Mario Andretti’s complete change of luck from last year, the end of many frustrating years for Andy Granatelli, the first completely washed-out weekend of time trials, the first time since 1961 that the one- and four-lap time trial records weren’t broken, my first trip to the Speedway without Dad, our first route change, and our first trip in Bobby’s car were the outstanding events of this year.
On Friday morning, May 16th, Dad called me and said he wouldn’t be able to go to the time trials on Saturday because his back was hurting quite badly and that going over there would aggravate the condition. I was disappointed but agreed that it would be better if he stayed home and let his back improve enough so that he could go the race.
Bobby, Dixie, and I left from Dalbey’s at 3:00 on Saturday morning, May 17th, in our 1967 Chevrolet. Dad was up and dressed to see us off. Our trouble in finding seats last year and the fact that Indianapolis was now an hour ahead of us in time were the two reasons for our leaving earlier than in other years.
There was very little traffic on the highway, and at exactly 5:00, we stopped in front of the Colonial Kitchen, two hours to the minute from the time we drove out of Dalbey’s driveway. The place had just opened, and all of the food wasn’t on display yet. There were two couples present, both of whom looked like racing fans. We ate a good breakfast, used the restroom, and then headed on our way. Little by little, it was getting lighter.
Shortly after arriving in Indiana, we came to the Route 36 detour. This upset us because we had no idea of what we were getting into. We turned left and went north through Dana and then came upon a terrible road. It had huge holes in it and was very old, narrow, and winding. It seemed to last forever, and the scarcity of road signs and the fear of not arriving at the Speedway in time caused us some anxious moments. For a long time I thought we were going west, but when we finally came to the highway again, everything was okay.
I stopped at our regular Standard Station and, while we were using the restrooms, the rain started coming down. The traffic was very heavy, but at last we got to Kramer’s, parked the car, and walked to the Speedway.
The inclement weather didn’t seem to be diminishing the size of the crowd. I purchased the tickets, and we found three seats under a roof in the Paddock section between the scoreboard and the starting line. The intermittent rain ended any hope of practice time for the drivers, but it did quit raining just long enough to get the pre-race activities in. At times, the rain would stop and the sky would lighten up a little, only to have another shower bring darkness again. Dixie and Bobby were getting more and more discouraged, but I felt it was only a matter of time until the sun would come out for good. The fans entertained themselves by drinking, eating, yelling, and sailing paper airplanes across the track and into the pit area.
Around 4:00, it quit raining long enough for the track to dry and for some of the drivers to get in a few practice laps. It really sounded good to hear the noise and smell of the engines. A cheer went from the crowd when the Chief Steward announced that the track was open for qualifications. The first driver to go was Jigger Sirois, who turned in three 161 mph laps and then was called in by his crew who thought his four-lap average would be too low to qualify for the race. The next driver out was Arnie Knepper, but by the time he reached the second turn it was raining again and USAC officials called him in.
The rain continued to fall, and around 5:30, the Chief Steward said there was too little time for the track to dry and therefore the track was closed for the day. It was the end of a frustrating day for everybody. Although I didn’t see what I came to see, I did get to do something I had always wanted to do. I walked up to the upper deck of Grandstand A and saw what the Speedway looks like from up there. I could see almost the entire Speedway, although trees blocked the view of a few sections of the track.
When we arrived at Kramer’s, we talked to Mr. Kramer a few minutes and then started the trip home. Instead of turning left onto Lynhurst Road, we went straight ahead on Route 136. The cars moved very slowly until we reached Interstate 74, and then we moved with no trouble at all.
When we reached the Route 1/150 intersection at Danville, we turned and went south through Westville, Georgetown, Ridge Farm, and Chrisman. We ate a good, hot supper at the Colonial Kitchen and then drove on home. We stopped at Dalbey’s a few minutes and told Dad he couldn’t have picked a better day to be unable to go to the Speedway. He really lucked out. Dixie and I told Bobby goodbye and went home. It was the end of a day unlike any other I spent at the Speedway.
