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The 58th 500 Mile International Sweepstakes was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana on Sunday, May 26, 1974. Johnny Rutherford, in his eleventh attempt, won the race from the 25th starting position, the farthest back since Louis Meyer in 1936. It was the first of three Indy victories for Rutherford, and the first year of a three-year stretch where he finished 1st-2nd-1st.

58th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 2017 - Racecars 06.jpg
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning bodyUSAC
Season1974 USAC Trail
DateMay 26, 1974
WinnerJohnny Rutherford
Winning teamMcLaren
Average speed158.589 mph (255.224 km/h)
Pole positionA. J. Foyt
Pole speed191.632 mph (308.402 km/h)
Fastest qualifierA. J. Foyt
Rookie of the YearPancho Carter
Most laps ledJohnny Rutherford (122)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthemPurdue Band
"Back Home Again in Indiana"Jim Nabors
Starting CommandTony Hulman
Pace carHurst/Olds Cutlass
Pace car driverJim Rathmann
StarterPat Vidan[1]
Estimated attendance275,000[2]
TV in the United States
AnnouncersJim McKay and Sam Posey
Nielsen Ratings16.4 / 31
Previous Next
1973 1975

The race was run relatively clean, with no major crashes or injuries, a sharp contrast from the tragic 1973 race a year earlier. In order to increase safety, significant improvements were made to the track, and the cars. Wings were reduced in size, fuel tank capacity was reduced, and pop-off valves were added to the turbocharger plenums in order to reduce horsepower and curtail speeds.

For the first time in Indy history, the race was scheduled for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. This ended the "never on a Sunday" policy previously held from 1911 to 1973. At the time, it was also the earliest calendar date (May 26) that the race had ever been held.

On race day, A. J. Foyt broke the all-time record for most starts at Indianapolis. The 1974 race was his 17th Indy 500 start (all consecutive), breaking the record of 16 previously held by Cliff Bergere and Chet Miller.[3] Foyt would go on to start a total of 35 consecutive races.


Race scheduleEdit

Race schedule – May, 1974
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat



Opening Day
Pole Day
Bump Day
Carb Day
Indy 500
Memorial Day

Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out*
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track
activity was significantly
limited due to rain


Schedule changesEdit

The race was run in the wake of the energy crisis, which precipitated several changes to the schedule. During the offseason, government officials were pressuring sports and recreational organizations to curtail their energy consumption.[4] Track management did not want to shorten the traditional 500-mile race distance, but agreed to voluntarily curtail other track activities. In the first half of 1974, NASCAR decided to trim all of their race distances by 10%, as well as scale back practice and ancillary events. Earlier in the year, the Daytona 500 was notably trimmed by 20 laps (the race officially started on lap 21), and the race ran a distance of only 450 miles.[5] Furthermore, the 24 Hours of Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring were canceled outright.

USAC opted to cut a week of practice out of the schedule for the Indy 500. Previously, the track would open for practice on May 1 (or as early as the Saturday before May 1). For 1974, the track opened three weeks before the race. Time trials were cut back from four days to two. Pole day would be held on the Saturday two weeks before the race, and Bump Day would be held on the Saturday one week before the race.

In addition, the track would begin opening on practice days around 12 noon, rather than the previous 9 a.m.[6] Normally, the first few hours of practice were quiet and leisurely with few cars taking advantage of the track time. Thus they were deemed superfluous and excessive on resources and operating costs. This change was also introduced because it made logical sense to have drivers practicing on the track at the same time of day as they would be running in time trials and the race itself (theoretically it would better mimic the conditions encountered on those days).

The reduced on-track time was seen as a way to reduce overall fuel consumption – fewer days that fans would drive their cars to the track – but a mostly insignificant reduction of the actual methanol fuel used by the race cars.

