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1977 Indianapolis 500

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  • #16
    Originally posted by ensign14 View Post

    I put that down to USAC banning rear-engine sprint cars. From then onwards, about the only US drivers to make it at Indy were those who raced in their formative years on road circuits. Even Rick Mears , for all his Baja-type experience, cut his single-seater teeth in FVee and F5000 rather than front-engined oval cars.

    I do not know whether the skills of driving a rear-engine sprint car could have translated over to Indycar, although the evidence of Tom Sneva suggests the answer is yes. But they would surely be a better fit to Indycar than front-engined sprints.

    Hence the front of the field in 1979 was similar to the front of the field in 1969. Drivers who had switched from front to rear-engine along with everyone else, so there was no detriment to having raced front-engines on the way up. The next lot of drivers along - the Saldanas and Bubby Joneses - had to learn the new skills while at Indy itself, against drivers who had understood them long ago. At least for someone like, say, Hurley Haywood, the main thing to get used to was the step up in raw speed, not brand-new handling characteristics that muscle memory made even more difficult to master.
    Though Rick Mears did spend a year racing a '57 Chevy stock car at his local track, before moving over to SCCA club racing for various formula classes.

    I don't know if Tom Sneva ever raced a front-engined car until he got to the Midwest. He had plenty of rear-engined experience in the Northwest.

    USAC setting up a rear-engined sprint series, or backing sprint/midget drivers in lower formula series could have provided the transition. There were some oval track open wheel racers that ran in the Super Vee series when it was the support class (Stan Fox for one). The Groff brothers both started out racing midgets on dirt tracks, then switched to Super Vee and Indy Lights.
    "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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    • #17
      Originally posted by Tifositoo View Post

      Don't forget the first 200 mph laps.

      sneva-1977.png?mw=1200.png

      To commemorate Sneva’s record speed achievement on pit lane, local businessman and long-time Indy car sponsor Phil Hedback poured 200 silver dollars into Sneva’s helmet. Hedback had done the same with 150 silver dollars for Parnelli Jones when Jones eclipsed the 150-mph barrier in 1962.
      https://www.indianapolismotorspeedwa...500-04-22-2020
      It's a Hoosier thing, you wouldn't understand...

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      • #18
        Is it me, or were they waiting until the front row was practically on the yard of bricks before waving the green flag during these years?
        “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Sweaty Teddy View Post
          Is it me, or were they waiting until the front row was practically on the yard of bricks before waving the green flag during these years?
          Just about, though I would imagine some drivers were watching the lights instead of the starter. I wonder if it allowed for a slower start, and thus a slower turn one entry speed for the field?
          "For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air, we all cherish our children's future, and we are all mortal".

          John Kennedy at American University 1963

          "Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power"

          A. Lincoln

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Belanger99 View Post

            Just about, though I would imagine some drivers were watching the lights instead of the starter. I wonder if it allowed for a slower start, and thus a slower turn one entry speed for the field?
            I don't know. I think they were really focusing on "11 rows of 3", but the cars were already racing well before the flag was thrown.
            “America is all about speed. Hot, nasty, badass speed.” - Eleanor Roosevelt

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            • #21
              One of my favorite 500’s, and not just because AJ got #4.
              A common take is “AJ won because Gordy blew up.”
              If you go back and listen to the radio broadcast and watch the TV coverage, it becomes clear that AJ had a strategy, followed it to the letter and the end result wasn’t luck.
              Early in the radio broadcast, Freddie Agabashian makes two points that come into play.
              First, in response to a prompt from Paul Page he describes the various engines in the race.
              He describes the Foyt Ford as being “A stout engine”.
              He says Gordy’s Offy is “Also a stout engine, but has sacrificed some horsepower for reliability.”
              After the first round of pit stops, he says Foyt has been following Gordy and “Taking the measure Of Johncock”.
              He also points out AJ is getting better mileage by 4-5 laps and will push Gordy hard without overextending his car and then crank it up at the end, which is exactly what he does.
              On the TV broadcast about 3/4 through the race Jim Gilmore says AJ has plenty of fuel and can run full rich to the end.
              Bignotti is a little more circumspect about Gordy’s fuel situation.
              After the last round of pit stops Gordy had a 15+ second lead which AJ begins cutting into about a second a lap.
              With 15 laps to go it’s about a 5 second lead and Gordy blows.
              AJ’s plan to run Gordy hard all day then go after him at the end pays off.
              At the rate Foyt was closing it’s my belief he would have caught Johncock regardless but it became moot when Gordy’s up until that moment stout engine went poof.
              A textbook example that ol’ SuperTex, hot headed in the pits and garage was as cool as the center seed in a cucumber when the green dropped.
              “With the help of God and true friends, I come to realize
              I still got two strong legs, even wings to fly
              I ain’t wastin’ time no more...”

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              • #22
                Well said, jandj. Frankly I miss the old days of mechanics trying to balance power and durability. It made for better racing.
                Center Grove Trojans
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                Center Grove Jr. Trojans
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                • #23
                  I think the whole era was summed up simplistically but eloquently by Sam Posey in his 1991 pre-race piece on A.J., in the form of a story told to his young son.

                  In 1977 A.J. won his 4th 500 in a car he and his Dad built themselves, engine and all. They won, but racing was beginning to change. Soon the things A.J was good at wouldn't matter so much. The new idea was to build cars a lot like airplanes, which made them very expensive. Car owners like Roger Penske wore suits and built their cars with computers and wind tunnels in factories, while A.J. and his Dad just had their shop. A.J. didn't want to raise money and wear suits, he just wanted to race.
                  Last edited by dalz; 06-16-2020, 08:54 PM.
                  You have the IndyCar you deserve.

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