Thursday, May 29th was hectic in the morning, but unlike last year, I had things planned better and I got everything done on time. I checked my list to see that I hadn’t forgotten anything and then left for Dalbey’s. When I arrived there, the back porch was filled with equipment, and Dad was waiting to eat dinner with me. After I finished eating, I helped load the car. We made a final check to see that we had everything, and at 11:28, we said goodbye to Mother and drove out of the driveway. It was certainly the earliest we had ever left, and it was the first time we were riding in a car of Bobby’s. It was a 1969 four-door Chevrolet Impala.
We did not have rain on our trip this year as we did last year. We arrived in Decatur during the noon rush period. This made traffic heavier than usual, but we made it through without any trouble, although we had one close call when somebody stopped suddenly in front of us. The traffic was rather light, and many farmers were working in their fields.
At 1:37, we stopped at Chrisman. There were only a few customers, and some of them looked like race fans. Dad and Bobby had a piece of pie, and I had a grilled cheese sandwich. Coffee was our drink. The snack tasted good, and it woke us up a little bit. We used the restrooms, and at 2:07, we started the second part of our trip.
This is where we changed our trip route. Instead of continuing east on Route 36, we went north on Route 1/150 to Danville where we caught I-74 east. This was the first route change in our 16 years of race trips. It was a pleasant change, and we enjoyed the new scenery, which gave us something to talk about. When we hit I-74, it was 70 mph almost all the way to Indianapolis. It was much different from driving through towns on Route 36. Dad commented a couple times about how much better it was.
Around 3:30, the traffic started increasing as we neared the big city. We left I-74 and took US 136 the rest of the way to Kramer’s. We stopped at a Standard Station for gas and to use the restroom and then finished our trip by driving to Kramer’s.
Bud was already doing a good business, but there was still room for us. I backed the car into our space, and then we talked to Bud for a few minutes. He was happy to see us, particularly Dad, and he told Dad he was sorry he couldn’t make it for the time trials. It was 3:55 when I turned the engine off. Another trip had been successfully completed.
A delegation of camper pick-up trucks from Iowa was parked beside the highway. It was the same delegation that had come last year. A couple days before we left, Bobby had been apprehensive about whether we would find a parking space because of this delegation and had strongly suggested that we leave earlier than usual. Now, I was glad we had done so.
We rested a few minutes, had a little bite to eat, and observed the scene around us. Then we decided to take a walk down to the Speedway. To our surprise, the crowd going through the museum was quite small compared to other years. This was surprising to us, but it made walking through the museum a lot easier. It’s always interesting to see the old cars, regardless of how often you’ve seen them before. The ticket office was doing a good business.
On our way back to the car, we bought a couple newspapers to entertain us and give us some information on the race. By now we were hungry, so dad got the stove out and fired it up while Bobby got the food out to cook and I got out the plates, cups, silverware, etc.
Our supper consisted of hamburgers, baked beans, potato chips, salad, and coffee. It tasted real good, and the smell and sound of outdoor cooking made it even better. Most of the people in Kramer’s yard were doing likewise and seemed to be enjoying it as much as we were. There were two young couples from Iowa parked on our immediate left, and when they saw we had only two chairs, they loaned us one of theirs. I used it, and it felt better sitting while I was eating than standing.
Bobby and Dad elected to stay in the car while I took my night before the 500 trip around the Speedway area. The scene looked much like other May 29th nights with the usual high school and college kids making big fools of themselves with drinking, smoking, yelling, and outrageous attire. I walked to the Speedway Motel, crossed the street, and walked back on the south side. Main Street and 16th Street west of the Speedway were very quiet. It is much different now than it was a few years ago when cars and trucks were parked for blocks and blocks and the street parties lasted all through the night. I walked along Georgetown Road, much of which had been resurfaced since last year, a little ways and then returned to the car. It was about 12:30.