Safety improvementsEdit

After the tragic 1973 race, several changes were made to the course, as well as the car rules. The pit lane was widened, and lengthened to the north by about 400 feet. In addition, the inside wall from turn 4 to the pit entrance, which had played a part in the fatal 1973 crash that killed Swede Savage and the 1964 crash that killed Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs, was moved in, which allowed cars to have a much easier entrance into the pit lane as asphalt replaced grass in that area. The heights of the inside and outside retaining walls were also raised and set at a uniform height, a second safety fence was added to the existing fencing throughout, and several rows of trackside seats on the main straightaway were removed.[7]

Also part of the improvements were a new flagstand and officials' booth. Tom Binford, the new chief steward for 1974,[8] requested the construction of an elevated booth, to be located on the outside of the track at the start/finish line.[9][10] The flagging duties were moved to the new perch. Previously they were done from a small trackside platform on the inside grass along the pit lane, and prior to that, on the race track itself. Though flagman Pat Vidan did not particularly like the confines of the new flagstand[10] (it constricted his grandiose waving style), the officials preferred their improved view of the track and the isolation the booth provided[9][10] (previously the officials were stationed on the pit lane, in full ear of the often confrontational participants[11]).

Just three days after the 1973 race, USAC held an urgent meeting to draft emergency rule changes in time for the Pocono 500. Rear wings were reduced in size from 64 inches to 55 inches. On-board fuel capacity was reduced from 70 US gal (58 imp gal; 260 l) down to 40 US gal (33 imp gal; 150 l), and fuel tanks were only allowed on the left side of the car, with the exception of a 2​12 gallon pick-up tank. An energy-absorbing material was to be placed in the spot formerly occupied by the right-side tank, and total fuel allotment for the 500 miles was reduced from 375 to 340 gallons.[12] By May of 1974, the rules were changed once more, further reducing the total fuel allotment to 280 gallons,[13] and rear wings down to 43 inches.[14]

During time trials, all cars were required to carry a pop-off valve to control turbocharger "boost." Maximum boost levels were set at 80 inHG.[13] The reduction of boost, reduction of wing sizes, and other technical changes lowered speeds by about 8–10 mph from 1973. As a result, top speeds would be around 190 mph, and the elusive 200 mph barrier would be out-of-reach for 1974.

Rule changesEdit

In response to the fatal accident of pit crew member Armando Teran in 1973, safety trucks were prohibited from driving on the racing surface in the opposite direction of the racing cars. Teran was struck by a fire truck rushing to the scene of Swede Savage's accident.[15]

During time trials, a new safety rule was put into place to convey to the officials the start of a qualifying attempt.[16] When a driver is on his three warm-up laps, a crew member(s) from his team is now stationed at the north end of the mainstretch. When the car is coming around after the third and final warm-up lap, the crew waves a green flag in the air to signify the driver will begin the run. If the crew waves a yellow flag, or waves no flag, the run does not start, the car returns to the pits, and the attempt does not count. As in previous years, each car was still permitted up to three official qualifying attempts.

Previously, the driver himself would make the decision on whether to start the qualifying run. He would do so by raising his hand in the air as he approached the start/finish line. Due to the significantly rising speeds, and the awkwardness of doing so in the increasingly confined cockpits, this practice was abandoned. For instance, during qualifying in 1970, Lloyd Ruby raised his hand to make his attempt, but officials did not see it, and inadvertently waved him off. After he persuaded the officials for a do-over, he burned a piston.[17] It was also in the interest of safety, reflecting upon an incident that involved Bobby Grim during the 1959 race. Grim suffered magneto failure and began coasting to the pits. As was customary for drivers of the time, he raised his arm to signify to the other drivers he had lost power. However, due to the high speed he was still traveling, he painfully dislocated his arm in the process.[18]

