Note from Paul: In 1954, my father, David Dalbey, attended his first Indianapolis 500 with his father and aunt. Several years later, he started recording his experiences in detailed, handwritten journals. He has continued this practice all the way through the current year. Several of the earliest years were written many years later and may contain some errors in information. He was not a wordsmith, but nonetheless, I am pleased to present these journals in their original form without attempt to edit or correct any mistakes.
The winning of the pole position for a record-tying fourth time by A.J. Foyt, the close fight for the lead during the race, and the heat and rain on race day were highlights of this year’s activity at the Speedway.
From a personal viewpoint, it was my first race since becoming a father and the first year I stayed at a motel while either going to or coming home from the race.
On Saturday morning, May 24th, I packed all of my belongings into our 1975 Chevrolet Caprice and then ate dinner. After dinner, I made a last check to be sure I had everything on my list, and at 12:20, I said goodbye to Dixie and my boy, Mark, and started on my 21st trip to the race.
The weather looked threatening when I left, and I didn’t even get to Riverton before the first drops fell. It turned out to be a light, short shower, and when I reached Dawson, it had stopped.
The traffic moved slowly in both directions, and it took 55-60 minutes to reach Decatur, which I think is the longest time it’s taken to get there on any of my trips. The slow traffic continued for a few miles east of Decatur, and then it improved considerably. It was 2:45 when I stopped in front of the Colonial Kitchen in Chrisman.
I stretched my legs and arms for a few seconds and then went in and found a seat. The place was almost empty of people, and there were no more than six customers at a time while I was there. I had a cup of coffee and a dish of vanilla ice cream, both of which tasted good. When I finished my coffee, I used the restroom, and then at 3:02 I started on the second part of my trip.
Ten minutes later, at 3:12, I crossed the state line and started the up-and-down, twisting ride to the Speedway. The Raccoon Lake State Recreation Area is an attractive area, and the lake was replete with boaters taking advantage of the good weather.
I took Route 36 all the way to Lynhurst Drive and stopped at the Standard filling station at the intersection of the two roads and filled the gasoline tank. Lynhurst Drive is a four-lane road now and a tremendous improvement from several years ago when it was only two lanes.
The traffic on Crawfordsville Road was quite heavy and moved slowly, but I managed to get to Auburn Street, and at 4:53 PM I arrived at the Bray house. It had taken 4 hours and 16 minutes of travelling time to make the trip.
Mrs. Bray was sitting in her front yard talking with two of her sons and some friends and race fans and seemed pleased to see me. I took my suitcase upstairs and then joined the people for some informal socializing. We talked for quite a while, and then I went to the Speedway Museum.
The scene around the museum was the same as in past years. There was a long line of people waiting to tour the museum, and there were also a few persons still trying to buy tickets for the race.
There didn’t appear to be any exhibits I hadn’t seen before, so I went to the souvenir counter to see if there was anything I might want to buy. The souvenir programs for the race were being sold, and I decided to buy mine now instead of at the race tomorrow. I gave the sales clerk a $10 bill for four programs and was thoroughly shocked when she said $8 and only gave me $2 in change. I could hardly believe that the price had doubled in just one year.
I went back to the house and left my programs and then drove to the MCL Cafeteria in the shopping center on Crawfordsville Road. The cafeteria was doing a steady business, but I had no trouble finding a seat, which made me happy. For my supper, I had breaded veal cutlet, mashed potatoes with gravy, baked beans, a roll and butter, and Coca-Cola. The cost was a few cents over $2, which I felt was reasonable. The food was good, and the atmosphere was pleasant.
It was between 8:00 and 8:30 when I left and I window-shopped in some of the stores and then drove to the Dunkin Donuts shop and had a cup of coffee and a couple donuts for dessert.
When I returned to the house, it was almost dark, and I decided to take a walk around the area and see what was happening. Because of the trouble of recent years, I decided not to walk on Georgetown Road and just walked a short distance east on 16th Street and then came back. I went into the drugstore at 16th and Main Streets with the hope of buying a little souvenir for Mark. Most of the race and Speedway merchandise was either too junky or too old for Mark, so I didn’t buy anything. I also tried the drugstore a block south on Main Street but I had the same luck.
