1976 Jimmy Bryan 150 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1976)

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1976jimmybryan1501.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Jimmy Bryan 150 was the inaugural race of the 1976 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 14th March at the Phoenix International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by Bobby Unser, after narrowly fending off fellow Eagle-Offenhauser driver Pancho Carter. The race also marked the sole USAC Championship appearance of Arlene Hiss, who became the first woman to compete at an IndyCar event.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Jimmy Bryan 150 was the 12th running of the event, with the annual race lasting 150 miles.[1] It was one of two 1976 USAC Championship Car Season races to commence at Phoenix International Raceway, the other being the Bobby Ball 150,[2] which occurred on 7th November and was won by Al Unser in a Parnelli-Cosworth.[3] The race, named in honour of 1958 Indianapolis 500 winner Jimmy Bryan,[4] would have ties with Phoenix events like the Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, before Phoenix races were dropped from the IndyCar schedule after 2018 following low attendance.[5]

Prior to the race, qualifying commenced with Al Unser winning the pole position with a speed of 140.845 mph.[6][1] This was deemed an upset performance, as his Parnelli-Cosworth was an experimental car during that time period, and so was considered unlikely to challenged the proven competitors.[6] Directly behind him was his brother Bobby, who was making his return to the USAC Championship after breaking his leg at the 1975 Michigan 150.[6][1] A.J. Foyt lined up third in a Coyote-Foyt.[1]

Elsewhere, media coverage was centring on Arlene Hiss, who had qualified 21st out of 22 competitors with a speed of 128.94 mph, becoming the first woman to qualify for an IndyCar event.[7][6][1] Hiss, along with Janet Guthrie, was aiming to become the first woman to compete at the Indianapolis 500 by qualifying for that year's event.[7][6] However, USAC was concerned by her lack of experience, and although she had raced for 13 years at that point, it was only on a part-time basis.[6][7] Nevertheless, she earned her conditional licence after completing two tests at Phoenix and the Ontario International Raceway, her speed in the former being enough to compete in the 1975 Phoenix races.[6][7] Heading into the race, she stated "At one point I wanted to be a professional but instead I got married. Now the opportunity has come knocking. I feel I'm ready for the challenge."[6]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Jimmy Bryan 150 commenced on 14th March.[1] Bobby Unser shot into the lead on the first lap, holding it for 19 laps before dropping it to Wildcat-DGS' Gordon Johncock.[1] Johncock was only able to maintain the first position for five laps before dropping it to Al Unser, who controlled proceedings for the next 39 laps.[1] However, Unser would be passed by Johnny Parsons in an Eagle-Offenhauser on lap 64, who lost it to Bobby two laps, Unser also only holding the lead briefly before Eagle-Offenhauser's Mike Mosley took over a lap later.[1] Mosley led for 13 laps before being passed by Wildcat-DGS' Wally Dallenbach.[1]

Dallenbach held the lead for 25 laps, only for Bobby Unser to achieve what was ultimately the final lead change on lap 105.[1] Six laps later, Dallenbach's engine failed, handing the advantage to Unser, who seemed likely to claim victory by leading 46 laps.[1] However, Pancho Carter, who started 11th, was quickly closing in, and gave Unser a significant challenge on the final lap.[8][1] Ultimately, Unser held off Carter by fewer than two car lengths to claim victory and $11,305 in prize money.[8][1] Johncock took third, being only a further three car lengths behind Unser.[8][1]

Elsewhere, Hiss completed the race in 14th and last, being 22 laps down from Unser.[9][7][1] While she was black flagged at one point for driving dangerously slow, the race was generally uncontroversial for Hiss, with her being satisfied with her performance.[9][7] She stated "I just wanted to be smooth, to stay out of trouble. It went pretty much like we planned."[10][9] The media praised Hiss for her debut, but some drivers, including Bobby Unser, Gary Bettenhausen and Bill Vukovich, Jr., all accused Hiss of dangerous driving due to her generally slow pace and for taking the wrong lines.[7][10] In particular, Bettenhausen said "This is a man's business and she has to be measured by a man's standards if she is going to compete. By those standards, she didn't measure up."[10] It should nevertheless be noted that Hiss actually outqualified Bettenhausen and Vukovich, Jr., who both failed to qualify for the event as a result.[7][10][1] She never competed at another USAC event, possibly because of a lack of funding, with her competing in the USAC Stock Car Series before retiring from motorsport in 1978.[7]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, the race received live flag-to-flag coverage from ABC as part of its Wide World of Sports.[11] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Nevertheless, photos of the event can be found online.

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]