1971 Indianapolis 500
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|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)|
|National anthem||Purdue Band|
|Back Home Again in Indiana||Peter DePaolo|
|Starting Command||Tony Hulman|
|Pace car||Dodge Challenger|
|Pace car driver||Eldon Palmer|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Jim McKay, Jackie Stewart|
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 ovals and road courses. From then on, the circuit 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."
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. 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.
Pole Day - Saturday May 15
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. 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
Third Day - Saturday May 22
Bump Day - Sunday May 23
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.
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.
Pace car crash
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. 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. 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. 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.
|5||11||32||Bill Vukovich II||171.674||12||200||0||Running|
|12||3||2||Bobby Unser||175.816||3||164||21||Crash T4|
|13||19||4||Mike Mosley||169.579||29||159||0||Crash T4|
|16||14||21||Cale Yarborough||170.770||19||140||0||Cam Cover|
|20||16||68||David Hobbs||169.571||30||107||0||Crash FS|
|21||18||38||Rick Muther||169.972||25||85||0||Crash FS|
|24||23||22||Wally Dallenbach, Sr.||171.159||17||69||0||Valve|
|29||12||7||Gordon Johncock||171.388||14||11||0||Crash T3|
|30||9||5||Mario Andretti||172.612||9||11||0||Crash T3|
|31||27||20||Steve Krisiloff||169.835||26||10||0||Oil Leak|
|32||30||23||Mel Kenyon||170.205||22||10||0||Crash T3|
- First alternate: Jim McElreath
|Tire participation chart|
|Supplier||No. of starters|
|* - Denotes race winner|
|Saturday, May 15, 1971|
|2||9||A. J. FOYT||4||3:26.52||174.317||6||6|
|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|
|13||77||CARL WILLIAMS||1||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|14||8||ART POLLARD||3||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|15||18||JOHNNY RUTHERFORD||0||—||—||—||—||BLOWN ENGINE|
|18||83||DONNIE ALLISON||1||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|19||28||BILL SIMPSON||4||3:33.94||168.271||—||—||BUMPED BY #45|
|22||85||DENIS HULME||0||—||—||—||—||PULLED OFF|
|24||14||JIM MCELREATH||3||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|25||83||DONNIE ALLISON||4||3:34.12||168.130||—||—||WITHDRAWN 5/22|
|27||92||JERRY GRANT||4||3:33.66||168.492||—||—||BUMPED BY #78|
|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|
|Sunday May 16, 1971|
|Saturday May 22, 1971|
|42||94||BRUCE WALKUP||2||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|43||45||LARRY DICKSON||3||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|45||44||JOHN MAHLER||4||3:31.56||170.164||23||33||REPLACED BY DICK SIMON|
|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|
|61||33||DICK SIMON||1||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
|62||17||JERRY GRANT||1||—||—||—||—||WAVED OFF|
The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. 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.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network|
|Booth Announcers||Turn Reporters||Pit/garage reporters|
Turn 1: Mike Ahern
|Chuck Marloe (north)
Luke Walton (center)
Lou Palmer (south)
Bob Forbes (wireless)
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.
The broadcast has re-aired numerous times on ESPN Classic since February 2002.
|Booth Announcers||Pit/garage reporters|
David Letterman (turns)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1971 Indianapolis 500|
- "The Talk of Gasoline Alley" 1070 WIBC, May 11, 2002
- Piurkowski, Eugene. "The 1971 Dodge Challenger Pace Car". allpar.com. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "The 1971 Challenger Pace Car Crash at the Indianapolis 500". The 1970 Hamtramck Registry. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Al Blixt Auto Racing History". Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- "Collector Recounts Pace Car Crash 40 Years Later". rtv6. 2011-05-27. Retrieved 2012-05-10.
- 1971 Indianapolis 500 Press Information - Daily Trackside Summary
- Indianapolis 500 History: Race & All-Time Stats - Official Site
- 1971 Indianapolis 500 Radio Broadcast, Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
|1970 Indianapolis 500
|1971 Indianapolis 500
|1972 Indianapolis 500