It was about 10:00 when I returned to the house. Most of the people were sitting in the yard because it was cooler there than in the house, but I wanted to read the newspaper I had brought, so I sat in the living room and did that. I had the house to myself except for somebody coming in once in a while to use the bathroom or telephone.
I decided to take advantage of nobody being in the house and used the bathroom without feeling I had to hurry because somebody was waiting to use it after me. Earlier, I had decided that I would shave now instead of in the morning, and I was glad I did.
It was a few minutes before 12:00 when my day came to an end. There was much noise coming from the wild activity on Crawfordsville Road and there was almost no wind to cool my hot, uncomfortable room, but after a couple minutes I went to sleep and wasn’t awaked at all during the night.
I had brought my electric alarm clock from home and set it to ring at 6:00. When I woke up and looked to see what time it was, it was between 5:55 and 6:00. I immediately turned the alarm off and lay in bed for a couple minutes and listened to the noise coming from downstairs and outdoors.
When the couple minutes had passed, I got up, got dressed, made the bed, and combed my hair. Mrs. Bray was serving breakfast again this year, so I went downstairs and joined some other people who were already eating. I sat at the dining room table and had it to myself until I was almost finished and three young persons joined me. The meal was two eggs, two pieces of bacon, two pieces of toast, and either milk or coffee to drink. I chose the milk. The meal cost $2.50, tasted good, and was a fine way to start the day. When I finished, I washed my teeth, got all of my equipment put into my carrying bag, and left for the Speedway. It was about 7:00 now.
The restaurant across the street from the main entrance to the Speedway was doing a good business, and I stopped to have my Thermos bottle filled. Because of the heat, I wanted to get Pepsi-Cola instead of the usual coffee. The person who waited on me told me they sold soda by the cup only and they couldn’t sell it in a Thermos bottle. This didn’t make sense to me, but I didn’t want to argue and there were people waiting in line behind me, so I ordered coffee even though I felt that I wouldn’t use much of it.
Before I went into the Speedway grounds, I took a few pictures with both of my cameras of the entrance area. It was about 7:30 when I went through the turnstiles. My reason for coming to the Speedway earlier than usual was to go to the gift shop and buy something for Mark. As it turned out, I was glad I didn’t get there any later then I did. There were several shoppers there when I arrived, but before I left, a Speedway safety patrolman was needed. He would only allow as many persons to enter the building as there were leaving. If two persons left the building, then only two persons could enter. I didn’t see much of what I wanted, but I finally bought a white sweater with a picture of the Control Tower and the words Indianapolis Motor Speedway on it.
There were several souvenir stands set up on my way to the tunnel, and I stopped at one of them and bought a little beanie. I wasn’t sure of Mark’s head size, so I bought one that I thought looked about right. When I got home and put it on Mark’s head it was just the right size, so for once I guessed something correctly.
There were several concession stands along the way to the Gate 7 tunnel, and because of the heat, I stopped at one of them and bought a Coca-Cola. This was the first time I could remember buying a cold drink before I arrived at my seat. The traffic was heavy but not to the extent that it was crushing.
As I started through the tunnel, I looked up and saw the Control Tower and the pit area and heard the public address announcer and the sound of some of the engines being tested. That brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye.
I didn’t go directly to my seat but instead toured the infield area behind the Tower Terrace seats to see if there was anything or anybody that might appeal to me as a cameraman. I was there for a few minutes and then left to go to my seat.
As I was walking, I came upon the information booth of the Goodyear Motor Sports Club. There was a man tending the booth, so I stopped and we talked for a couple minutes. I had joined the new club earlier in the year, and this was the first race I attended as a club member.
It was about 9:00 when I entered the Tower Terrace area. The sight and sound of the cars and the crowd was pleasing, and I decided to walk along the pit area and observe as much as I could. All of the cars were in their pit areas and were being attended to in one or more ways. Unlike most years, I didn’t see many drivers or celebrities that I recognized, although I felt sure there were as many as usual. I walked down to the entrance to Gasoline Alley and then walked back to my seat. It was 9:30 when I arrived at my yearly seat in section 43, row J, seat 5.
I sat down in my seat, put my equipment under the seat, and then relaxed for a couple minutes and rested my feet and legs. Then I introduced myself to my two companions for this year’s race, Willy Moats and his wife.
