1976 Schaefer 500 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1976)

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1976schaefer5001.jpg

Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1976 Schaefer 500 was the fifth race of the 1976 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 27th June at the Pocono International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by Al Unser in a Parnelli-Cosworth, his first USAC Championship victory in almost two years.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1976 Schaefer 500 was the sixth running of the event, with the annual race lasting 500 miles.[1] The only 1976 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 was dropped from the IndyCar schedule from 2020 onwards.[4]

Heading into the event, A.J. Foyt appeared to be the pre-race favourite, with him setting the fastest speeds in practice in a Coyote-Foyt.[5] However, rain forced the cancellation of qualifying, and so the starting order was decided by a draw, with Foyt lining up fifth.[6][1] Johnny Parsons won the pole position, with fellow Eagle-Offenhauser driver Billy Vukovich, Jr. directly behind him, and Mario Andretti lining up third in a McLaren-Offenhauser.[7][1] Al Unser would started 16th, while Janet Guthrie became the first woman to qualify for a 500-mile USAC Championship event, where she would start 22nd out of 33 competitors.[8][6][7][5][1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1976 Schaefer 500 commenced on 27th June.[1] Andretti shot into the lead on the opening lap, leading the first six before Foyt moved into the first position on lap 7.[1] He held it for 12 laps before Unser took over on lap 19, the latter holding it for nine laps until Gordon Johncock in a Wildcat-DGS passed him on lap 28.[1] Unser regained the lead four laps later, with Foyt retiring after 31 laps when his engine failed.[8][7][1][6] After Unser lost the first position to Eagle-Offenhauser's Pancho Carter, the race turned into an open competition, with numerous lead changes occurring in the midst of multiple caution periods.[1] Andretti would later gain the lead on 82, controlling it for 19 laps.[1] Meanwhile, Johncock retired after 54 laps because of a broken engine, while Guthrie exited after 89 laps due to a failed gearbox.[8][7][1][6] Additionally, Unser was making a recovery following an airjack breakage during his first pit stop, as well as having ran out debris that caused his left rear tyre to puncture and thus require a further pit stop.[8][6]

By lap 122, he had fully recovered from being two laps down, passing Andretti for the lead and holding it for the next 33 laps.[1] He would be passed by Wildcat-DGS' Wally Dallenbach, but would regain the lead six laps later.[1] For the final 40 laps, his main rival was Eagle-Offenhauser's Mike Mosley, who was hoping that Unser's new Cosworth engine would experience problems, especially as reports indicated it was not fuel efficient and may not be able to last 500 miles.[6][1] This seemingly proved valid, when with ten laps remaining, Unser's Cosworth began to sputter.[6][8] It especially was problematic in the final five laps, but ultimately Unser was able to cross the line to claim his first USAC Championship victory in nearly two years and $84,340 in prize money.[6][8][7][1] Mosley was around 3.2-3.4 seconds behind in second, with Dallenbach another 22.5 seconds behind in third.[8][6][7][1] Post-race, Unser admitted that he was "ready to give up at one point" and genuinely thought he would not finish because of his engine issues.[6] Nevertheless, he stated "But I never had doubts about my ability to win."[8]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, 30 minutes of highlights were televised by CBS on 3rd July 1976 as part of its CBS Sports Spectacular, alongside Hall of Fame Diving.[9] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the race is currently publicly available. Nevertheless, some photos and newspaper clippings of the event can be found online.[7]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

Images[edit | edit source]

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]