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The 1978 USAC Championship Car season consisted of 18 races, beginning at Phoenix on March 18 and concluding at the same location on October 28. The USAC National Champion was Tom Sneva and the Indianapolis 500 winner was Al Unser. This was the last year before the first USAC/CART "Split". By winning the Indianapolis 500, Pocono 500, and California 500, Al Unser swept the Indy car "Triple Crown", the only driver in history to do so.

1978 USAC Championship Car season
USAC National Championship Citicorp Cup
Season
Races18
Start dateMarch 18
End dateOctober 28
Awards
National championUnited States Tom Sneva
Indianapolis 500 winnerUnited States Al Unser
← 1977
1979 (USAC)
1979 (CART) →

The 1978 season is also statistically noteworthy. Danny Ongais won the most races (5), and Al Unser swept the triple crown races, but it was Tom Sneva (who did not win a single race) who won the championship title. Sneva had six 2nd place finishes, and twelve top 5s, and experienced more consistent finishes. Sneva became the second driver to win the USAC championship without winning a race during the season, the last being Tony Bettenhausen in 1958. Sneva's "winless" championship was not without its critics, however, a statistician calculated points results using contemporary scales of other racing series, and concluded that Sneva would have still won the title in nearly every scenario.[1]

The 1978 season was also a break-out year for future champion Rick Mears. Mario Andretti was running the full Formula One season (of which he would be World Champion). Andretti was running a partial Indy car schedule for Penske Racing, and Roger Penske hired the young Mears to fill in for Andretti the weekends he was overseas. Mears, who had spent two years in lesser-funded rides, jumped at the opportunity to drive for Penske, even though it was only a part-time ride. Mears won Co-Rookie of the Year at Indy, won three races, and despite running only 11 of 18 races, finished 9th in points.

Contents

Schedule and resultsEdit

Rnd Date Race Name Track Location Pole Position Winning Driver
1 March 18   Jimmy Bryan 150  O  Phoenix International Raceway Avondale, Arizona   Danny Ongais   Gordon Johncock
2 March 26   Datsun Twin 200  O  Ontario Motor Speedway Ontario, California   Tom Sneva   Danny Ongais
3 April 15   Coors 200  O  Texas World Speedway College Station, Texas   Danny Ongais   Danny Ongais
4 April 23   Gabriel 200  O  Trenton International Speedway Trenton, New Jersey   Tom Sneva   Gordon Johncock
5 May 28   International 500 Mile Sweepstakes  O  Indianapolis Motor Speedway Speedway, Indiana   Tom Sneva   Al Unser
6 June 11   Molson Diamond Indy  R  Mosport Park Bowmanville, Ontario   Danny Ongais   Danny Ongais
7 June 18   Rex Mays Classic  O  Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway West Allis, Wisconsin   Danny Ongais   Rick Mears
8 June 25   Schaefer 500  O  Pocono International Raceway Long Pond, Pennsylvania   Danny Ongais   Al Unser
9 July 16   Norton Twin 200  O  Michigan International Speedway Brooklyn, Michigan   Tom Sneva   Johnny Rutherford
10 July 23   Gould Twin Dixie  O  Atlanta International Raceway Hampton, Georgia   Tom Sneva   Rick Mears
11 August 6   Texas Grand Prix  O  Texas World Speedway College Station, Texas   Tom Sneva   A. J. Foyt
12 August 20   Tony Bettenhausen 200  O  Wisconsin State Fair Park Speedway West Allis, Wisconsin   Danny Ongais   Danny Ongais
13 September 3   California 500  O  Ontario Motor Speedway Ontario, California   Tom Sneva   Al Unser
14 September 16   Gould Grand Prix  O  Michigan International Speedway Brooklyn, Michigan   Johnny Rutherford   Danny Ongais
15 September 23   Machinist Union 150  O  Trenton International Speedway Trenton, New Jersey   A. J. Foyt   Mario Andretti
16 October 1   Daily Empress Indy Silverstone  R  Silverstone Circuit Silverstone, England   Danny Ongais   A. J. Foyt
17 October 7   Daily Mail Indy Trophy  R  Brands Hatch (Indy Circuit) Fawkham, England   Al Unser   Rick Mears
18 October 29   Miller High Life Bobby Ball Memorial 150  O  Phoenix International Raceway Avondale, Arizona   Danny Ongais   Johnny Rutherford
O Oval/Speedway
R Road Course/Street Circuit

Final points standingsEdit

Note: Janet Guthrie not eligible for points.

