1970 Indianapolis 500

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
54th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning bodyUSAC
Season1970 USAC Trail
DateMay 30, 1970
WinnerAl Unser, Sr.
Winning teamVel's Parnelli Jones Racing
Average speed155.749 mph (250.654 km/h)
Pole positionAl Unser, Sr.
Pole speed170.221 mph (273.944 km/h)
Fastest qualifierAl Unser, Sr.
Rookie of the YearDonnie Allison
Most laps ledAl Unser, Sr. (190)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthemAl Hirt
"Back Home Again in Indiana"Saverio Saridis
Starting commandTony Hulman
Pace carOldsmobile 442
Pace car driverRodger Ward
StarterPat Vidan[1]
Estimated attendance250,000[2]
TV in the United States
NetworkABC's Wide World of Sports
AnnouncersJim McKay, Rodger Ward
Previous Next
1969 1971

The 54th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana on Saturday, May 30, 1970.[3][4][5]

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;[4] it was the first of his four victories at Indianapolis. Car owner Parnelli Jones, who won the race as a driver in 1963, became the second individual (after Pete DePaolo) to win separately as both a driver and as an owner.

Unser turned 31 a day earlier and took home $271,697 out of a record $1,000,002 purse. For the first time in Indy history, the total prize fund topped a million dollars.

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.[6]

All 33 cars in the field were turbocharged for the first time. This was the final 500 in which the winner celebrated in the old Victory Lane at the south end of the pits; it was relocated nearer the finish line 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.

This would be the last Indy 500 that was scheduled for the traditional fixed date of May 30. Through 1970, Memorial Day was a fixed date holiday observed on May 30 regardless of the day of the week. For 1970, the date of May 30 fell on a Saturday. From 1911 to 1970, the race was scheduled for May 30, regardless of the day of the week, unless May 30 fell on a Sunday. In those cases, the race would be scheduled for Monday May 31. The Uniform Monday Holiday Act would take effect in 1971, and for 1971 and 1972, the race would be scheduled for the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. In 1973, it was scheduled for Monday (but rain delayed it until Wednesday). From 1974 onward, it was scheduled for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. From 1974 onward, the race would only be held on May 30 if that date fell on a Sunday.

The annual Carburetion Days practice session, along with pit stop practice, on Wednesday May 27 was closed to the public.[7]

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





Pole Day
Time Trials
Time Trials
Bump Day
Carb Day
Indy 500
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. Although 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.

Pos No. Name Speed
1 2 Al Unser 170.221  
2 18 Johnny Rutherford 170.213  
3 7 A. J. Foyt 170.004  
4 11 Roger McCluskey 169.213  
5 66 Mark Donohue 168.911  
6 10 Art Pollard 168.595  
7 3 Bobby Unser 168.508  
8 1 Mario Andretti 168.209  
9 31 Jim Malloy 167.973  
10 84 George Snider 167.660  
11 48 Dan Gurney 166.860  
12 9 Mike Mosley 166.651  
13 27 LeeRoy Yarbrough 166.613  
14 97 Bruce Walkup 166.459  
15 38 Rick Muther  R  165.654  
36 Tony Adamowicz  R  164.820 Bumped by #58
92 Steve Krisiloff  R  162.448 Bumped by #89
5 Gordon Johncock Flagged off
5 Gordon Johncock Waved off
95 Sam Posey  R  Blown engine
23 Mel Kenyon Pulled off
76 Kevin Bartlett  R  Waved off
94 Bentley Warren  R  Pulled off
93 Greg Weld  R  Crash
74 Jim McElreath Pulled off

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 went out for his first attempt, but when he raised his hand to signify the intent to start his attempt, the officials did not see it, and inadvertently waved him off. After he persuaded the officials for a do-over, he had a lap of 169.428 mph, but burned a piston on the fourth and final lap.[8] The incident drew the ire of the team, as they felt the officials cost them a chance to be the day's fastest qualifier (for having run the extra laps). Ruby went out again later in the day with a new engine, but waved off after one slow lap.

Pos No. Name Speed
16 73 Peter Revson 167.942  
17 5 Gordon Johncock 167.015  
18 15 Joe Leonard 166.898  
19 75 Carl Williams 166.590  
20 16 Gary Bettenhausen 166.451  
21 20 George Follmer 166.052  
22 23 Mel Kenyon 165.906  
23 83 Donnie Allison  R  165.662  
24 22 Wally Dallenbach Sr. 165.601  
74 Jim McElreath 163.592 Bumped by #32
19 Ronnie Bucknum Waved off
12 Lloyd Ruby Blown engine
76 Kevin Bartlett  R  Waved off
12 Lloyd Ruby Pulled off
56 Jim Hurtubise  

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.

Pos No. Name Speed
25 25 Lloyd Ruby 168.895  
26 32 Jack Brabham 166.397 Bumped #74
27 19 Ronnie Bucknum 166.136  
28 93 Greg Weld  R  166.121  
29 89 Jerry Grant 165.983 Bumped #92
30 58 Bill Vukovich II 165.753 Bumped #36
31 44 Dick Simon  R  165.548 Bumped #94
32 67 Sammy Sessions 165.373  
77 Kevin Bartlett  R  165.259 Bumped by #14
94 Bentley Warren  R  164.805 Bumped by #44
56 Jim Hurtubise Incomplete
78 Larry Dickson Pulled off
50 Arnie Knepper Waved off
17 John Cannon  R  Waved off

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.

Pos No. Name Speed
33 14 Jim McElreath 166.821 Bumped #77
53 Arnie Knepper 165.320 Too slow
54 Jigger Sirois 164.692 Too slow
99 Denny Zimmerman 158.912 Too slow
8 Larry Dickson 158.479 Too slow
21 John Cannon Waved off
95 Sam Posey Crash


Failed to qualify[edit]

Race recap[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, teams 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 handling 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, weaved his way through, and continued in the race. 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 what turned out to be the final yellow light of the race was on for over 14 minutes (lap 172 through lap 181) to clear the track.


With about 25 laps to go, Al Unser, Sr. had lapped the entire field. Unser's crew gave him 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, over three minutes over third place Dan Gurney in his final 500 a driver. A very slow A. J. Foyt fell to 10th in the final standings.

Box score[edit]

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

Race statistics[edit]

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



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 to 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)


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 "Wide World Of Sports" 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


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Fox, Jack C. (1994). The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 1911-1994 (4th ed.). Carl Hungness Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-915088-05-3.
  2. ^ Keating, Thomas R. (May 31, 1970). "Tony's Luck Held Again, But Few Doubted It Would". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  3. ^ "Al Unser joins brother Bobby on list of Indy 500 winners". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. May 31, 1970. p. 1B.
  4. ^ a b Taylor, Jim (May 31, 1970). "Pole-sitter Unser easy Indy winner". Toledo Blade. p. D1.
  5. ^ Jones, Robert F. (June 8, 1970). "Brother Al's turn in the 500". Sports Illustrated. p. 30.
  6. ^ "Rain delays 500; Malloy snaps bar". The Bulletin. (Bend, Oregon). UPI. May 30, 1970. p. 8.
  7. ^ "Pit Pass". The Indianapolis Star. May 27, 1970. p. 31. Retrieved March 7, 2022 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  8. ^ Marquette, Ray (May 18, 1970). "Revson Leads Pack; Ruby Engines 'Blow'". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved May 31, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.Open access icon
  9. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 14, 2004
  10. ^ "1970 International 500 Mile Sweepstakes". ChampCarStats.com. Retrieved 27 June 2015.

Works cited[edit]

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