I got my sleeping bag and pillow out of the trunk and tried to sleep beside the car, but I couldn’t do so. There seemed to be more noise than usual around us this year. I couldn’t sleep beside the car, so I went behind Kramer’s garage where I encountered four boys standing against a car parked a few feet from me on Fisher Street. Their laughing and yelling were too much to sleep through, so I went inside the garage and lay down. This was a little quieter but not much. There were two other factors which prevented me from sleeping. They were a steadily running nose and a sneezing fit, which I had had for two weeks. The two together caused my eyes to water, which also added to my problem. It took a long time, but I finally managed to get some sleep. But at 5:00, I heard the opening bomb go off, and that was the end of my sleep. I had wanted to get as much sleep as possible, but that hope had been thoroughly shattered to pieces.
I lay for a while in disgust, but then I decided to get up. I rolled up my sleeping bag and was just starting back to the car when Dad walked in. He didn’t know where I was. The couple parked next to the garage was already up and cooking breakfast. The good smell made me hungry. The three of us put our sleeping equipment away and then sat in the car while we read the newspapers and listened to the radio. The weather report sounded real good for the race.
About 5:30, we walked to the Standard Station a block away to see if we could buy some coffee. We were disappointed to find out that they weren’t selling coffee this year. It wasn’t a wasted trip, however, because Bobby got to use the restroom, which made her feel better.
When we returned to the car, we prepared for breakfast. Our meal consisted of eggs, bacon, sweet rolls, salad, and a couple other items. It was a fine meal, and I ate until I couldn’t eat anymore. The Iowans had awakened and were eating their breakfast, so the open-air aroma really smelled good. Other people in the parking lot were also eating breakfast, while at the same time the crowd going to the Speedway was increasing. Many of them were carrying box lunches and coolers of cold drinks.
We cleaned up our breakfast dishes and then sat in the car a few minutes. Shortly before 9:00, we decided it was time to leave for the Speedway, so we straightened the car up a little bit, made sure we had everything we were taking, locked the doors, and started toward the Speedway. The traffic on the other side of the road was still heavy, but it was moving real well. A new eating establishment had been built across Georgetown Road from the museum, and we stopped there to have our thermos bottles filled with coffee. Dad got the bottles filled while Bobby and I stayed outside and watched our equipment.
There was a huge crowd of people waiting to get through the pedestrian entrance. We got into a line and inch by inch we got to the ticket-taker, and then the crowd thinned out a little as soon as we got inside the grounds.
We bought our souvenir programs and started the long walk to the tunnel. This is a difficult path to walk because there are so many people, they are walking in both directions, and they are carrying coolers, thermos jugs, and other equipment, all of which take up space. We managed to stick together, and at last we reached the entrance to the tunnel. It was a slow job getting to the tunnel, but once we were there, the people moved real well to the infield. We continued walking until we found an underground passage and took it to get on the north side of the infield. From there, we walked west again and then north to the end of the Tower Terrace section. The ticket -taker tore off a stub of our tickets and returned the remaining portion. We had only a short distance to walk because our seats were in the next to the last section, section 43, and in row J, seats 5, 6, and 7.
We put our equipment under the seats and then sat down. It felt good to be off our feet and situated in our seats. The track was alive with activity. Several marching units were performing on the straightaway, and pit crew members were running their engines to make sure everything was okay. The sight, smell, and noise all together made a spectacular event. It was really something to behold.
Dad decided to take a walk behind the pit area, and a few minutes later, I decided to do the same thing. It was an interesting walk. Many of the drivers were busy talking to their pit crews and signing autographs for the fans. Most of them were wearing slacks and sport shirts or sweaters. Among those I recognized were A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jim McElreath, Lee Roy Yarbrough, and Mel Kenyon. Foyt was busy checking out his car, and Andretti was laughing and grinning and seemed to be having a good time. It was a big thrill for me to see them that close for so long.
