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1974 Indianapolis 500

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  • 1974 Indianapolis 500

    I'm watching the replay of the '74 Indy 500 and had totally forgotten about the number of cars that failed in the first five laps including leader Wally Dallenbach, Gary Bettenhausen in a Penske car, and Mario Andretti. They referenced a large turbocharger but I don't recall the situation at all.

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  • #2
    Originally posted by Truth Detector View Post
    I'm watching the replay of the '74 Indy 500 and had totally forgotten about the number of cars that failed in the first five laps including leader Wally Dallenbach, Gary Bettenhausen in a Penske car, and Mario Andretti. They referenced a large turbocharger but I don't recall the situation at all.
    The Patrick team had a turbocharger unit that was larger than what everyone else was using. The whispers were that it would blow more than the allowable 80" but there was never any proof. Johncock's car ran all day.

    Big turbo or not, for all of the nostalgia about them, Offenhausers were very unreliable. It was common for 3-5 cars to be out of the race before ten laps were run. It was accepted as a given.
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    • #3
      Crazy.

      JR won the race and I just saw him make a 22.9 second pitstop.
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      • #4
        I've heard several racers of the time infer that Dallenbach was Dr. Nitrous.

        When I watch pit stops from that era, I always notice how much the driver is trying to talk to his crew. For the guys that had radios, communication was spotty at best.
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        • #5
          Also interesting that Jackie Stewart didn't like the opposite lane in the pits the year after Armando Teran was killed by a fire truck going the opposite direction in the pits.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by dalz View Post
            I've heard several racers of the time infer that Dallenbach was Dr. Nitrous.
            I think it might have been Autoweek that reported on Dallenbach's car being torn down at Ontario that year, with many expecting to find nitrous. Nothing was found. They waggishly wrote something along the lines of: "Turns out the nitrous was hooked to Wally, not the car."
            "Versions of a story that are more tidy, compact, and camera-ready should generally be viewed as historically suspect." - Jackson Landers

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            • #7
              Originally posted by DaveL View Post

              The Patrick team had a turbocharger unit that was larger than what everyone else was using. The whispers were that it would blow more than the allowable 80" but there was never any proof. Johncock's car ran all day.

              Big turbo or not, for all of the nostalgia about them, Offenhausers were very unreliable. It was common for 3-5 cars to be out of the race before ten laps were run. It was accepted as a given.
              The other thing to tell about this turbocharger deal was that supposedly Bignotti had installed the bigger blowers during qualifying with the intention to swap to a smaller type, more suitable for race day later on. Then he was told to race the car as it was qualified, thus no longer possible to change the blower. One of the reasons he wanted to change was supposedly that using the bigger blower, the fuel consumption figures would be up.

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              • #8
                There was a story that the huge blower was to get around the pop-off valve limits, it would blow so much air in that the USAC-mandated pop-off valve could not cope with it all, and so there would be more air forced in than for "legal" cars. Bignotti knew it would be too much stress for the engine so planned to take it off. But USAC stopped him. Cars had to race in the same configuration with which they had qualified.
                "An emphasis was placed on drivers with road racing backgrounds which meant drivers from open wheel, oval track racing were at a disadvantage. That led Tony George to create the IRL." -Indy Review 1996

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                • #9
                  Like Dave said, it was normal for a few cars to fall out right off the bat.
                  On the ‘74 radio broadcast Freddie Agabashian also comments on how critical getting the fuel mix right was and the way atmospheric changes affected it.
                  IIRC he says there was enough difference in the weather between Carb Day and Race Day that could cause a mix that worked Thursday to be lean on Race Day, exacerbating the problem and leading to burnt pistons and dropped valves.
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by DaveL View Post

                    Big turbo or not, for all of the nostalgia about them, Offenhausers were very unreliable. It was common for 3-5 cars to be out of the race before ten laps were run. It was accepted as a given.
                    Well, the core engine was in it's fourth decade by then and had been gutted and reborn multiple times during that period; mostly to increase output and reliability was a necessary casualty as part of that process. Different minds, different times. It's what makes nostalgia fun and debatable among us.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by JThur1 View Post
                      I think it might have been Autoweek that reported on Dallenbach's car being torn down at Ontario that year, with many expecting to find nitrous. Nothing was found. They waggishly wrote something along the lines of: "Turns out the nitrous was hooked to Wally, not the car."
                      Thanks for a solid nugget of evidence on the matter.

                      Were there turbo boost limits imposed by then, with the unloved pop-off valves? Or just fuel limits? If not, how did they reduce qualifying speeds from the previous year? Did a smaller wing make that much of a difference?
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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by dalz View Post

                        Thanks for a solid nugget of evidence on the matter.

                        Were there turbo boost limits imposed by then, with the unloved pop-off valves? Or just fuel limits? If not, how did they reduce qualifying speeds from the previous year? Did a smaller wing make that much of a difference?
                        The boost was limited to 80" (the max Ol' AJ's engine could handle without overheating but that's another story) via a pop off valve for 1974. Limiting boost and reducing the size of the wing kept qualifying speeds down. Limiting fuel capacity in the cars and for the race meant they had to run slower than they qualified for the fuel to last for 500 miles. So it was a combination of several things.
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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Truth Detector View Post
                          Crazy.

                          JR won the race and I just saw him make a 22.9 second pitstop.
                          Not too shaggy for taking on 40 gallons instead of today's 18 gallons.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Truth Detector View Post
                            Also interesting that Jackie Stewart didn't like the opposite lane in the pits the year after Armando Teran was killed by a fire truck going the opposite direction in the pits.
                            I imagine in 1974 everyone just wanted to get a couple safe quiet weekends in and then 200 uneventful laps just to get rid of the dirty aftertaste of the previous year

                            I wasn't there. Was there a weird vibe in the air in 1974 because the previous year was such a disaster?
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KevMcNJ View Post

                              I imagine in 1974 everyone just wanted to get a couple safe quiet weekends in and then 200 uneventful laps just to get rid of the dirty aftertaste of the previous year

                              I wasn't there. Was there a weird vibe in the air in 1974 because the previous year was such a disaster?
                              It's hard to tell from the TV broadcast, but after the fact there are quotes from various parties that were glad the month was pretty clean. A book I have on 500 history:

                              "I hope," Rutherford said, "this race eases some people's minds, that we're not a bunch of idiots trying to rub out a lot of people."

                              "We needed a race like this." a relieved Speedway official told newspaperman Ray Marquette. "My God, how we needed one like this."
                              Also from the book--the usual tradition of cars racing for 5 minutes after the winner finished ended abruptly this year after people began pouring onto the track as soon as the winner got the checkered. The yellow was shown immediately after Bobby Unser crossed the line 2nd, and the extra racing time was gone for good.
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