1974 Indianapolis 500
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway|
|Season||1974 USAC Trail|
|Date||May 26, 1974|
|Average speed||158.589 mph (255.224 km/h)|
|Pole position||A. J. Foyt|
|Pole speed||191.632 mph (308.402 km/h)|
|Rookie of the Year||Pancho Carter|
|Most laps led||Johnny Rutherford (122)|
|National anthem||Purdue Band|
|Back Home Again in Indiana||Jim Nabors|
|Starting Command||Tony Hulman|
|Pace car||Hurst/Olds Cutlass|
|Pace car driver||Jim Rathmann|
|TV in the United States|
|Announcers||Jim McKay and Sam Posey|
|Nielsen Ratings||16.4 / 31|
The 58th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, May 26, 1974. Johnny Rutherford, in his eleventh attempt, won the race from the 25th starting position, the farthest back since Fred Frame in 1932.
The race was run relatively clean, with no major crashes or injuries, a sharp contrast from the tragic 1973 race a year earlier. In order to increase safety, significant improvements were made to the track, and the cars. Wings were reduced in size, and pop-off valves were added to the turbocharger plenums in order to reduce horsepower and curtail speeds.
For the first time in Indy history, the race was scheduled for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. This ended the "never on a Sunday" policy previously held from 1911-1973. At the time, it was also the earliest date (May 26) that the race had ever been held.
Race schedule 
Schedule changes 
The race was run in the wake of the energy crisis, which precipitated several changes to the schedule. Track management did not want to shorten the traditional 500-mile race distance, but agreed to voluntarily curtail track time. In the first half of 1974, NASCAR decided to trim all of their race distances by 10%. USAC opted to cut a week of practice out of the schedule for the Indy 500. Previously, the track would open for practice on May 1 (or as early as the Saturday before May 1). For 1974, the track opened three weeks before the race. Time trials was cut back from four days to two days. Pole day would be held on the Saturday two weeks before the race, and Bump Day would be held on the Saturday one week before the race.
In addition, the track would begin opening on practice days around 12 noon, rather than the previous opening time of 9 a.m. Normally the first few hours of practice were quiet and leisurely with few cars taking advantage of the track time. Thus they were deemed superfluous and excessive on resources and operating costs. This change was also introduced because it made logical sense to have drivers practicing on the track at the same time of day as they would be running in time trials and the race itself (theoretically it would better mimic the conditions encountered on those days).
The reduced on-track time was seen as a way to reduce overall fuel consumption - fewer days that fans would drive their cars to the track - but a mostly insignificant reduction of the actual methanol fuel used by the race cars.
Safety improvements 
After the tragic 1973 race, several changes were made to the track, as well as the car rules. The pit lane itself was widened, and lengthened to the north by about 400 feet. In addition, the entrance to the pits was paved all the way back to turn four, and the inside wall from turn 4 to the pit entrance was moved in. The inside and outside retaining walls were raised, and several trackside seats were removed. Rear wings on the cars were reduced in size, and car fuel capacity was reduced to 40 gallons (down from 75). Pitside fuel tanks were reduced to 285 gallons. Also part of the improvements were a new flagstand and officials' booth, constructed on the outside of the mainstretch.,
During time trials, all cars were required to carry a pop-off valve to control turbocharger "boost." Maximum boost levels were set at 80 inHG. The reduction of boost, reduction of wing sizes, and other technical changes lowered speeds by about 8-10 mph from 1973. As a result, top speeds would be around 190 mph, and the elusive 200 mph barrier would be out-of-reach for 1974.
Starting in 1974, Firestone dropped out of Indy competition, and Goodyear became the exclusive tire supplier for the series and the race - an arrangement that would continue through 1994. The decade-old "tire war" at Indy would cease.
Time trials 
Pole day 
Pole Day was held on Saturday May 11. A. J. Foyt drew the first in the qualifying draw, and was the first car to make an attempt at 11 a.m. His four-lap speed of 191.632 mph placed him tentatively on the pole position.