It was about 10:00 when I left to return to my seat. To my surprise, I could not walk down to my seat the same way I came. A safety patrolman had closed a gate to clear the area before the race, so I had to go to the far south-end exit and then go out and walk all the way to the far north entrance and to my seat, which is the way I got to my seat in the first place. I thought it was a silly idea, but it was the only thing I could do.
At 10:00, the last remaining hour started with the Purdue University band playing On the Banks of the Wabash. At the same time, the pit crews received their orders over the PA system to move their cars onto the track and into their starting positions. A cheer went up from the crowd.
Next, the celebrities were driven around the track in official Camaro cars. Those present this year included Martha Vasconcellos, Miss Universe, football star O.J. Simpson, TV star Don Blocker, astronaut Scott Carpenter, singer Barbara McNair, basketball star Oscar Robertson, and a few others.
At 10:30, USAC officials made their final inspection of the track in the pace car. Only 30 minutes remained.
The Star-Spangled Banner was played at 10:40, and at 10:45, Taps was played as everybody paused in reverence to remember the real meaning of Memorial Day. It is a spectacular sight to see the thousands of persons along the main straightaway rise and sit in unison.
The tension and restlessness of everybody was reaching a climax as the time approached for the playing of the final song, Back Home Again in Indiana. My hands were both sweating and shaking as I enjoyed the last few seconds before the big noise. As the song was being played, hundreds of multicolored balloons were released from a tent behind the control tower. They made a pretty sight as they sailed upward.
When the song was finished, the crowd became noisier because they knew what was about to happen. All unnecessary personnel had left the track. Drivers were strapped into their seats and were adjusting their helmets, handkerchiefs, gloves, and goggles. The PA announcer introduced Speedway president, Tony Hulman, who took the microphone and pronounced his famous words loudly and clearly, “Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”
Immediately, the engines started roaring, and a few seconds later, a member of each pit crew held up one arm to indicate his driver was ready to go. It is a very thrilling experience for me to listen to all 33 drivers racing their engines at the same time. It is wonderful music to my ears.
About a minute later, the Chevrolet Camaro pace car, with 1960 500 winner Jim Rathman driving, slowly pulled from the starting line. One by one, the cars were pushed away as pit crews got themselves and their starters over the retaining wall and back to their pit areas. The field disappeared into the first turn, but one car refused to start. Lee Roy Yarbrough’s Jim Robbins Special wouldn’t cooperate despite the frantic attempt to start it. The Chief Steward ordered the pit crew to move the car against the inner wall immediately. As the other 32 cars neared the end of the parade lap, the car suddenly came to life, and he was pushed away immediately. The crowd showed its pleasure with a big cheer. It continued to cheer and applaud as the field moved down the straightaway to start the official pace lap.
It was a great combination of noise and sound as the drivers either waved at the fans or their pit crews or else looked straight ahead. Yarbrough was behind the field but was quickly catching up. All eyes were focused on the fourth turn, and it seemed like a long time until they saw anything. Pretty soon, the pace car appeared in the turn and headed for the pit area. It flashed past us as starter Pat Vidan waved the green flag. The race was on!
To my surprise, Andretti jumped into the lead ahead of Foyt, and after one lap, it was Andretti, Foyt and Roger McCluskey.
Two cars dropped out immediately. Rookie Bruce Walkup didn’t complete one lap, and Bill Vukovich II completed only one. Bill said his engine threw a rod. It was a real tough break for last year’s Rookie of the Year.
Andretti held his lead for five laps, and then Foyt took charge of things. The standings were Foyt, McCluskey, Andretti, Bobby Unser, Mark Donohue, a rookie, and Joe Leonard.
The next car out of the race was Art Pollard’s STP Oil Treatment car, owned by Granatelli. It had a broken drive line. Ronnie Bucknum retired after 16 laps with a burned piston. Johnny Rutherford had radiator trouble and left the race after completing 24 laps.
