MILLER: The 1970s – a decade in headlines

Motorsport Images

MILLER: The 1970s – a decade in headlines

Insights & Analysis

MILLER: The 1970s – a decade in headlines

By

1972

Viceroy shows up as sponsor for VPJ’s Super Team of Mario Andretti, Al Unser and Joe Leonard and Marlboro pulls its title sponsorship because it had requested exclusivity from any other tobacco companies. Marlboro goes on to spend millions of dollars over the next three decades sponsoring IndyCar teams.

After years of coming close, Foyt finally wins the Daytona 500.

Penske’s 1-2 punch of George Follmer and Donohue dominates the Can Am series and wins six of nine races with a Porsche 917.

Jim Malloy finally scores a first-class ride for the Indy 500 but is killed during practice, apparently trying to run wide-open in Turn 3.

Bobby Unser obliterates the IMS track record by 16mph in Gurney’s new Eagle to win the Indy pole at 196mph.

Team Penske wins at Indianapolis for the first time after Gary Bettenhausen dominates but breaks down 17 laps from the finish and gives the victory to teammate Mark Donohue in a McLaren that is light-years ahead of everyone except Gurney. “If a Bettenhausen can’t win with the car I had today, I don’t think we’ll ever win Indianapolis,” says the second-generation star whose father (Tony) was killed at IMS in 1961. Two weeks later in his IndyCar debut at MIS, younger brother Merle loses his right arm and is badly burned in a crash.

Merle and Gary Bettenhausen take in qualifying. Image by John Mahoney

1973

The longest, cruelest Indy 500 finally ends three days after it started in a rain-shortened 133 laps with Gordon Johncock the weary victor. His teammate, Swede Savage was critically injured in an horrific crash but as he was being loaded into the ambulance he told a crewman: “Tell my dad I’m going to be OK.” Art Pollard lost his life in practice and crewman Armando Teran was killed in pit lane, while Salt Walther suffered severe burns in a first-lap pileup that red-flagged Indy for the third time since 1964. Savage died on July 2.

A year after his devastating accident, Merle Bettenhausen wins a USAC midget race at Johnson City, Tenn. on the last lap driving with a hook instead of a right hand.

Penske’s latest Porsche 917 produces as much as 1,300 horsepower and dominates the competition again (winning six of eight races) as Mark Donohue comes out the champion. The engine rules for 1974 will be rewritten to try and balance competition.

USAC denies Donohue’s entry into the Schaefer 500 at Pocono because he does not hold a USAC license and it’s not registered as a full international event. Pocono had accepted the entry of the inaugural winner at the tri-oval in 1971 and 1972 Indy 500 winner. This is also a few days after Penske purchased MIS.

USAC comes to its senses and allows Donohue to race at Pocono, but Bill Marvel resigns as general manager.

Foyt’s lawsuit against Sports Illustrated is headed for Federal Court in Houston. S.I. wrote a story claiming Super Tex used the words “hillbilly” and f*****” in describing a couple drivers in the 1971 Questor Grand Prix, which the three-time Indy winner denied. A.J. ends up winning a six-figure settlement.

Bob Sharp wins the SCCA National for B Production at Nelson Ledges, Ohio in his Datsun 610 and teammate Paul Newman finished third.

Francois Cevert is killed at Watkins Glen during F1 practice and Jackie Stewart, who is set to retire after the final race, quits on the spot.

1974

Mike Mosley starts last and finishes first ahead of Bobby Unser, Foyt, Johncock and Andretti at Phoenix to give A.J. Watson the final win of his illustrious IndyCar career.

Nine years after his only win at Atlanta, Johnny Rutherford storms from 25th in his McLaren to capture the first of his three Indianapolis 500s.

Country Music Magazine will sponsor Marty Robbins on the reminder of the NASCAR circuit.

Gary Bettenhausen flips out of Syracuse, N.Y. in a dirt car and his left arm is rendered useless due to nerve damage. Penske fires him and he never gets another good chance to win Indy, but continues to compete through 1993 – finishing third in 1980 after starting last.

Jerry Miller’s fabulous book Fast Company is on sale for $6.95.

Parnelli Jones says he’s contemplating Alfa engines for his F1 effort with Mario in 1975.

The L.A. Times switches its sponsorship from the Can-Am race at Riverside to the NASCAR race at Ontario, citing “a broader base of interest.”

Penske unveils the F1 car he will campaign in 1975 – the PC-1 – designed by Geoff Ferris. Asked about the driver, The Captain replied, “It won’t be me and it won’t be Mark.’’ The rumor is that R.P. had been to France to talk to Ronnie Peterson and Jochen Mass about driving for him in ’75.

Jackie Oliver leads a 1-2 sweep for Shadow in Can-Am at Road Atlanta with teammate George Follmer second.

Hurley Haywood wins the Camel GT race at Daytona by three laps.

More RACER