This new arrangement also made it simpler for the crew to "wave off" an unsatisfactory attempt already in progress. At any time during the four-lap run, if the crew was dissatisfied with the performance, they could wave a yellow flag, and officials would immediately abort the run. Crews could now wave off a run without needing input from, or conveying the message to, the driver out on the track. Previously the only way to wave off a run was to pull into the pits. Typically, crew members would use hand-held stopwatches and clock their car from a reference point in turn four. That would give them enough time to estimate their forthcoming lap time, and decide whether to abort the run before the car crossed the start/finish line. Furthermore, the rules made it clear that the instant the yellow flag was waved by the crew, the run was aborted, irrespective of the position of the car out on the track. If the car continued down the mainstretch, it would not matter if he/she proceeded to cross the finish line. Previously, if a car physically crossed the finish line, the run counted and was locked in, even if the team was intending to wave off the run. That situation made for some precarious maneuvers to the pit lane or to cars stopping out on the track to avoid crossing the finish line and 'locking in' the undesirable qualifying time.

Departure of FirestoneEdit

The 1974 race would be the last, temporarily, for Firestone, who dropped out of Indy car competition effective at the end of the season. Firestone had been a fixture at the Indianapolis 500 dating back to 1911. Firestone-shod cars had won the Indianapolis 500 a total of 48 times to date, including 43 consecutive from 1920 to 1966. By the mid-1960s, Goodyear had joined the sport, and began a fiercely-competitive "tire war." Firestone had not won the 500 since Al Unser won back-to-back in 1970-1971. Starting in 1975, Goodyear became the lone tire supplier for championship trail racing and the Indy 500 - an arrangement that would continue through 1994. Firestone made a heralded return to Indy car competition in 1995,[19] and eventually became the exclusive tire supplier in 2000.

Time trialsEdit

Pole dayEdit

Pole Day was held on Saturday May 11. Foyt drew the first in the qualifying draw, and was the first car to make an attempt at 11 a.m. His four-lap speed of 191.632 mph placed him tentatively on the pole position.

Wally Dallenbach completed a run of 189.683 mph, which put him in second starting position. His car featured a controversial "king sized" turbocharger, which some competitors complained was too large to be controlled by the standard issue pop-off valves. Ultimately, Dallenbach's blower was deemed legal, but USAC ruled that the team had to use the same turbo in the race. They would not be allowed to swap it out for the more fuel-conservative smaller turbo on race day.

At 12:25 p.m. rain halted qualifying. Only nine cars had completed attempts.

At 3:35 p.m., the track was dried, and qualifying resumed. Five more cars were able to take to the track, but rain returned, and the track was closed for the day at 4:20 p.m. The field was only filled to 15 cars, and several drivers, including Mario Andretti and Gordon Johncock were still in line and eligible for the pole. Al Unser and Johnny Rutherford, however, both suffered blown engines during the day, and had to forfeit their spots in the qualifying line. Both would be ineligible for the pole, and would have to be second-day qualifiers.

Bump dayEdit

The track opened for time trials on Saturday May 18 with 11 cars still eligible for the pole position round. Gordon Johncock was the first driver out, and he completed a run of 186.287 mph. The next car out was Mike Hiss, who qualified third at 187.490 mph. Andretti was the last driver who was a factor for the pole, but he ended up 5th. At 12:30 p.m., the pole round was over, with Foyt holding on to the pole position. The field officially was filled to 24 cars. As soon as the pole round was over, rain fell, closing the track for almost 4 hours.

At 4:20 p.m., the track was dried and re-opened for Bump Day time trials. Rutherford, who missed out on the pole round, qualified at 190.446 mph, the second-fastest car in the field. Since he was a second day qualifier, however, he was forced to line up behind the first-day qualifiers in 25th position.

With 15 minutes left in the day, the field was filled to 33 cars. Johnny Parsons bumped Jigger Sirois out of the field with 9 minutes left. The final car to make an attempt was rookie Jan Opperman, who qualified for the 32nd position. Sammy Sessions and others were left waiting in line at the 6 o'clock gun. A protest was filed by owners who were not able to make an attempt (mostly due to the numerous rain delays), but it was dismissed.

