Springfield, Ill. (August 19, 1980) – Bobby Olivero gambled on his tires - and lost. Pancho Carter gambled on the track - and won the USAC Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 dirt car race.
Carter gambled that the little-used ruts high on the track’s final turn would give him the edge, and shot past Olivero on the last lap to Tuesday's accident-marred, rain-plagued race.
“I took a gamble and ran up there. I was faster up there. It paid off,” said Carter, 30, of Brownsburg, Ind. “I knew Bobby had changed to softer tires, and they were blistering. I could afford to get my tires hotter up high in the ruts.”
The race was stopped for about 40 minutes after a spectacular, three car pileup on the 74th lap sent three drivers to a local hospital, two of them just for observation.
“All three were conscious and doing fine,” officials said. Bill Puterbaugh of Speedway, Ind., had the most serious injuries. Memorial Medical Center officials were working Tuesday night to determine if he had suffered fractures in a hand and shoulder.
Robert Smith, of Gibsonton, Fla., suffered a sprained shoulder, USAC officials said. Mack McClellan was doused with fuel when his car’s tank burst and was being held for observation.
All three cars were flipped upside down and heavily damaged in the crash. USAC observer Carl McCormack said Puterbaugh's car apparently slowed, and the other two drivers plowed into him.
“Man, those others hit him, and they all just started flipping,” said McCormack.
Olivero, the defending race champion, took advantage of the red flag to change to softer tires to increase his car's traction and speed. He knew he was gambling that they would last the final 26 laps in the muggy, 95-degree heat.
“The tires started blistering on the last lap, and that slowed me down,” said Olivero. “It was a gamble on our part. It would have worked if the race had been two laps shorter."
Carter had led only two laps before his finale. Pole-sitter Larry Rice, of Brownsburg, Ind., led through lap 18 and blew an engine. Tom Bigelow led from the 19th lap until his drive shaft broke only moments after the three-car pileup. Olivero then took command. Rich Vogler of Indianapolis finished third.
Twenty-eight cars started the race, but only six finished in the oppressive heat. “Hot days do add to the attrition rate,” said Carter.
The race originally was scheduled for Saturday during the Illinois State Fair, but was rained out. It was washed out again Monday.
Carter’s victory was worth $7,140 points and gave him an early lead in the USAC Dirt Car standings.
1. Pancho Carter
2. Bobby Olivero
3. Rich Vogler
4. Joe Saldana
5. Bill Tyler
6. Jan Opperman
7. Gary Irvin
8. Lennie Waldo
9. Tom Bigelow
10. Bill Puterbaugh
11. Mack McClelland
12. Robert Smith
13. Tony Weyant
14. Larry Rice
15. Billy Vukovich
16. Larry Dickson
17. Duke Cook
18. Gary Bettenhausen
19. Dean Shirley
20. Jerry Miller
21. Jack Hewitt
22. George Snider
23. Bill Burks Jr.
24. Gary Hieber
25. Steve Chassey
26. Frankie Schneider
27. Steve Cannon
28. Sheldon Kinser