Wally Dallenbach completed a run of 189.683 mph, which put him in second starting position. His car featured a controversial "king sized" turbocharger, which some competitors complained was too large to be controlled by the standard issue pop-off valves. Ultimately, Dallenbach's blower was deemed legal, but USAC declared the team could not swap it out for the more fuel-conservative smaller turbo on race day.
At 12:25 p.m., however, rain halted qualifying, after only nine cars had completed attempts.
At 3:35 p.m., the track was dried, and qualifying resumed. Five more cars were able to take to the track, but rain resumed, and the track was closed for the day at 4:20 p.m. The field was only filled to 15 cars, and several drivers, including Mario Andretti and Gordon Johncock were still eligible for the pole. Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford, however, suffered blown engines during the day, and had to forfeit their spot in the qualifying line. Both would be ineligible for the pole, and would have to be second-day qualifiers.
Bump day 
The track opened for time trials on Saturday May 18 with 11 cars still eligible for the pole position round. Gordon Johncock was the first driver out, and he completed a run of 186.287 mph. The next car out was Mike Hiss, who qualified third at 187.490 mph. Mario Andretti was a last driver who was a factor for the pole, but he ended up only 5th. At 12:30 p.m., the pole round was over, with A. J. Foyt holding on to the pole position. The field officially was filled to 24 cars. As soon as the pole round was over, rain fell, closing the track for almost 4 hours.
At 4:20 p.m., the track was dried and re-opened for Bump Day time trials. Johnny Rutherford, who missed out on the pole round, qualified at 190.446 mph, the second-fastest car in the field. Since he was a second day qualifier, however, he was forced to line up behind the first-day qualifiers in 25th position.
With 15 minutes left in the day, the field was filled to 33 cars. Johnny Parsons bumped Jigger Sirois out of the field with 9 minutes left. The final car to make an attempt was rookie Jan Opperman, who was too slow. Sammy Sessions and others were left waiting in line at the 6 o'clock gun. A protest was filed by owners who were not able to make an attempt (mostly due to the numerous rain delays), but it was dismissed.
Race summary 
At the start, Wally Dallenbach blasted from the middle of the front row to take the lead into turn one. He set a new race record for one-lap of 191.408 mph on lap 2, as he pulled out to a sizable lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Dallenbach broke a piston and coasted to a stop on lap 3. Attrition was very high early on, as eight cars dropped out with mechanical problems by lap 11. Mario Andretti and Gary Bettenhausen each broke a valve, and Mike Mosley blew an engine. Rick Muther pulled into the pits with problems during the pace lap, but rejoined the race, only to lose a piston after 11 laps.
A. J. Foyt took the lead when Dallenbach dropped out. Johnny Rutherford was charging dramatically from the 25th starting position. By lap 23, he was running third, and on lap 24, he passed Bobby Unser to take 2nd position.
First half 
The top five consisted of Foyt, Rutherford, Bobby Unser, rookie Tom Sneva and Al Unser. By lap 45, Rutherford was driving very aggressively in traffic, and caught up to Foyt. The two cars ran nose-to-tail over the next several laps.
During the second sequence of pit stops around lap 50, teammates Gordon Johncock and Steve Krisiloff both ran out of fuel. They coasted back to the pits and lost considerable time on the track. On lap 64, the first caution came out when Larry Cannon spun. Foyt had a terrible pit stop of 53 seconds, which allowed Rutherford to take the lead for the first time on lap 65.
On the next green flag pit stop around lap 90, Rutherford was on the receiving end of good luck. He ducked into the pits under green, but seconds later the caution came out for a crash by Jan Opperman, which allowed Rutherford to pit with little time lost.