Race summaryEdit


At the start, Wally Dallenbach blasted from the middle of the front row to take the lead into turn one. His aforementioned "king-sized" turbocharger was credited for the fast start, but its reliability was a source of considerable concern. Dallenbach set a new race record for one-lap of 191.408 mph on lap 2, as he pulled out to a sizable lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Dallenbach broke a piston and coasted to a stop on lap 3. Attrition was very high early on, as eight cars dropped out with mechanical problems by lap 11. Mario Andretti and Gary Bettenhausen each broke a valve, and Mike Mosley blew an engine. Rick Muther pulled into the pits with problems during the pace lap, but rejoined the race, only to lose a piston after 11 laps.

A. J. Foyt took the lead when Dallenbach dropped out. Rutherford was charging dramatically from the 25th starting position. By lap 23, he was running third, and on lap 24, he passed Bobby Unser to take 2nd position.

First halfEdit

The top five consisted of Foyt, Rutherford, Bobby Unser, rookie Tom Sneva and Al Unser. By lap 45, Rutherford was driving very aggressively in traffic, and caught up to Foyt. The two cars ran nose-to-tail over the next several laps.

During the second sequence of pit stops around lap 50, teammates Gordon Johncock and Steve Krisiloff both ran out of fuel. They coasted back to the pits and lost considerable time on the track. Bobby Unser also ran out of fuel, and top of that, had a 39 second pit stop. On lap 62, the first caution came out when Larry Cannon stalled on the backstretch. Under the yellow, A. J. Foyt had a terrible pit stop of 53 seconds, which allowed Rutherford to take the lead for the first time on lap 65.

The green came out on lap 68, but only lasted three laps, as Jimmy Caruthers blew an engine, and dropped oil on the track. Five laps later, Pancho Carter lightly brushed the wall exiting turn four, but the car did not suffer significant damage.

On the next green flag pit stop around lap 90, Rutherford was on the receiving end of good luck. He ducked into the pits under green, but seconds later the caution came out for a spin by Jan Opperman, which allowed Rutherford to pit with little time lost.

Second halfEdit

Jerry Karl crashed in turn 3 after completing 115 laps. During the caution, Johnny Rutherford exited the pits right in front of second place A. J. Foyt, and held the lead. Seconds later, the green light came back on while the drivers were in the southchute. Foyt got the jump on the restart, and passed Rutherford for the lead in turn 2.

At lap 130, Foyt, Rutherford, and Bobby Unser were running 1st-2nd-3rd. Al Unser dropped out on lap 131 with a broken valve, bringing out the caution for a tow-in. Foyt ducked into the pits, and Rutherford was now the leader again.

On lap 138, the green light came back on. Foyt came through traffic and passed Rutherford for the lead down the mainstretch. A lap later though, Foyt's car began smoking, and he was issued the black flag due to leaking oil. After two pits stops, Foyt dropped out with a broken turbocharger scavenger pump.

Rutherford took over the lead on lap 141, and seemed to have the race in hand. Bobby Unser was the only other car on the lead lap, but was between 15-20 second behind. Rutherford had a close call in turn one while attempting to pass lap traffic. As he was lapping Pancho Carter and Jim McElreath, Carter spun right next to him in turn one. McElreath narrowly avoided him, and all three cars continued.

Rutherford gave up the lead only one more time on lap 176 during a pit stop. He led the final 24 laps to win his first Indianapolis 500. David Hobbs' 5th-place finish was the only top ten at Indianapolis for a foreign driver in the 1970s (except Andretti, who was born in Italy but was a naturalized U.S. citizen).

