1977 Jimmy Bryan 150 (lost footage of USAC Championship Car Season race; 1977)

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Program for the race.

Status: Lost

The 1977 Jimmy Bryan 150 (also known as the 1977 Phoenix 150) was the second race of the 1977 USAC Championship Car Season. Occurring on 27th March at the Phoenix International Raceway, the race would ultimately be won by polesitter Johnny Rutherford in a McLaren-Cosworth, beating out Coyote-Foyt's A.J. Foyt by 18.5 seconds. Rutherford however would also be involved in a post-race fistfight with Wildcat-DGS' Gordon Johncock, triggered by a collision between the pair during the event.

Background[edit | edit source]

The 1977 Jimmy Bryan 150 was the 13th running of the event, with the annual race lasting 150 miles.[1] It was one of two 1977 USAC Championship Car Season races to commence at Phoenix International Raceway, the other being the Bobby Ball 150,[2] which occurred on 29th October and was won by Gordon Johncock.[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 Johnny Rutherford winning the pole position with a speed of 142.236 mph.[1] Directly behind him was Johncock, with McLaren-Cosworth's Tom Sneva lining up third out of 22 competitors.[1]

The Race[edit | edit source]

With the starting order decided, the 1977 Jimmy Bryan 150 commenced on 27th March.[1] Johncock shot into the lead on the opening lap, leading the first 26.[1] After only 20 laps, Rutherford had already fallen a lap behind the leaders, but was nevertheless beginning to make up ground.[6] Following a caution period triggered by a crash from McLaren-Offenhauser's Al Loquasto, resulting in pit stops that, once the race resumed on lap 35, resulted in A.J. Foyt taking the lead.[1] He would lead for another 42 laps, only dropping the lead briefly in his next pit stop on lap 77 during another caution period, where he would reassume the first position when the race resumed on lap 80, holding it for another 16 laps.[1]

By lap 94, Rutherford was back on the lead lap, and was battling for fourth with Johncock.[6] As they exited Turn 2 however, Johncock spun-off, with him believing that Rutherford had forced him off the circuit.[7][6] This triggered another caution period, with Wally Dallenbach taking the lead in a Wildcat-DGS on lap 95.[1] When the race resumed, Foyt took the lead, but Rutherford made a pass before the start of lap 100.[6][1] From there, Rutherford defended the first position primarily from Foyt, successfully leading the final 51 laps in spite of Johncock deliberately bumping into him on a few occasions.[6][1] He therefore claimed victory and $12,550 in prize money.[6][1] Foyt finished 18.5 seconds behind in second, with Lightning-Offenhauser's Roger McCluskey a lap down in third.[1]

Meanwhile, Johncock finished five laps down in 12th,[1] and remained irate with Rutherford.[6][7] He attempted to confront Rutherford at Victory Lane, but was denied access.[6] He would however encounter the winner behind the press trailer and accuse him of trying to force the Wildcat driver off the circuit. The confrontation led to a fistfight that resulted in Rutherford suffering a bloody nose.[6][7] On 2nd April 1977, it was reported that Johncock was fined $1,500 for the fight, with both him and Rutherford reprimanded and threatened with suspensions should a similar incident occur again.[7]

Availability[edit | edit source]

According to IndyCar on TV, 45 minutes of the race was televised live by ABC as part of its Wide World of Sports, alongside the World High Diving Championships.[8] The broadcast has yet to resurface however, and no footage of the event is currently publicly available. Nevertheless, photos of the race can be found online.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]