Ted and Margaret had originally planned to use my two other tickets, but 30 minutes before I left home on Saturday Ted called and said his father-in-law was getting remarried on Sunday and therefore he and Margaret couldn’t go this year. He then told me that a friend of his at work, Willy Moats, and his wife would be happy to take their places. Ted and I were both disappointed that he couldn’t go, but I was glad he was able to find a last-minute substitute.
Willy and his wife were both real quiet, shy persons who neither smoked nor drank, and these traits made them real pleasant race companions.
I watched the bands parade up and down the straightaway and the hectic activity in the pits as the 10:00 hour approached. At 9:45, the announcement came over the PA system for the pit crews to push their cars to their starting positions on the racetrack. This drew a cheer from the audience as they realized the zero-hour of 11:00 was getting close.
Between 10:00 and 10:30, the many celebrities were introduced over the PA system. Most of them were TV names that I didn’t recognize, but I knew the names of Bob Barker, Jackie Cooper, and Jimmy Dean.
The heat and humidity were quite high now, and it made me thirsty for a cold drink. I asked my companions to watch my equipment for me, and then I went to the nearest concession stand behind the Tower Terrace area and bought a large Pepsi-Cola. There were a lot of people still walking around, and many of them also stopped for a cold drink. I drank it slowly, and it felt real good.
It was about 10:15 when I returned to my seat, and at 10:20 the chief steward announced that the pit crews could run their engines for 10 minutes for a final check.
The testing period ended at 10:30, and then the Chief Steward and other USAC officials made the final inspection of the racetrack to see if it was ready for the race. Their trip ended with a cheer from the audience as they said it was ready for racing.
Now came the part of the pre-race ceremonies that always increases my heartbeat and sometimes makes me cry. Between 10:40 and 10:45, the Purdue University Band played The Star-Spangled Banner, and then Dr. Ray Montgomery, an Indianapolis minister, gave the invocation. This was followed immediately by the playing of Taps in keeping with the true meaning of Memorial Day. A couple minutes later, the band accompanied Jim Nabors as he sang the traditional final song Back Home Again in Indiana. The excitement was increasing with each passing minute.
A few seconds later, a loud, deep boom was heard from the infield area, and in a couple seconds, hundreds of multicolored balloons ascended over the Speedway in an awesome sight of beauty. While this was happening, Tom Carnegie, chief PA announcer, slowly and distinctly introduced Speedway president Tony Hulman, who a few minutes earlier had accepted a trophy on behalf of the Speedway upon its being listed on the National Register of Historical Places. Once again, Tony loudly, slowly, and distinctly gave his famous command, “GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES!”
A mighty cheer came from the huge crowd as the 33 big cars roared into life. It was a wonderful sight to see and hear. A member of each pit crew raised one arm to indicate his car and driver were ready to go. The drivers continued racing their engines, and about a minute later, the Buick pace car, driven by TV celebrity James Garner, slowly moved away toward the first turn as the field began the first of two pre-race laps.
The cars could be heard moving down the backstretch towards the north end of the track. A minute or so later, the field moved through the fourth turn and down the straightaway. The crowd responded with applause and cheering as the official pace lap began. Everybody was standing and looking at the fourth turn. A couple minutes later, the pace car appeared and quickly drove through the pit area. Pole position driver, A.J. Foyt, brought the field down slowly, and then about the time the front row reached the starting line, starter Pat Vidan waved the green flag and the race was on.
Gordon Johncock, starting in second position, jumped into the lead and was the first driver to reach the starting line. He was several feet ahead of Foyt and third-place starter Bobby Unser. As they reached the first turn, it was Johncock, Foyt, and Unser.
Johncock maintained his lead for eight laps before Foyt caught him on the ninth lap. Three laps later, Gordon pulled into his pit and was finished for the day, a victim of ignition failure.
Before Gordon came into his pit, however, two other drivers were already in their pits. Salt Walther was finished after two laps with ignition failure, and my perennial victor choice, Lloyd Ruby, had a short seven-lap race. Salt has been in four races and finished last in three of them. Lloyd started in sixth position in one of the McLaren cars and seemed to be destined for a good day, but his traditional bad luck arrived early this year, and there was a big moan from the crowd when he was finished after seven laps with a burned piston.
