Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, Runnings 51-60

Donohue and Penske in 1972. Photo: IMS Archives
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The Associated Press has compiled a list of highlights of all past Indianapolis 500 races, as the buildup to the 100th running presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this May 29.

Here are runnings 51-60, from 1967 through 1976.

Past pieces:

RACE: 51st Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30-31, 1967

WINNER: A.J. Foyt

AVERAGE SPEED: 151.207 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: It took two days to run the race after rain halted it 18 laps into its start on a Tuesday. The race resumed on Wednesday, with Foyt winning for the third time after Parnelli Jones, driving for Andy Granatelli, led 171 laps before a $6 ball bearing led to a broken transmission on lap 196.

NOTABLE: Mario Andretti won the pole and set single lap (169.779 mph) and four-lap track records (168.982 mph).

RACE: 52nd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1968

WINNER: Bobby Unser

AVERAGE SPEED: 152.882 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser won the first of his three Indy 500s when he inherited the lead just eight laps from the finish when Joe Leonard’s engine expired.

NOTABLE: Pratt & Whitney’s turbine engine – the “Wedge Turbine” – was used in the Lotus 56 entries. Mike Spence was killed in a May 7 practice session when a tire broke off his Wedge Turbine and struck him in the head.

RACE: 53rd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1969

WINNER: Mario Andretti

AVERAGE SPEED: 156.867 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Andretti led the final 194 laps to earn the only Indianapolis 500 for the Andretti family, a drought known today as “The Andretti Curse.”

NOTABLE: Al Unser Sr. crashed his motorcycle in the infield the night before qualifications. He missed the race with a broken leg.

RACE: 54th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1970

WINNER: Al Unser Sr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 155.749 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser dominated the race and led 190 laps from the pole to join older brother, Bobby, as the first pair of brothers to win the 500. The victory also made Parnelli Jones the second competitor to win the race as a driver (1963) and as a car owner.

NOTABLE: The prize fund topped $1 million for the first time in history (by $2). Unser was the final driver to celebrate in victory lane at the south end of the pits. Victory lane was relocated the next year.

RACE: 55th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 1971

WINNER: Al Unser Sr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 157.735 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser won for the second consecutive year and became the only driver to win on his birthday. He was the first winner to celebrate in the relocated victory lane, which now sported black-and-white checkered ramps and was in the “horseshoe” area near the start/finish line.

NOTABLE: An Indianapolis-area car dealer was the driver of the pace car, but he lost control of the Dodge Challenger at the south end of the pits at the start of the race. The car crashed into a photographers’ stand, injuring 29 people.

RACE: 56th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 27, 1972

WINNER: Mark Donohue

AVERAGE SPEED: 162.962 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Gary Bettenhausen led 138 laps until his car suffered ignition trouble. His teammate, Donohue, led only the last 13 laps to win the first of team owner Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 victories.

NOTABLE: Tony Hulman asked Jim Nabors to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana” during the pre-race ceremonies, and Nabors did so without rehearsal, beginning a 36-year tradition with Nabors performing nearly every year from 1972 to 2014. The 1972 race also was the first since 1962 to have an all-American lineup.

RACE: 57th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 28-29-30, 1973

WINNER: Gordon Johncock

AVERAGE SPEED: 159.036 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: An 11-car accident at the start left Salt Wather critically injured and caused lengthy track repairs. Rain then halted the event for the next two days. The race, run on Wednesday, was won by Johncock because he was the leader when rain resumed again after 133 laps. The race was marred by two deaths and when it stopped, only 11 cars were still on the track in what’s considered one of the worst Indy 500s in history.

NOTABLE: Art Pollard was killed during a practice session on pole day, and Wednesday’s race was plagued by two fatalities: driver Swede Savage and pit crew member Armando Teran.

RACE: 58th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 26, 1974

WINNER: Johnny Rutherford

AVERAGE SPEED: 158.589 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Rutherford won from the 25th starting position, the farthest back for any victor since Louis Meyer in 1936. Safety improvements following the 1973 debacle led to a clean 500-mile race, and A.J. Foyt set the all-time starts mark at 17. He went on to start 35 Indy 500s.

NOTABLE: The race was held on a Sunday for the first time in history, ending the “never on a Sunday” policy that held from 1911-73. It was also the earliest calendar date that the race had ever been held.

RACE: 59th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 25, 1975

WINNER: Bobby Unser

AVERAGE SPEED: 149.213 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Unser was leading when a heavy downpour ended the race 26 laps shy of the finish. It was Dan Gurney’s only Indy 500 victory as an owner.

NOTABLE: The Hulman family celebrated 30 years of ownership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on race day. Tom Sneva walked away with only minor injuries after a crash sent his car into the catchfence and left him trapped in the cockpit during a flash fire.

RACE: 60th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1976

WINNER: Johnny Rutherford

AVERAGE SPEED: 188.957 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Pole-sitter Rutherford won his second Indy 500. He was the leader when rain stopped the race at lap 103. After a two-hour delay, it began to rain again and the race was called. Rutherford walked to victory lane and is credited with completing the shortest Indy 500 on record at just 255 miles.

NOTABLE: Janet Guthrie became the first female driver to enter the Indianapolis 500. Mechanical and engine problems during the month left her unable to make an attempt to qualify. Hours after the race, former driver Elmer George, the husband of Mari Hulman George, was shot and killed during a confrontation. The race was also the final Indy 500 for longtime radio anchor Sid Collins.