNNY RUTHERFORD 4 3:30.34 171.151 18 24  
47   6 ROGER MCCLUSKEY 2 OUT OF FUEL
48   6 ROGER MCCLUSKEY 4 3:30.23 171.241 15 22 BUMPS #14
49   20 STEVE KRISILOFF 0 PULLED OFF
50   84 DONNIE ALLISON 4 3:29.42 171.903 10 20 BUMPS #14
51   45 LARRY DICKSON 4 3:31.41 170.285 21 26 BUMPS #28
52   46 JIM MCELREATH 4 3:32.81 169.165 BUMPS #8; BUMPED BY #64
53   94 BRUCE WALKUP 1 PULLED OFF
54   78 SAM POSEY 4 3:33.30 168.776 BUMPS #92; BUMPED BY #20
55   20 STEVE KRISILOFF 4 3:31.97 169.835 26 27 BUMPS #78
Sunday May 23, 1971
56   23 MEL KENYON 4 3:31.51 170.205 22 30 BUMPS #77
57   99 BOB HARKEY 4 3:32.77 169.197 33 32 BUMPS #10
58   17 JERRY GRANT 1 WAVED OFF
59   64 ART POLLARD 4 3:32.39 169.500 31 31 BUMPS #46
60   56 JIM HURTUBISE 2 ACCIDENT
61   33 DICK SIMON 1 WAVED OFF
62   17 JERRY GRANT 1 WAVED OFF

Broadcasting[edit]

Radio[edit]

The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. It was carried on over 1,200 affiliates, including shortwave transmission to Europe, Asia, and Vietnam. The broadcast reached an estimated 100 million listeners worldwide. Sid Collins served as chief announcer and Len Sutton served as "driver expert." At the conclusion of the race, Lou Palmer reported from victory lane.

The entire on-air crew remained mostly consistent from 1966-1970. Bob Forbes was assigned as "wireless" microphone, covering the garages and roving reports. The pre-race coverage was 30 minutes long. In a departure from previous years, Sid Collins decided to eliminate booth interviews with celebrities during the race. The only exception was an interview with Hugh Downs, but that was during the post-race coverage. In addition, Luke Walton interviewed Evel Knievel in the pit area during the early stages of the race. Knievel was making his first visit to the 500, as a guest of the A. J. Foyt team.

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)
Bob Forbes (wireless)

Television[edit]

For the first time, the race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. The race was held in the afternoon, and the broadcast aired in prime time later in the day.

The broadcast totaled two and a half hours, and came on-air at 8:30 p.m. (eastern). Among the notable appearances, was David Letterman, who served as a roving turn reporter. Letterman interviewed Mario Andretti after he dropped out of the race.

Chris Schenkel began what would be a decade-long tenure as host, while Jim McKay anchor the broadcast as play-by-play announcer.

The broadcast has re-aired numerous times on ESPN Classic since February 2002.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host: Chris Schenkel
Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Jackie Stewart

Chris Economaki
Bill Flemming
Keith Jackson
David Letterman (turns)

Notes[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Indy 500 Collectors Club: Indianapolis 500 Pit Badges 1970-1979
  2. ^ NATO’S Third Dimension
  3. ^ "The Talk of Gasoline Alley" 1070 WIBC, May 11, 2002
  4. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 17, 2003. 1070 WIBC-AM.
  5. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 10, 2007. 1070 WIBC-AM.
  6. ^ Piurkowski, Eugene. "The 1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car". allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  7. ^ "The 1971 Challenger Pace Car Crash at the Indianapolis 500". The 1970 Hamtramck Registry. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  8. ^ "Al Blixt Auto Racing History". Retrieved 2012-05-10. 
  9. ^ "Collector Recounts Pace Car Crash 40 Years Later". rtv6. 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2012-05-10. 

Works cited[edit]


1970 Indianapolis 500
Al Unser
1971 Indianapolis 500
Al Unser
1972 Indianapolis 500
Mark Donohue
Preceded by
156.867 mph
(1969 Indianapolis 500)
Record for the fastest average speed
157.735
mph
Succeeded by
162.692 mph
(1972 Indianapolis 500)