Foyt continued to lead through the 21st lap when he made his first pit stop, as did most of the other drivers. This gave the lead to Johnny Rutherford, who led only two laps before pulling into his pit.
At 20 laps or 50 miles, the first five cars were those of Foyt, Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Wally Dallenbach, and Bill Vukovich II.
Rookie Larry McCoy’s first race was a dismal one as he was forced to the sidelines after 25 laps with a burned piston.
The 1969 winner, Mario Andretti, was also having problems. He started 27th, and after making his first pit stop, his car stalled. He was pushed back to his pit, and the car was restarted and stalled again. On the third attempt, he kept the engine going and rejoined the field.
On his 42nd lap, Mike Hiss spun his car and hit the wall in the third turn. This brought out the yellow light for the first time in the race.
At 40 laps or 100 miles, the standings were Foyt, Rutherford, Bobby Unser, Dallenbach, and Al Unser.
Andretti’s problems didn’t end when he was able to keep his engine from stalling. On his 49th lap, he crashed into the wall and brought out the second caution flag of the race.
On his 59th lap, Wally Dallenbach moved to the front for the first time in his No. 40 Sinmast Wildcat Special. He proceeded to put on one of the finest individual performances in the race for several years. His car was running fine, and little by little he was pulling away from the rest of the field. He led through the 69th lap when he made a pit stop and yielded the lead to Foyt for one lap.
The green flag was displayed again on the leader’s 71st lap after almost five minutes of caution time because of Andretti’s crash.
After 80 laps or 200 miles, the first five positions were held by Dallenbach, Foyt, Bobby Unser, Rutherford, and Tom Sneva.
Dallenbach continued to run strong and almost seemed to be in a race by himself as the rest of the field tried in vain to catch him. At the halfway point, he was still in first position with the remainder of the first 10 made up of Rutherford, Foyt, Bobby Unser, Sneva, Johnny Parsons, George Snider, Sam Sessions, Bobby Allison, and Bill Puterbaugh.
Meanwhile, John Martin was forced to the sidelines on his 62nd lap with radiator trouble, and Mike Mosley, fifth-place starter, left after 94 laps with engine failure.
Shortly past the 100-lap mark, there was a series of pit stops by the leaders which resulted in the lead constantly changing. At 300 miles, the first five positions were held by Dallenbach, Foyt, Bobby Unser, Rutherford, and Sneva.
On his 127th lap, Sneva made his exit from the race in a most spectacular, undesirable way. He was going through the second turn when he tangled with rookie Eldon Rasmussen. His car hit the outside wall and did a complete flip in the air. At the same time, the car seemed to explode, and pieces of the car, including Sneva himself, were thrown in every direction. Luckily, the car landed right side up, and miraculously, Tom suffered only minor burns. The track emergency crew got him out of his burning car, and he was able to walk to an ambulance. By a slight twist of fate, he could just as easily have been killed. For being such a terrible crash, it had a wonderful ending in that Sneva was not injured any more than he was.
Sneva’s crash naturally brought out the yellow flag, and it remained out for 25 minutes. Many drivers took advantage of the caution period and made pit stops, including Dallenbach, who retained his lead while making his pit stop. When the green flag was displayed on the 141st lap, the leaders were Dallenbach, Bobby Unser, Rutherford, and Foyt.
Leaving the race were Bobby Allison on his 113th lap with a broken gearbox, Eldon Rasmussen on his 120th lap with a leaky O-ring, and Johnny Parsons on his 138th lap with a broken transmission shaft.
The next round of pit stops came at about the 160-lap mark. Dallenbach stopped at his pit and in doing so relinquished the lead to Rutherford, who in turn also pitted and yielded the lead to Bobby Unser.
Then misfortune hit Dallenbach. Coming down the straightaway to complete his 161st lap, his car sputtered and sounded sick. The next time around, he came slowly through the pit area and was finished for the day with a brown piston. It was a big let-down for many of the fans, including me. I was beginning to hope he could win the race, not because I’m a Wally Dallenbach fan but because he was the only one of the leaders who hadn’t won the race previously. Wally had the race to himself for several laps, but now his No. 40 Sinmast Wildcat was on the sidelines.