Immediately after the checkered flag was waved for Johnny Rutherford, a multitude of fans streamed onto the active track in turn 3. This forced the race steward to immediately halt the race, rather than give lapped drivers five extra minutes to complete the race distance[20] as had been the custom since 1964 (before 1964, the time allowed was even longer). The fan incursion caused the Indianapolis 500 race rules to be changed for 1975 and beyond, so that the winner crossing the line ends the race, and all competitors behind the race winner are allowed only to finish their current running lap under green.[21]

Race resultsEdit

Finish Start No Name Qual Rank Laps Time/Retired
1 25 3   Johnny Rutherford 190.446 2 200 3:09:10.06
2 7 48   Bobby Unser (W) 185.176 8 200 +22.32
3 16 4   Bill Vukovich II 182.500 18 199 Flagged, +1 lap
4 4 20   Gordon Johncock (W) 186.287 5 198 Flagged, +2 laps
5 9 73   David Hobbs 184.833 10 196 Flagged, +4 laps
6 30 45   Jim McElreath 177.279 30 194 Flagged, +6 laps
7 21 11   Pancho Carter (R) 180.605 24 191 Flagged, +9 laps
8 31 79   Bob Harkey 176.687 31 189 Flagged, +11 laps
9 18 9   Lloyd Ruby 181.699 20 187 Out of fuel
10 17 55   Jerry Grant 181.781 19 175 Flagged, +25 laps
11 22 89   John Martin 180.406 25 169 Flagged, + 31 laps
12 23 27   Tom Bigelow (R) 180.144 28 166 Flagged, +34 laps
13 20 18   Bill Simpson (R) 181.041 22 163 Piston
14 3 68   Mike Hiss 187.490 4 158 Flagged, +42 laps
15 1 14   A. J. Foyt (W) 191.632 1 142 Oil Fitting
16 27 1   Roger McCluskey 181.004 23 141 Rear End
17 14 77   Salt Walther 183.927 15 141 Piston
18 26 15   Al Unser (W) 183.889 16 131 Valve
19 19 42   Jerry Karl 181.452 21 115 Crash T3
20 8 24   Tom Sneva (R) 185.147 9 94 Drive Gear
21 32 51   Jan Opperman (R) 176.186 32 85 Spun T4
22 15 60   Steve Krisiloff 182.519 17 72 Clutch
23 12 21   Jimmy Caruthers 184.049 13 64 Gearbox
24 33 59   Larry Cannon (R) 173.963 33 49 Differential
25 28 56   Jim Hurtubise 180.288 26 31 Blown Engine
26 29 94   Johnny Parsons (R) 180.252 27 18 Turbocharger
27 24 61   Rick Muther 179.991 29 11 Piston
28 13 82   George Snider 183.993 14 7 Valve
29 6 98   Mike Mosley 185.319 7 6 Blown Engine
30 2 40   Wally Dallenbach Sr. 189.683 3 3 Piston
31 5 5   Mario Andretti (W) 186.027 6 2 Valve
32 11 8   Gary Bettenhausen 184.493 12 2 Valve
33 10 44   Dick Simon 184.502 11 1 Valve


Failed to QualifyEdit

Race statisticsEdit

Tire participation chart
Supplier No. of starters
Goodyear 16*
Firestone 17 
* – Denotes race winner



The race was carried live on the IMS Radio Network. The broadcast reached an estimated 1,200 affiliates and carriers. Sid Collins served as chief announcer and Fred Agabashian served as "driver expert." At the conclusion of the race, Lou Palmer reported from victory lane. The broadcast opened with a 45-minute prerace.

Several shuffles occurred amongst the reporters and locations, the most significant changes in almost a decade. Mike Ahern retired from the crew and his prestigious turn one location. Veteran Ron Carrell moved from turn three to take over turn one. Among the newcomers was Paul Page, who debuted as a pit reporter. The reporting location for turn three was moved to a platform on the "L" grandstand. Doug Zink took over turn three, and rookie Jerry Baker made his 500 radio debut on the backstretch.[23]

