Sunday, September 10, 2023

1966 – Foyt Can’t Stop, Mario Goes to Victory

Hoosier Hundred winner Mario Andretti, driving the Dean Van Lines Offy, is shown with car owner Al Dean (left) and chief mechanic Clint Brawner.

Indianapolis, Ind. (September 10, 1966) – There were 24,888 race fans packed into the Indiana State Fairgrounds yesterday who would have bet any amount of money you cared to wager - at the start of the 97th lap - there was no way for A.J. Foyt to lose the Hoosier Hundred.

But Dame Fortune let her daughter, Miss Fortune, deal the last few cards and poor Anthony Joseph Foyt was slipped one off the very bottom of the deck.

Probably the most surprised person in the world was Mario Andretti, who reaped the benefits of a fleeting smile from the several faces of fate and won the richest of all Hoosier Hundreds with a record shattering 96.582 miles per hour average speed.

Foyt led from the word go and Mario was the first to admit after the race, “I had no problems during the race - only I couldn't catch Foyt." But Andretti did catch the flying Texan on the 98th lap of the 100-lap race when the brake pedal on A.J.’s car broke as he headed into number two turn.

Foyt, with all go and no whoa, was helpless to stop his sliding race car from brushing the outer retaining wall. His three-second lead over the second-place Andretti, which had seemed so secure an instant before, suddenly disappeared and Mario stormed past the floundering Foyt as they crossed the starting line on the 98th lap.

The day’s greatest miracle was Foyt being able to keep his car under control enough to avoid a serious accident.

But after leading for 97 laps and heading for his first championship win of the year, A.J. was in no mood to be thankful that he had managed to maintain control of his race car. He was unhappy to say the least and gave vent to his feelings as he coasted to a stop after Mario had taken the checkered flag of victory.

A.J. reached inside his car and picked the broken brake pedal off the floor and slammed it to the track. But then he proved he has what it takes to be a champion as he quickly regained his composure and walked to the winner’s circle to congratulate the still shocked Andretti.

When asked about his feelings after he saw Foyt get into trouble, Mario replied, "Well I knew if I ever won this race something was going to have to happen to his car because I couldn’t catch him. When he started slowing down, I thought, well we might do a little racing yet.”

Until the 97th lap, yesterday’s race had been a pretty much cut-and-dried affair. Foyt led, Andretti was second, Arnie Knepper was third and fourth, fifth and sixth had been providing the fans with what excitement there was.

Don Branson, Chuck Hulse, Dick Atkins, Roger McCluskey, and Jim McElreath made a run at the fourth-place spot before Branson finally nailed it down for good.

McElreath had to make a stop on the 55th lap for a new rear tire and lost his chance at the fourth-place spot and McCluskey coasted into the pits on the 75th lap with mechanical problems.

Dick Atkins made a challenge for Knepper’s third place but rubbed the rail in three and lost several places before he could get straightened out and going again.

Results –

1. Mario Andretti
2. A.J. Foyt
3. Arnie Knepper
4. Don Branson
5. Chuck Hulse
6. Dick Atkins
7. Bud Tinglestad
8. Ronnie Duman
9. Larry Dickson
10.Jim McElreath
11.Al Miller
12.George Snider
13.Carl Williams
14.Roger McCluskey
15.Billy Foster
16.Ralph Liguori
17.Bobby Unser
18.Bob Tattersall

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