Johnny Rutherford must have finished the race with the fumes in his fuel tank. The total fuel allowance works out to 1.8 miles per gallon with 40 gallons permitted on the car.Rutherford filled up with 72.5 miles to go and ran non-stop to the end. "I guess the car's just economical on fuel," he said. "No need to stop to refill."
"We were running like turtles out there," A. J. Foyt complained after both his cars dropped out on almost the same lap with engine problems.
Rutherford felt more horsepower would have helped drivers "get out of trouble" on the six spinouts during the race.Rutherford hardly needed more pep. He was able to add about a second a lap to his lead in the closing stages.
Always a gracious winner, Rutherford allowed rookie Tim Richmond to ride on his car from the pit entrance, where Richmond's car had run out of gas, to Victory Lane, saving the young driver a half-mile hike.
Rookie Roger Rager had a big thrill worth $600 when a flurry of early pit stops by the leading cars put him in first place for three lpas. Lap leaders win $200 per circuit. Later, after Rager had spun out without injury, he said, "I've been cut off several times today. There is too much emphasis on being a rookie driver. We're as capable as any driver here."
Of the seven former winners in the race, Rutherford, Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock were the only finishers. Al and Bobby Unser, Foyt and Marion Andretti had to quit.
The four mass-produced Chevrolet engines failed to finish. Jerry Karl, the Manchester, Pa., veteran, wanted fans to know it was a "$400 clutch, not the engine" that put him out of the race. The stock-blocks cost less than half as much as the $40,000 racing engines, but there remains a question about their reliability.
After three days of rain here, race day was sunny with the track tempearture at 110 degrees. No driver called for relief, but rookie Hurley Haywood did get a little warm. A fire broke out in his engine compartment, bringing firemen with somethering foam. Once cleaned up, Haywood went on to finish 19th.
Dick Simon's miserable luck here continued. Of 16 starting drivers who have been in 10 or more 500s, only Simon has never finished among the top 10. Thoday, after almost an hour in the pits to repair a broken A-arm, he went out and broke another and was placed 22nd at the finish. A 13th in 1972 is his best effort.
One of the 13 caution flags during the race had nothing to do with a car. A beer can on the fourth turn slowed the field until it was picked up.
Every one of the 238,000 seats, at up to $30 a ticket, was sold for today's 64th 500. Unlike many other big tracks,the Speedway does not allow overnight camping in its infield. The surrounding neighborhoods are jammed with campers, tent dwellers, high spritied young people and, of course, police to watch them.