Pos Driver PHX1
 
ONT1
 
TXS1
 
TRE1
 
INDY
 
MOS
 
MIL1
 
POC
 
MIC1
 
ATL
 
TXS2
 
MIL2
 
ONT2
 
MIC2
 
TRE2
 
SIL
 
BRH
 
PHX2
 
Pts
1   Tom Sneva 22 2 2 3 2 4 15 3 2 8 5 15 23 2 3 3 2 16 4153
2   Al Unser 10 3 DNQ 1 12 8 1 17 14 17 5 1 17 4 10 15 5 4031
3   Gordon Johncock 1 19 3 1 3 DNQ 22 14 19 7 7 3 3 3 14 4 11 3 3548
4   Johnny Rutherford 16 13 19 10 13 8 2 2 1 2 2 8 11 13 11 5 3 1 3067
5   A. J. Foyt 3 4 17 2 7 16 19 8 16 4 1 4 28 5 19 1 4 2 3024
6   Wally Dallenbach 14 9 4 11 5 11 3 4 3 9 4 7 10 11 6 14 5 6 2966
7   Steve Krisiloff 2 14 8 5 4 3 4 32 14 5 3 6 7 15 5 6 DNQ 8 2874
8   Danny Ongais 12 1 1 4 18 1 16 19 6 21 DNS 1 12 1 15 15 9 4 2662
9   Rick Mears 5 23 2 1 22 1 9 2 9 2 1 2171
10   Pancho Carter 24 15 21 10 DNQ 11 11 2 18 7 9 1206
11   Tom Bagley (RY) 8 17 10 12 27 17 7 26 12 6 16 DNS 4 6 12 13 14 14 1188
12   Bobby Unser 18 16 13 20 6 19 17 20 5 3 8 20 13 8 13 11 1122
13   Larry Dickson 17 5 14 22 5 5 5 11 1121
14   Johnny Parsons, Jr. Wth 18 11 17 10 9 9 22 4 20 18 19 15 7 2 DNQ 978
15   George Snider 8 6 15 DNS 27 11 8 20 766
16   Tom Bigelow 15 7 12 8 21 14 6 15 8 10 4 18 764
17   Mario Andretti DNS 15 5 13 12 23 DNS 20 1 7 681
18   Dick Simon 4 6 19 18 30 13 18 6 21 27 12 7 22 670
19   Jim McElreath 6 7 20 25 7 13 12 12 20 9 DNQ 12 573
20   Salt Walther 13 11 7 15 28 7 11 13 18 29 7 6 DNQ 562
21   Cliff Hucul 7 33 10 17 DNQ 21 9 8 13 519
22   Lee Kunzman DNQ 33 DNQ 18 5 513
23   Sheldon Kinser 6 8 15 14 32 12 DNQ 17 19 11 17 8 10 19 495
24   Mike Mosley 17 DNQ 14 7 DNQ 13 DNQ 16 8 10 483
25   Roger Mears (R) 6 DNQ 400
26   Bobby Olivero 9 10 9 6 DNQ 360
27   Al Loquasto DNQ 13 12 9 10 19 13 19 321
28   Joe Saldana 15 21 9 10 10 DNQ 10 DNQ 16 10 314
29   Gary Bettenhausen 21 12 19 16 6 DNQ 29 22 9 21 294
30   Spike Gehlhausen 20 23 16 18 29 DNQ 13 31 20 22 14 16 21 16 17 9 12 17 188
31   Larry Cannon DNQ 10 11 DNQ 15 17 22 19 DNQ DNQ 184
32   Larry Rice DNQ 9 11 DNQ DNQ 180
33   Jerry Karl 11 21 21 22 14 18 DNS 20 104
34   Jerry Sneva 31 16 DNQ 16 25 14 18 DNQ 62
35   Roger McCluskey 19 20 20 21 25 24 13 61
36   Phil Threshie 30 18 20 24 21 DNQ 30 45
37   Todd Gibson 15 14 16 15 34
38   Vern Schuppan 18 16 DNQ 20 26
39   Bob Harkey 22 DNQ 18 26
40   Bill Vukovich, Jr. DNQ 28 26 20
41   Eldon Rasmussen DNQ DNQ 12 DNQ 15
42   Roger Rager DNQ DNQ DNQ DNQ 12 15
43   John Mahler 26 10
44   Bubby Jones DNQ 27 10
45   Chuck Gurney DNQ 24 DNQ 6
-   Janet Guthrie 9 0
-   Ed Finley DNQ DNQ 0
-   Tom Gloy DNQ DNQ 0
-   Mike Hiss DNQ 0
-   Jim Hurtubise DNQ 0
-   Gary Irvin DNQ 0
-   Mel Kenyon DNQ 0
-   John Martin DNQ 0
-   Graham McRae DNQ 0
-   Frank Weiss DNQ 0
Pos Driver PHX1
 
ONT1
 
TXS1
 
TRE1
 
INDY
 
MOS
 
MIL1
 
POC
 
MIC1
 
ATL
 
TXS2
 
MIL2
 
ONT2
 
MIC2
 
TRE2
 
SIL
 
BRH
 
PHX2
 
Pts
Color Result
Gold Winner
Silver 2nd place
Bronze 3rd place
Green 4th & 5th place
Light Blue 6th-10th place
Dark Blue Finished
(Outside Top 10)
Purple Did not finish
(Ret)
Red Did not qualify
(DNQ)
Brown Withdrawn
(Wth)
Black Disqualified
(DSQ)
White Did not start
(DNS)
Blank Did not
participate
(DNP)
Not competing
In-line notation
Bold Pole position
Italics Ran fastest race lap
* Led most race laps
(RY): Rookie of the Year
(R): Rookie

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ The Talk of Gasoline Alley. May 12, 2015. WFNI.

See alsoEdit