Second half 
Jerry Karl crashed in turn 3 after completing 115 laps. During the caution, Johnny Rutherford exited the pits right in front of second place A. J. Foyt, and held the lead. Seconds later, the green light came back on while the drivers were in the southchute. Foyt got the jump on the restart, and passed Rutherford for the lead in turn 2.
At lap 130, Foyt, Rutherford, and Bobby Unser were running 1st-2nd-3rd. Al Unser dropped out on lap 131 with a broken valve, bringing out the caution for a tow-in. Foyt ducked into the pits, and Rutherford was now the leader again.
On lap 138, the green light came back on. A. J. Foyt diced through traffic and passed Johnny Rutherford for the lead down the mainstretch. A lap later though, Foyt's car began smoking, and he was issued the black flag due to leaking oil. After two pits stops, Foyt dropped out with a broken turbocharger scavenger pump.
Johnny Rutherford took over the lead on lap 141, and seemed to have the race in hand. Bobby Unser was the only other car on the lead lap, but was between 15-20 second behind. Johnny Rutherford had a close call in turn one while attempting to pass lap traffic. As he was lapping Pancho Carter and Jim McElreath, Carter spun right next to him in turn one. McElreath narrowly avoided him, and both car continued.
Johnny Rutherford gave up the lead only one more time on lap 176 during a pit stop. He led the final 24 laps to win his first Indianapolis 500.
Race results 
|3||16||4||Bill Vukovich II||182.500||18||199||0||Flagged|
|9||18||9||Lloyd Ruby||181.699||20||187||0||Out of fuel|
|15||1||14||A.J. Foyt||191.632||1||142||70||Oil Fitting|
|16||27||1||Roger McCluskey||181.004||23||141||0||Rear End|
|19||19||42||Jerry Karl||181.452||21||115||0||Crash T3|
|20||8||24||Tom Sneva||185.147||9||94||0||Drive Gear|
|21||32||51||Jan Opperman||176.186||32||85||0||Spun T4|
|25||28||56||Jim Hurtubise||180.288||26||31||0||Blown Engine|
|29||6||98||Mike Mosley||185.319||7||6||0||Blown Engine|
|30||2||40||Wally Dallenbach, Sr.||189.683||3||3||2||Piston|
- First alternate: Denny Zimmerman
The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. The broadcast reached an estimated 1,200 affiliates and carriers. Sid Collins served as chief announcer and Fred Agabashian served as "driver expert." At the conclusion of the race, Lou Palmer reported from victory lane.
Several shuffles occurred amongst the reporters and locations, the most significant changes in almost a decade. Mike Ahern retired from the crew and his prestigious turn one location. Veteran Ron Carrell moved from turn three to take over turn one. Among the newcomers was Paul Page, who debuted as a pit reporter. The reporting location for turn three was moved to a platform on the "L" grandstand. Doug Zink took over turn three, and rookie Jerry Baker made his 500 radio debut on the backstretch.
For the first time, there were five pit/garage reporters on the crew. For the 1974 race, the length of the pit road was increased, and two additional reporters were added to cover the expansion. Bob Forbes was once again the "wireless" roving reporter.
|Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network|
|Booth Announcers||Turn Reporters||Pit/garage reporters|
Turn 1: Ron Carrell
|Paul Page (north pits)
Chuck Marloe (north-center pits)
Luke Walton (south-center pits)
Lou Palmer (south pits)
Bob Forbes (garages/hospital)
The race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. Jim McKay returned as announcer, but Jackie Stewart was in Monaco for coverage of the grand prix. Former driver Sam Posey joined the crew as booth analyst.
The broadcast has re-aired on ESPN Classic since May 2011.
|Booth Announcers||Pit/garage reporters|
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1974 Indianapolis 500|
Works cited 
- 1974 Indianapolis 500 Press Information - Daily Trackside Summary
- Indianapolis 500 History: Race & All-Time Stats - Official Site
|1973 Indianapolis 500
|1974 Indianapolis 500
|1975 Indianapolis 500