1973 Schaefer 500 (partially found footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1973)

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1973schaefer5001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Partially Found

The 1973 Schaefer 500 was the sixth race of the 1973 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 1st July at the Pocono International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by A.J. Foyt in a Coyote-Foyt, capitalising in a race of attrition after Roger McCluskey's McLaren-Offenhauser ran out of fuel with a lap remaining.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1973 Schaefer 500 was the third running of the event, with the annual race lasting 500 miles.[1] The only 1973 USAC Championship Car Season race to commence at Pocono,[2] it was considered part of USAC's Triple Crown of 500-mile races that lasted between 1971-1980, also consisting of the Indianapolis 500 and California 500.[3] Pocono IndyCar events would be run on an on-and-off basis, before the track be dropped from the IndyCar schedule from 2020 onwards.[4]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Peter Revson winning the pole position in a McLaren-Offenhauser with a record speed of 190.648 mph.[5][6][7][8][1] Directly behind him were the Parnelli-Offenhausers of Al Unser and Mario Andretti, in second and third respectively.[5][7][1] A.J. Foyt qualified only 14th out of 33 competitors.[7][1] The race would notably become the first to be operate under new USAC regulations required nine inches to be cut off the cars' rear wings, following one fatal and two serious accidents that occurred at the 1973 Indianapolis three weeks previously.[5][6] Despite the change being enforced to slow the cars down, most competitors still exceeded the qualifying speeds of the previous Schaefer 500.[5][6] Mel Kenyon meanwhile qualified last in an Eagle-Foyt, with his car notably being sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons.[9][8][1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1973 Schaefer 500 commenced on 1st July.[1] Andretti shot into the lead on the first lap, leading the first ten before dropping it to Jimmy Caruthers in an Eagle-Offenhauser.[1] On lap 8, Al Unser crashed heavily at Turn 1 in a Parnelli-Offenhauser.[10][11][1] While he escaped serious injury, he did suffer a neck sprain, a mild concussion, and abrasions to his knees.[10][11] Caruthers then led for 21 laps only for another Eagle-Offenhauser driver, Bobby Unser, to pass him on lap 32.[1] Unser only led four laps before Eagle-Offenhauser's Gordon Johncock took the lead on lap 36, maintaining it for 20 laps before Unser regained it.[1] From there, the battle for the lead became an open competition, with many of the 29 lead changes seldom lasting ten laps or more.[1]

The event also turned into a race of attrition, Caruthers retiring due to a piston failure after 124 laps, and Johncock crashing out after 136 following a blown tyre.[11][1][10] Unser meanwhile engaged in a duel with Roger McCluskey, ultimately losing the first position to the latter on lap 164.[1] Three laps later, Unser retired following a clutch failure.[11][1] On lap 174, Foyt passed McCluskey, but the latter regained the lead a lap later.[1] For the next 25 laps, McCluskey defended his lead, and it seemed likely that he would emerge victorious.[10][11][8][1] However, on the final lap, McCluskey ran out of fuel, which occurred because his crew miscalculated the car's fuel consumption.[10][11][8][1] Even if McCluskey had pitted however, Foyt would likely have taken the lead, him having pitted ten laps earlier.[10][8]

Foyt therefore took the first position on the final lap to claim victory and around $90,000 in prize money.[10][11][8][1] Post-race, he stated "I have said many times that it's the last lap that counts. I didn't think McCluskey could go the distance, since we had pitted together when he made his last stop. I was surprised that he went as far as he did."[11] McCluskey performed well enough to finish second, with Eagle-Offenhauser's Lloyd Ruby taking third.[10][11][8][1] Just seven of the 33 competitors finished the race.[10][1]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, 45 minutes of highlights were televised by ABC on 7th July 1973 as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside wrestling between the USA and USSR.[12] The broadcast has yet to resurface, although an Associated Press newsreel containing race highlights is publicly available. Photos and newspaper clippings can also be found online.[8]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Video[edit | edit source]

Associated Press newsreel of the race.


Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]