Jim McElreath brought the crowd to its feet as he came down the straightaway to complete his 24th lap. Just as he passed us, fire broke out in the car just behind the driver. Everybody was excited, but Jim calmly slowed the car down and stopped along the outer wall in the first turn. He immediately jumped out and was unhurt. Track officials quickly extinguished the fire as Jim climbed the wall to safety.
At 20 laps, the standings were Foyt, McCluskey, Andretti, Gary Bettenhausen, Unser, Leonard, Lloyd Ruby, McElreath, Donohue, and Dan Gurney.
George Follmer retired after 26 laps with engine trouble, and Bettenhausen’s good showing ended when his car stalled in the fourth turn on his 36th lap.
Foyt led until the 52nd lap when he made a pit stop, but the distance between him, Andretti, and McCluskey was very close. Foyt and Andretti pitted at the same time, and Wally Dallenbach led through the 58th lap when he made a pit stop.
Foyt regained the lead, and after 60 laps it was Foyt, Ruby, Dallenbach, Andretti, and Leonard. Foyt began having car trouble, and it was noticeable that his speed was decreasing. Now, Andretti and Ruby fought for the lead.
Meanwhile, Carl Williams dropped out on his 50th lap with clutch trouble, Jack Brabham left with fuel injection problems after a one hour and eleven minute pit stop, and Lee Roy Yarbrough’s car quit after 65 laps with a broken header system.
Arnie Knepper brought out the yellow flag when he crashed into the outer wall just as he was starting down the straightaway on his 83rd lap. The car was damaged extensively and stopped in the middle of the track, but Knepper was unhurt and jumped atop his car to signal oncoming cars around him. Everybody was frightened for a while, but the excitement subsided when Arnie escaped unhurt.
At the same time, Dallenbach spun in the northwest corner and was out of the race after 82 laps.
Ruby led laps 79-86, and Andretti led through the 102nd lap. At the halfway mark, it was Andretti, Ruby, Leonard, Gurney, Dennis Hulme, Mike Mosley, Donohue, Foyt, George Snider, and McCluskey.
On his 107th lap, Ruby made his second pit stop. It was to be a routine stop, but it didn’t turn out to be that. Lloyd pulled in, stopped, and the crew went to work. The hoses were attached and the fuel was pumped in. The tank was filled and the first hose was detached with no trouble. Then confusion and disaster followed. Lloyd thought he was ready to go, but he didn’t know the other hose was still attached to the car. He was already moving when the hose snapped and sprayed fuel all over the left side of the car. Part of the hose was on the storage tank and the other part was still on the car. A moan of disappointment spread over the track when the PA announcer announced that Lloyd was out of the race. His bad 500 luck had continued. He certainly deserves to win the 500, and with just a little bit more luck, I think someday he will.
With Ruby gone, Andretti had a clear course. Foyt was in his pit having his car worked on, and Joe Leonard was now in second place, but his luck went sour too. A hose clamp from Knepper’s wreck punctured Joe’s radiator, and he had to make a long stop to have it repaired.
At 120 laps, the first five were Andretti, Leonard, Gurney, McCluskey, and Hulme. Gordon Johncock retired after 137 laps with valve trouble. Dennis Hulme left after 145 laps, and one lap later, rookie Sonny Ates was out of the race.
On his 152nd lap, Andretti made his last scheduled pit stop. If everything went okay, it would be his last stop. He had a comfortable lead, so his crew used much caution in doing their work. There was no need to hurry and make a costly mistake. Everything went fine, and a few seconds later he was back on the track, having not lost the lead.
After 27 laps in his pit, Foyt returned to the track and drove like crazy in an attempt to make up lost ground. Andretti still had a good lead after 170 laps, and he was followed by Gurney and Donohue.
Meanwhile, George Snider, Bud Tingelstad, Roger McCluskey, Mike Mosley, Sam Sessions, and Jim Malloy had left the race within a span of 13 laps.