On the 164th lap, Bobby Unser became the leader with Rutherford second and Foyt third.
As he was coming down the main straightaway on the leaders’ 170th lap, Gary Bettenhausen gave the fans in that area their biggest excitement of the day. Something broke on his car and caused him to crash into the outside wall almost directly in front of me. His right rear wheel came off, and the tire tore into several pieces. I did not see his initial contact with the wall but did see him hit the wall several more times as his car bounced wildly toward the first turn. It was a frightening sight to see, but Gary did a masterful job of keeping the car under control and not getting in the way of any other drivers.
Gary’s wreck brought the yellow flag out, and this brought about more pit stops. Unser and Rutherford came in to top off their fuel tanks in preparations for the drive to the finish line.
While the pit stops were being made and the debris from Bettenhausen’s crash was being cleaned up, that most unwelcome visitor – rain – arrived on the scene. I gasped and moaned in disbelief as I saw the first few drops, and then within just a few seconds the clouds opened up and a gulley washer covered the Speedway. It had been cloudy for some time, but the rain was not predicted until late in the afternoon, well after the end of the race.
The storm came so fast that almost nobody could escape it. My two companions, the Moats, had left a few minutes earlier in anticipation of the rain so that they could get to shelter. I had no rain protection at all with me, so I could do nothing but sit or stand there and take it. I got under my seat, but that provided no protection because it seemed to be coming from every direction.
Meanwhile, on the race track, starter Pat Vidan waved the yellow flag and then a few seconds later did likewise with the red flag, thus ending all activity on the track. Several cars, including those of Steve Krisiloff, Bill Puterbough, Jimmy Caruthers, and Bentley Warren got out of control because their tires lost all traction on the wet pavement. This caused several spins and minor crashes, but there were no injuries.
After a few minutes, the intensity of the rain subsided and then quit. By now, the water on the track and in the pit area was several inches deep. Although I didn’t see it, Bobby Unser drove his No. 48 Jorgenson Eagle to Victory Lane at a very slow pace but still threw water to both sides in doing so.
Several minutes after the rain stopped, some of the pit crews returned and gathered up their equipment and took it back to their garages. The large amount of water made the job quite unpleasant.
When the pit area was almost empty, I gathered up all of my equipment and walked to the garage area. The pedestrian traffic was still quite heavy but was gradually diminishing. In the garage area, all of the cars were being given their post-race inspection by USAC officials, and therefore it was still off-limits to everybody without a pass.
While I was waiting to get into the garage area, I looked around and saw a postal colleague of mine, Rob Atkins, and his wife walking to their car. I caught his attention, and we stopped and talked for several minutes about what had happened so far. I knew he was at the race but certainly hadn’t planned on seeing him.
It was after 4:00 when all the cars were inspected and the gates were thrown open to everybody. The only drivers I saw were Johnny Rutherford and Lloyd Ruby. They were teammates and were wearing everyday casual clothes by now, but I had no trouble recognizing them when I saw them. There wasn’t much to see in the garage area, so I made a quick walk around the place and then headed for the exit.
I hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so I stopped at the White Castle restaurant across from the Speedway entrance and had two cheeseburgers, french fries, and a cup of coffee. The cheeseburgers were quite small and cost only $0.24 each, but they tasted delicious. My hunger wasn’t completely satiated but I felt better, and now it wouldn’t seem so long until supper.
Before I returned to the house, I went to see Bud and Helen Kramer. My knock on the door was answered by Mrs. Kramer, and she seemed most happy to see me. Bud was asleep after being up all night parking cars, so Mrs. Kramer and I sat in the living room and had a friendly visit with each other. We talked for several minutes about the race, weather, and her customers, and she inquired about Bobby and Dad.
It was about 6:00 when I arrived at Mrs. Bray’s house. She was sitting on her lawn sofa, and two of her other roomers and I joined her and rested our feet for a few minutes. We visited for a few minutes, and then the other roomers and I got our equipment put into our cars, paid our bills, and went our separate ways. It was 6:25 when I left the house.
Most of the race crowd was already out of the Speedway area, so I had no problem with the traffic. The traffic on Crawfordsville Road was almost back to normal. It certainly was a relief not to have to wait an hour just to get to I-74. When I passed through the last intersection with a stop light, I found an Indianapolis radio station that was playing enjoyable music and settled back for the ride to Danville.