For the first time, there were five pit/garage reporters on the crew. For the 1974 race, the length of the pit road was increased, and the additional reporter was added to help cover the expansion. Bob Forbes was once again the "wireless" roving reporter.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Sid Collins
Driver expert: Fred Agabashian
Statistician: John DeCamp
Historian: Donald Davidson

Turn 1: Ron Carrell
Turn 2: Howdy Bell
Backstretch: Jerry Baker
Turn 3: Doug Zink
Turn 4: Jim Shelton

Paul Page (north pits)
Chuck Marlowe (north-center pits)
Luke Walton (south-center pits)
Lou Palmer (south pits)
Bob Forbes (garages/hospital)


The race was carried in the United States on ABC Sports on a same-day tape delay basis. Jim McKay returned as announcer, but Jackie Stewart was in Monaco for coverage of the grand prix. Former driver Sam Posey joined the crew as booth analyst.

The broadcast has re-aired on ESPN Classic since May 2011.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host: Chris Schenkel
Announcer: Jim McKay
Color: Sam Posey

Chris Economaki
Bill Flemming


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Fox, Jack C. (1994). The Illustrated History of the Indianapolis 500 1911-1994 (4th ed.). Carl Hungness Publishing. p. 22. ISBN 0-915088-05-3.
  2. ^ Marquette, Ray (May 27, 1974). "Leads 122 Laps To Garner Prize of $200,000-Plus". The Indianapolis Star. p. 9. Retrieved June 2, 2017 – via 
  3. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 19, 2006. Network Indiana.
  4. ^ "Daytona 500 Cut To Daytona 450". Lakeland Ledger. 1974-01-09. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  5. ^ "Yarborough Returns To Win Column". Reading Eagle. 1974-02-15. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  6. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 4, 2010. WFNI.
  7. ^ Popely, Rick, with L. Spencer Riggs (1998). Indianapolis 500 Chronicle. Lincolnwood, IL: Publications International, Ltd. p. 234.
  8. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 14, 2007. Network Indiana.
  9. ^ a b The Talk of Gasoline Alley. August 26, 2008. WFNI.
  10. ^ a b c The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 16, 2010. WFNI.
  11. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 27, 2010. WFNI.
  12. ^ Cavin, Curt (May 30, 1995). "USAC Moves Quickly In Quest For Safety". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved August 9, 2018 – via 
  13. ^ a b Moore, George (May 2, 1974). "Bignotti Sees Foyt Engine Giving A.J. Edge In Trials". The Indianapolis Star. p. 52. Retrieved November 8, 2018 – via 
  14. ^ "Reducing Wing Calls For Feel In The Cockpit". The Indianapolis Star. May 25, 1974. p. 52. Retrieved November 8, 2018 – via 
  15. ^ Dorson, Ron (1974). Indy 500 An American Institution Under Fire. Bond/Parkhurst Books. pp. 200–201. ISBN 0-87880-025-5.
  16. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 17, 2011. WFNI.
  17. ^ Marquette, Ray (May 18, 1970). "Revson Leads Pack; Ruby Engines 'Blow'". The Indianapolis Star. p. 1. Retrieved May 31, 2018 – via 
  18. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley - 1070-AM WIBC, May 9, 2007
  19. ^ Siano, Joe (May 26, 1995). "Firestone Returns With Front-Row View". The New York Times. Retrieved July 23, 2014.
  20. ^ Marquette, Ray (May 27, 1974). "Rutherford's 11th Try Wins 500". p. 1. Retrieved 2017-07-23 – via
  21. ^ doctorindy500 (2015-10-28). "The Fastest 500s (Part 1)". JI500. Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  22. ^ "1974 International 500 Mile Sweepstakes". Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  23. ^ "Two Rookies Join Pros For Broadcast Of Race". The Indianapolis Star. May 25, 1974. p. 52. Retrieved November 8, 2018 – via 

Works citedEdit

1973 Indianapolis 500
Gordon Johncock
1974 Indianapolis 500
Johnny Rutherford
1975 Indianapolis 500
Bobby Unser