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1973 Indianapolis 500 first alternate?

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  • 1973 Indianapolis 500 first alternate?

    Listening to the 73 radio broadcast today. I'm on day two and they've allowed all damaged cars to be repaired, along with allowing Harkey to swap his blown engine. They've also announced that they're restarting the race over in rows of three like day one never happened. Sam Posey was disqualified for some reason and stripped of his first alternate status, so that means Tom Bigelow should have moved into that spot. With Walther out, why didn't they allow the first alternate to complete the field? Perhaps because that would have meant that they would have to pay out 34 positions?
    "The track will choose who's going to win."

    Tony Kanaan

  • #2
    Maybe because technically they'd already taken the green...?
    If this hearing has taught us anything, it's that no woman alive should spend a minute worrying she's unqualified to run for office. Kate Harding

    Brian's Wish * Jason Foundation

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    • #3
      I've heard it said that the first/second alternates were rarely ever considered for inclusion in the field, no matter what were to happen. Despite the occasional first alternate suiting up on race morning - hoping a car would blow up on the grid - the officials were not going to let them out there. I think the allowance of the alternate to race was a judgement call by the officials, and IIRC, Harlan Fengler for instance, wasn't one that was keen on allowing it.

      About the only time they would allow it is if an already qualified car wrecked on the second week of practice...but did not officially withdraw until after Bump Day (Jacques Villeneuve, 1984). Or a car wrecked on Carb Day and didn't have a backup (Dennis Firestone, 1986).

      In 1941, Sam Hanks crashed the day before the race, and George Barringer's car was destroyed in the garage fire, but the officials decided not to use the alternates. They just awarded those two cars 32nd and 33rd.
      Doctorindy.com

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Doctorindy View Post
        I've heard it said that the first/second alternates were rarely ever considered for inclusion in the field, no matter what were to happen. Despite the occasional first alternate suiting up on race morning -......
        As you state it was up to the Chief Steward as to whether or not an alternate might get to start. In the case of both Barringer and Hanks it would have been considered adding insult to injury to take away last place prize money with the driver in the hospital in one case and a totally destroyed car in the other circumstance.

        However, the one Chief Steward who made it known that he would use alternate starters was Harry McQuinn who was in charge through 1957 (starting in the early '50s sometime?). He always had at least one alternate (sometimes the 2nd alternate as well) at the pit entrance with the crew and starter cart ready to go. I

        I talked to a crew member from Eddie Sachs car when he was first alternate (34th fastest) in 1956. They had everything ready to go, including pit equipment and a set of tires, on orders from McQuinn in case someone couldn't get their engine started. As it worked out they weren't needed but Sachs did get some publicity from a photo that got sent out of him standing on a rear tire on the car and watching the race for several laps.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by indyrjc View Post
          However, the one Chief Steward who made it known that he would use alternate starters was Harry McQuinn who was in charge through 1957 (starting in the early '50s sometime?). He always had at least one alternate (sometimes the 2nd alternate as well) at the pit entrance with the crew and starter cart ready to go. I
          There were many times in the 1970s and into the 1980s where the First and sometimes Second Alternate were reported as having taken laps during the Carburetion Day practice. As late as the early 90s, the 1st/2nd alternates were still eligible to practice on Carb Day. I seem to recall Rahal (1993) who was the 2nd Alt., being allowed to turn laps on Carb Day, but they weren't at all interested.
          Doctorindy.com

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          • #6
            Originally posted by jp View Post
            With Walther out, why didn't they allow the first alternate to complete the field?
            The rules stated that once the 33 starters presented themselves to the starting line, the alternates were eliminated.

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            • #7
              With 1973 in mind...Supposedly, Bob Harkey's team discovered race morning (original Monday) that the engine was kaput. They did not want the word to get out, in case USAC were to park them and insert the alternate. They'd rather pretend things were ok, and at the very least collect 33rd place money.

              They wheeled the car to the grid as normal, knowing it wasn't going to race. When the command was finally given (rain had delayed the day already), it of course didn't crank, and they wheeled it to the pits, probably acting dumbfounded. They took off the cowling and started snooping around the engine, keeping up the context that something unexpected was going wrong. The Walther crash prevented the race from actually starting. Since Harkey was still sitting in the pits (they had not wheeled the car to the garage area yet) when the red flag was displayed, he was considered still 'in the race.' When USAC announced that cars could be repaired overnight, Harkey's team was able to install a new engine without penalty, and took their spot in the grid Tuesday...and again Wednesday. He got a dozen laps in and placed 29th, better than nothing.

              I don't think that story came out until many years later.
              Doctorindy.com

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