Saturday, May 25, 2024

1975 – Bobby Unser Wins Rain-Cut ‘500’

Bobby Unser sloshes through the pit area en route to victory lane after being declared the winner of the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500.

Indianapolis, Ind. (May 25, 1975) – The rain was sweet and so was revenge for Bobby Unser when he beat Johnny Rutherford Sunday to win his second Indianapolis 500, a weather-shortened 174-lap race that squared the family record with brother Al at two wins apiece.

Bobby Unser was leading the 1974 race when he made a costly pit stop and Rutherford went on to win. Rutherford’s crew miscalculated the weather conditions on Sunday and decided to top off Johnny’s fuel tank on lap 165 while he was leading the race.

It would be a stroke of misfortune as Bobby Unser took command and five laps later when a caution came out when Gary Bettenhausen tapped the wall and lost a wheel.

Still riding under the caution signal, the field when another three laps when rain began to fall. A deluge developed on lap 174 and starter Pat Vidan waved the checkered flag a lap later and accompanied it with the red flag to halt the race.

Unser only led for 11 of the 174 laps completed but being in front for the last 10 circuits earned him a winner’s purse estimated at $250,000.

A.J. Foyt, the polesitter and pre-race favorite finished third as the scheduled 200-lap contest came to a premature end. He immediately left for Methodist Hospital to have his right leg examined. The neurosurgeon was called in to have his right leg examined.

“I don’t know what’s wrong,” a Foyt crewman said. “He just came out of the car limping.”

Unser said correcting tire problems and the ability to avoid heavy debris from an accident counted heavily toward his winning the race.

“We made an unscheduled pit stop on lap 159 to top off the fuel tank and decided to turn up the booster on the turbo charger to give us additional speed,” said Unser of his fortuitous decision by his pit crew.

Unser’s most anxious moment occurred while trying to avoid the wreck of Tom Sneva’s car.

“I took the low side of the track and looked for daylight. It turned out to be the right decision and I made it, but it was a very close call.”

Rutherford said he drove “just as hard as the car would go. When we made our last pit stop, we thought Bobby would have to make one more before the 200 laps were completed. But I’m still not sure if I could have caught him. Well, I guess second place is better than third.”

The most disheartened driver had to be Wally Dallenbach, who had been leading from the 97th lap but dropped out on lap 163 when dirt clogged a piston in his engine.

There were only 18 cars of the original 33 starters still on the track when the rain descended upon the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

This was the second time in three years that rain forced a premature finish to the richest auto race in the world. Gordon Johncock won the 1973 running when the race was stopped after 133 laps.

Results –

1. Bobby Unser
2. Johnny Rutherford
3. A.J. Foyt
4. Duane Carter Jr.
5. Roger McCluskey
6. Bill Puterbaugh
7. George Snider
8. Billy Vukovich
9. Wally Dallenbach
10.Bob Harkey
11.Steve Krisiloff
12.Sheldon Kinser
13.Jerry Karl
14.Jimmy Caruthers
15.Gary Bettenhausen
16.Al Unser
17.Sam Sessions
18.Tom Bigelow
19.Johnny Parsons Jr.
20.Jerry Grant
21.Dick Simon
22.Tom Sneva
23.Bentley Warren
24.Elton Rasmussen
25.Bobby Allison
26.Mike Mosley
27.John Martin
28.Mario Andretti
29.Mike Hiss
30.Larry McCoy
31.Gordon Johncock
32.Lloyd Ruby
33.Salt Walther

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