Although Andretti seemed to be having no trouble, I was becoming more and more uneasy about his chances of winning because of his bad luck the past three years and Andy Granatelli’s luck the last two. I kept hoping this would be their good year.
As the race neared its end, a close battle developed for third place between Unser and Kenyon. They stayed close together for several laps, but Mel just couldn’t quite get around Bobby.
Mario continued his record pace, and the crowd became more excited as he finished each lap. Then, he was given the white flag to signal one more lap to go, and then it was the winning checkered flag. He had done it! Pandemonium erupted in Andretti’s pit. Granatelli was beside himself. Twenty-three years of frustration had ended. He and his pit crew quickly got to Victory Lane. Mario took two extra laps and waved to the fans all around the track. As he pulled into the pit area on his way to the Winner’s Circle, he was given a huge reception by the crowd. He was one of the most popular drivers ever to win the race. Granatelli broke tradition and was the first person to kiss the winner instead of his wife and the 500 Festival Queen. After the ceremony in Victory Lane, they were driven slowly around the track so that everybody could get a good look at them. They stopped at the starting line and answered many questions which were asked of them.
Meanwhile, Dan Gurney pulled into a happy pit area, having finished second for the second straight year. Dan is another driver who deserves to win this race. Unser and Kenyon finished their duel for third and fourth, and rookie Peter Revson, having started 33rd, drove a great race and nosed out Joe Leonard by 0.027 mph to finish fifth. Mark Donohue finished seventh and with it received the Rookie of the Year award. Foyt was eighth, Larry Dickson ninth and Bobby Johns tenth. Johns’s pit was in front of us, and he had to make several pit stops, but he kept going, although he finished only 171 laps.
Racing continued for a few minutes, and then Pat Vidan waved the red flag, which meant the race was over. One by one, the drivers slowly came in and turned off their engines. The cars and drivers were both hot and dirty. Some of the drivers had to be lifted out of their cars, but they were all pretty happy and rightly so. They had done a good day’s work. They talked a couple minutes with their pit crews and then pushed the cars and the equipment back to the garage area.
Many people were leaving, but we stayed a few minutes. Several drivers were interviewed, and then the winning time was announced. Andretti drove the 500 miles in 3:11:14.71 for an average speed of 156.867 mph, almost four miles per hour faster than Bobby Unser’s 1968 record of 152.882. Now, it was all over for another year.
We checked to see that we had everything and then headed for the exit. It’s always a sad time for me when I take my last look up and down the straightaway and know I won’t see it again for a year. The traffic was heavy but moved steadily, even through the tunnel under the track. Last year we were caught in a terrible jam behind the Paddock section, but this year we were alert for such things and managed to get all the way to the main gate in fairly light traffic. It was certainly a relief from last year. Just before we reached the exit, I bought a flash edition of the Indianapolis News, which had the headlines in big letters, “MARIO WINS 500.” The traffic was very heavy on Crawfordsville Road, and we had to be careful about how and where we walked. People are in a hurry to leave and they don’t have the patience and alertness they have normally, so the pedestrians have to be extra careful.
As always, it felt good to get back to the car. We sat down, took off our shoes, and watched the hundreds of cars trying to get on their way home. I took a few pictures to finish the roll while we listened to the radio and had something to eat and drink. Many of the people in Kramer’s lot had already left, but we waited a while and hoped the traffic would thin out a little bit. The Kramers were sitting on their front porch with their son and his wife and their two children, and I talked to them for a few minutes. The food and drink really tasted good, and for some reason I couldn’t get enough to drink. The coffee tasted good, although it was only lukewarm. We waited longer than usual for the traffic to thin out, but it didn’t seem to do so, so we decided we had better leave anyway. We checked to see that we had everything, got our equipment in order, said goodbye to Kramer’s for another year, and at 4:20 drove out of the yard and stopped at the sign on Fisher Street. We were on our way.
