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Original Issue

The big yellow vacuum cleaner at Indy

In the 500, theground-effects car had the traction but not the transmission.

A cart backer inGasoline Alley demonstrates his feelings about USAC.


The highlight ofthe season was Rick Mears' victory in the Indianapolis 500, and the lowlightwas the Pitter struggle between the U.S. Auto club and the rival ChampionshipAuto Racing Teams. USAC had sought to Pan from the 500 six CART teams, whosedrivers included four former champions and Mears. The Speedway was saved fromhaving to put on an embarrassingly thin show only a week before qualifying,when a U.S. District Court overturned USAC's action. Race day dawned cool andclear, and the 500 progressed without major incident. The early leader wasdefending champion Al Unser, in Jim Hall's yellow Chaparral-Cosworth, the firstIndy car to fully employ the ground-effects principle of channeling the airunderneath for better traction. But halfway through the race the sophisticatedmachine sprang an unsophisticated transmission seal and was forced out of therunning. Into the preach went brother Bobby Unser in Roger Penske's new PC-7,Put he, too, ran into mechanical difficulty. That left the race to Mears in anolder version of the Penske car. Mears, a 27-year-old off-road racing championin only his second Indy, went on to win the CART nine-race series, while A. J.Foyt won all Put one other USAC race against outclassed fields. The USAC-CARTsplit did nobody any good; neither series drew much interest, and sponsors weresuddenly in short supply.

The fighting onthe stock-car circuit was confined to the infield at Daytona. On the last lapof the Daytona 500, the cars of frontrunners Donnie Allison and Cale Yarboroughbumped each other, giving the race to Richard Petty. While Petty saw his firstcheckered flag in a year and a half, Yarborough and the Allison brothers,Donnie and Bobby, duked it out by Turn 3. It was a particularly satisfying yearfor Petty, who won his seventh Grand National championship, edging out Darrellwaltrip in the circuit's last race. King Richard, 42, was clearly not about torelinquish his throne. In Formula I competition, Jody Scheckter of South Africawon his first world driving championship, but his Ferrari teammate, CanadianGilles Villeneuve, won three races and gained more attention for his wilddriving style.