The ride was not without interruption. The weather was still unsettled with dark skies and lightning and thunder a common occurrence. Despite all these ominous signs, there was little rain, and only two or three times was it necessary to use the wiper blades.
It was 7:45 when I reached Danville, and a few minutes later I arrived at the Holiday Inn. Two days before, on Friday morning, I had gone to the Holiday Inn South in Springfield and made a reservation for Sunday night. By doing that, I was assured of having a room when I arrived. I parked in the first parking lot of the motel and then went inside and registered. My room was on the second floor, so I got my suitcase and went to my room.
I was eager to see the ABC same-day telecast of the race, which was shown from 7:30 to 9:30. I turned the TV set on only to find, much to my chagrin, that the set didn’t work. I thought about asking somebody at the reservation desk about the trouble but remembered it was Sunday night and there probably wouldn’t be anybody to fix it, so instead I got out a newspaper I had with me and sat in a soft chair, took off my shoes, and read the newspaper.
By 8:45 I was rather hungry, so I went downstairs to the dining room. I was shown to a table by the hostess and given a menu. There were only eight other customers in the room. My table was only a few feet from the swimming pool, and as I looked out, I could see it was raining again, although only lightly. When I looked at the menu and saw the cheapest meal was $3.25, I was unpleasantly surprised.
I looked over all the choices and prices and selected spaghetti and meatballs. It had been a long time since I had eaten that and it sounded good, so I ordered it. When the waitress brought the food, it didn’t look like much for $3.50, but I had a surprise coming. Before the main meal, she fixed me a huge round bowl full of mixed salad. It was one of the biggest servings of salad I had ever seen or eaten.
When I finished the salad, the waitress brought a large, oblong-shaped dish of spaghetti and meat balls. It was a big serving and tasted delicious. If I hadn’t been as hungry as I was, I don’t think I could have eaten all of it. By the time I reached the end, I could hardly move off my chair. My previous unpleasant thought about the $3.50 charge had changed now as I realized I was getting all I could eat.
At the table next to me was a young couple who were on their way home from the race and were spending the night at the motel before moving on on Monday. We talked for several minutes, and then they left because they were done eating.
It was about 9:45 when I paid my bill and left for my room. The light rain had stopped, and now it was a real pleasant evening – not too hot, cool, or windy. The two cups of coffee and two glasses of water I had for supper didn’t relieve my feeling of thirst, so I decided to buy some soda and see if that would help. I was out of luck, however, because all the machines at the motel were empty. There was nothing to do but return to my room and drink water.
As I started to open the door, I noticed a note on the door handle. It was a memorandum saying my wife had called me and just wanted me to know she had called. The message aroused my curiosity, so I went to the service counter to inquire about it. I talked to the man who took the message. He said she had called about an hour ago and, since I wasn’t in my room, said to leave a note to the effect that she had called but that it wasn’t necessary for me to return the call.
I went back to my room and finished my reading and then took a leisurely, relaxing bath and then shaved so I wouldn’t have to in the morning. I felt clean but tired now and it was about 11:00, so I lay down on the soft, comfortable bed, pulled up the sheet and blanket, and thus ended a long and memorable day in my life.
It was about 6:00 when I started the new day. I had set my alarm clock for 6:00, but since I woke up before then, I shut it off so it wouldn’t scare me. The soft bed and cool room felt fine, so I lay in bed for a few minutes before arising. When I got up, I washed my teeth, combed my hair, got dressed, packed my suitcase, checked to see I hadn’t left anything, and then went downstairs and turned in my key.
When I stopped outside, the air felt fresh and cool from the light rain of the previous evening, and I told myself it was going to be a pleasant drive to Chrisman. Because of the early hour and the day being a holiday, there was almost no traffic, which made for good driving. I met only a few cars on Route 1, and it was about 7:20 when I arrived at the Colonial Kitchen.
