Sunday, September 3, 2023

1973 – Andretti wins Du Quoin Dirt Car

A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti share a laugh prior to the start of the USAC championship dirt car race at Du Quoin. Mario would win the race while Foyt went out after 43 laps. – Marvin Scattergood Photo

Du Quoin, Ill. (September 3, 1973) - Mario Andretti was the winner in the United States Auto Club championship dirt car race at Du Quoin on Monday.

Andretti seemed destined to finish second but some bad luck to his “Super-Team” teammate, Al Unser, gave the little Italian the championship.

Unser was burning up the track, establishing a one-lap track record of 107.27 miles per hour at one point while leading the race until the 99th lap. On the 100th and final lap Unser broke a gearbox and also reportedly ran out of gas. Andretti then zoomed past his teammate to win the race.

“I haven’t checked yet, but I don’t think he ran out of gas,” said one of Unser’s crewmen after the race. “I think a broken gearbox put him out of the race.”

“I think I ’m going to have to give half of my winnings today to Al,” said Andretti with a grin. “It was his race all the way. He just ran into some bad luck.”

Andretti, of Nazareth, Penn., started in the second position and pushed his Vel’s Parnelli Jones Special into the lead on the first lap. He held down first until the 51st lap on the one-mile dirt oval, when Unser, who started in the pole position, surged into the lead.

Unser then held the lead until his gearbox (and maybe fuel) forced him out. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner had to settle for fifth place.

Bill Engelhart finished second to Andretti, nearly 17 seconds behind. Tom Bigelow was third and Lee Kunzman was fourth.

The race was marred by one minor accident when Curt Waters went through the fence in the third turn on the third lap. Waters was not injured.

Because of the accident and several periods of rain, race officials issued no time or speed for the race.

Results –

1. Mario Andretti
2. Bill Engelhart
3. Tom Bigelow
4. Lee Kunzman
5. Al Unser
6. Arnie Knepper
7. Bill Puterbaugh
8. Johnny Parsons
9. Gary Bettenhausen
10.Johnny Rutherford
11.Jerry Miller
12.Joe Saldana
13.Darl Harrison
14.Bob Evans
15.Mel Cornett
16.Ronnie Burke
17.Billy Vukovich
18.A.J. Foyt
19.Billy Shuman
20.John Hubbard
21.Larry Dickson
22.Billy Cassella
23.Don Nordhorn
24.Curt Waters

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