This was the beginning of the most exasperating part of out trip. The cars were lined up bumper-to-bumper for several blocks and were getting nowhere. We could have leisurely eaten a complete meal in the time we spent at the stop sign. The long wait caused many short tempers and much horn blowing, but that didn’t help. None of us could remember when the traffic was this tied up. Finally, some kindhearted person let us onto Crawfordsville Road, and we sat again for a long time. Then, all of a sudden, we moved a block in one stretch. I felt sorry for the people on the side streets because I knew what they were going through. When we did move we had to stop quite suddenly, and that didn’t help any.
After what seemed to be hours, we arrived at the Lynhurst intersection and went straight. Our progress was short-lived as we had to stop again and wait a long time. The only consolation we had was that we were only three of several hundred persons in the same mess. The traffic moved just as slowly as it had before we reached the intersection, and spurt by spurt we moved westward. At long last, we reached the I-74 turnoff. It had taken us a whole hour to drive about two blocks. It had to be the longest two blocks we had ever driven, and we all breathed a sign of relief when we got out of the mess. Something had been terribly wrong in the movement of the traffic, and all we could do now was hope it didn’t happen next year.
Once we hit I-74, we had no more trouble with the traffic. It took slightly more than an hour to reach the Illinois line. Then we continued on to Danville and south on US Route 150/IL Route 1 to the Route 36 intersection. It was better driving than having to fight the holiday traffic, hills, curves, and other nuisances on Route 36 in Indiana.
It was 6:45 when we arrived at the Colonial Kitchen. We had to wait in line behind a bus load of race fans, but the line moved real well. Almost everything on the serving line looked good to me, and I put as much on my plate as I could. We sat down, relaxed, and took our time eating. The good, hot meal really tasted good to us. When we finished eating, we had dessert, another cup of coffee, and then decided it was time to go. We used the restrooms, paid the bill, and at 7:38, we started the second part of our trip home.
The meal seemed to refresh me somewhat, and I was not sleepy at all the rest of the way home as I had been slightly before supper. The traffic moved real well, and we arrived at Decatur shortly before 9:00. Traffic was pretty heavy as it always is on Memorial Day night, but we got through the city okay. Between Decatur and Springfield we encountered some slow drivers and a wreck between Illiopolis and Lanesville, but we didn’t have to stop and arrived back at Dalbey’s about 9:45. We left most of the things in the car until the next day and went in and visited with Mother and Susan for a few minutes. About 10:00, I decided I had better go home, so I said goodbye and departed.
We had completed another safe, enjoyable trip and, like all other years, this year had its own occurrences that would separate it from all other years.
This was the year of the Italians, one big and one little who, working together along with the pit crew, ended a long period of personal frustration at the Speedway.
If Mario Andretti’s racing luck was as good as his qualifying luck, he would already have won twice and finished no lower than fourth.
Andy Granatelli missed by a narrow margin winning in 1967 and 1968, but Lady Luck finally found him and this was his year.
Mario has been my racing idol since 1965 as he had been for thousands of other racing fans, and it had been very disappointing to me to see him have such rotten racing luck at the Speedway the last three years. He certainly deserved to win. He has a magnetic personality, good looks, lots of money, and thousands of fans who think he is IT.
This was the first time in Speedway history that the starting field was lined up in exact order of qualifying speed.
There are many fine drivers besides Andretti who deserve to win the race. Among them are Gurney, Kenyon, McCluskey, Tingelstad, Johncock, Ruby, and McElreath. Maybe one or more of them will win it some year.
Andretti’s prize money was $205,727 out of a total $804,627, both of which are records.
The Speedway management continues to build additional seating areas, which proves the popularity of the race with the fans.
As we usually do, the three of us had a real good time and are looking forward to Memorial Day 1970 when, once again, we plan on being spectators at the annual running of the world’s greatest sporting event — the Indianapolis 500.
Pace Car — Chevrolet Camaro
500 Festival Queen — Janet Faires