Johnny Rutherford in victory lane after winning the 58th Indianapolis 500 in 1974. (IMS photo)

50 Years Ago: May 1974

Editor’s Note: Each month in recognition of SPEED SPORT’s 90th anniversary, the SPEED SPORT Insider will use the National Speed Sport News archives to look back at what happened in the racing world 50 years ago.

Top Story

Rutherford Wins Safe Indy 500

A tumultuous month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway concluded with Johnny Rutherford winning the 58th running of the Indianapolis 500.

During a May plagued by rain, controversy and a lawsuit filed by disgruntled team owners seeking an injunction against the race, that was dismissed on Thursday before the 500, Rutherford’s Offenhauser-powered McLaren M16C/D had no equal on this day.

Though, he was the second quickest qualifier in the field, Rutherford started 25th and steadily made his way to the front to lead 122 of the 200 laps as the prestigious race was run on Sunday for the first time in its history.

Rutherford earned $245,031 from a record $1,015,686 purse and finished 22.32 seconds ahead of runner-up Bobby Unser.

Billy Vukovich, Gordon Johncock, who won in 1973, and David Hobbs completed the top five.

There were only seven caution flags for 21 laps and · 34 minutes and two seconds.

Other News

-$2.5 Million Charlotte Facelift: Charlotte Motor Speedway President Richard Howard announced an improvement program estimated at $2.5 million that is expected to extend over the next five years at the 1.5-mile superspeedway in Concord, N.C.

-USAC, SCCA Joint Sanctions: A special meeting of the U.S. Auto Club board in Indianapolis resulted in approval of an agreement to work with the Sports Car Club of America to arrive at a common formula for open-wheel racing cars and to co-sanction the 1974 Formula 500 series.

-CRA To Sanction Midgets: The California Racing Ass’n, the largest sprint car sanctioning organization in the West, has announced a midget racing division that will run this season. Don Peabody will serve as president for both the sprint car and midget classes.

The Winners

-Pearson Stops Petty: Before the largest crowd (84,000) in Charlotte Motor Speedway history, David Pearson held off Richard Petty to win the World 600 NASCAR Cup Series race that was shortened to 540 miles because of the energy crisis.

-Ron Keselowski Wins At Pocono: Ron Keselowski, a relatively unknown driver in major league racing, surprised and upset the U.S. Auto Club stock car regulars at Pennsylvania’s Pocono Raceway. He won the Acme-Super Saver 500 after running out of gas twice before some 15,000 fans.

-Bigelow Unstoppable: Tom Bigelow, the Wisconsin strongman, won his first USAC sprint car feature of the 1974 season at Ohio’s Tri-County Speedway. Bigelow added fast time and a heat race win to sweep the program and set three track records.

Dixon Tops Little 500: Larry Dickson piloted Ernie Ensign’s Chevy sprint car to a dominant victory in the 26th annual Little 500 at Sun Valley Speedway in Anderson, ind.

The Advertising Department

-Valvoline celebrated Johnny Rutherford’s victory in the 58th Indianapolis 500 with a full-page advertisement in the May 29, 1974 issue of National Speed Sport News.


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