There were several persons there, but it wasn’t crowded. I decided to change my usual way and ordered from the menu instead of going through the line and serving myself. The menu didn’t offer a big selection, but most of the choices sounded good. I ordered ham, hashed brown potatoes, and toast to eat, and coffee and orange juice to drink. It had been a long time since I had eaten hashed brown potatoes and I was anxious to try them again. The waitress was pleasant, the service was good, and the food tasted fine, all of which made a pleasant meal. When I finished, I used the restroom, paid the bill, and then left for home. It was one minute after 8:00 when I drove out of the parking lot onto Route 36.
The flooding in the fields I saw on Saturday hadn’t subsided much, and about the only traffic I saw was an occasional farmer on a tractor or in a pick-up truck. It was about 9:15 when I arrived at Decatur, which was the liveliest place I had seen yet along the way. There wasn’t much traffic the rest of the way. I had decided earlier to stop and see Dad and Bobby and give them the details of my trip before I went to my house, so I turned south from North Grand Avenue and stopped at their house. When I saw the car missing, I thought they might be gone, but I decided to try anyway. I tried both the front and back doors but couldn’t rouse anybody, so I went on home. It was between 10:30 and 11:00 when I arrived at my house. I brought in all of my equipment and put it away. Another trip to the big race was safely completed. Like all of my previous 20 trips, it was one that I would remember for a long time.
The official finish listed Bobby Unser, Rutherford, and Foyt as having completed 174 laps or 435 miles. Nobody can say for sure who would have won the race if it had gone the full distance, but barring any mechanical trouble or other misfortune, it would have been a close race between the first three finishers.
Sophomore driver Duane Carter finished fourth. This is remarkable in that it wasn’t known until shortly before the start of the race if he would be in the race. He severely damaged his car in the carburetion tests a couple days before the race, and his pit crew worked around the clock to have the car ready by 11:00 Sunday morning.
Veteran Roger McCluskey took fifth-place honors. This was Roger’s 14th race and his second-best finish. He was third in 1973.
Finishing sixth was Bill Vukovich II. This was Bill’s eighth race and the fifth time he has finished in the first 10, which certainly is a fine record.
Seventh place was taken by Bill Puterbaugh. Bill had been trying for several years to qualify for the race, but this was his first year to do so. His fine performance earned him Rookie of the Year honors.
For the first time in his 11 races, George Snider finished in the first 10 with an eighth place finish. He was probably one of the happiest drivers after this year’s race. In his other races he was victimized by mechanical trouble, but this year he finally avoided it.
Tough-luck driver Wally Dallenbach led 96 laps, more than any other driver, but unfortunately for him, one of them wasn’t the 174th lap. He drove a great race and was a favorite with the fans, but he still hasn’t been around at the finish of any of his races at Indy.
The combination of Bob Harkey and Salt Walther drove to the 10th-place finish. Salt’s own car broke down after two laps and he replaced Harkey, who was his teammate. It was a tough break for Bob, but things happen that way sometimes.
The weather, which played such an important role in the race, caused no trouble at all during the time trials. It seems strange, particularly after the mess of last year, that there could be four qualifying days without a drop of rain, but it happened this year. In fact, it was one of the driest and warmest Mays in Speedway history.
The close battle for the lead, the spectacular crash of Tom Sneva, and the premature finish are certainly big factors for which many people will remember this year’s race.
My overnight stay at the Holiday Inn in Danville was a memorable highlight of this year’s trip. It took the strain and fatigue out of making the complete trip home after the race, and it was close enough to home so that I didn’t have to worry about getting home in time to be at work at 3:00 on Monday. The television and radio sets didn’t work, but otherwise, the room was fine.
As I was driving home on Monday morning I was thinking about the motel room, and I could not remember packing the little electric alarm clock in the suitcase before I left. When I got home and unpacked, there was no clock in the suitcase. As soon as I finished unpacking, I called the motel and told the desk clerk what had happened and asked her if they could mail it to me. She replied that they would be happy to send it. It arrived eight days later, on Tuesday of the following week.
Willy Moats and his wife were pleasant race companions. I was most thankful that they were quiet and non-drinking persons.
Another month of May has come and gone at the Speedway. Like all those other Mays that have come before it in past years, it was different from any of the others. Next year will be the 60th 500, and once again I plan to be there to see the Greatest Spectacle in Racing — the Indy 500.
Pace Car — Buick Century
500 Festival Queen — Kathryn Ball