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1973 Indianapolis 500 – (104 min)
This is coverage from “ABC’s Wide World Of Sports”, but unlike past years, several incidents caused this broadcast to be
spread over a 3-day period. The DVD starts with some edited footage of qualifying from a film broadcast on the old
SpeedVision network. Then follows the Indy 500, captured here as re-broadcast on ESPN (watermark in corner) as it was
originally broadcast on ABC’s Wide World Of Sports in 1973.
What started out as live coverage of the Indy 500 (which would have normally been shown later in the day on tape delay)
turned into a mess when rain began falling on Monday May 28th, pushing the start back from the customary 11:00 am time to
3:00 pm. Then on the green flag, a horrific accident involving 11 cars, including Salt Walther, stopped the race. Walther’s car
spun into the catch fence, injuring 11 spectators, and causing a long delay as the catch fence had to be repaired. Walther
suffered severe burns and injuries to his hands. Safety crews attended to the crash scene and the fence. Before the repairs
were completed, rain began to fall once more, and the race was washed out for the day.
Officials rescheduled the start for 9:00 a.m. Tuesday. But on Tuesday, on the second parade lap, rain began to fall, and the
race was red-flagged. Rain continued to fall most of the day, and around 2:00 p.m., the race was postponed until Wednesday.
On Wednesday morning, rains threatened to wash the race out once again. Most fans had left entirely, and the mood around
the garage area was glum. At midday, the sun finally came out for a few hours, the track dried, and the race was finally
started at 2:10 p.m. The grandstands were only partially-full as the field took the green flag. On the 59th lap, Swede Savage
slid across to the inside of the track after coming out of turn 4, and hit the angled inside wall nearly head-on. The force of the
impact, with the car carrying a full load of fuel, caused the car to explode in a plume of flame. The engine and transaxle
tumbled end-over-end to the pit lane entrance while Savage, still strapped in his seat, was thrown back across the circuit.
Savage came to rest adjacent to the outer retaining wall, fully conscious and completely exposed while he lay in a pool of
flaming methanol fuel. The other cars on the track quickly stopped in turn four and the red flag came out as the track was
blocked with debris and fire. As emergency equipment and pit crew members rushed to Savage’s aid, a crew member of
Graham McRae’s team (Savage’s Patrick Racing teammate) stepped out into the pit lane and was hit by a fire truck driving
50-60 mph, throwing the crew member at least 50 feet, to the horror of stunned fans. Savage was taken to the hospital with
serious injuries, but would die later in the hospital. The crew member that was hit by the fire truck was killed almost instantly.
Over an hour after the accident, the race was resumed. Only ten cars were still on the track. After 133 laps, at
about 5:30 p.m., the rain started to fall much harder, forcing the race to be stopped. Officials declared the race
official, and the tragic race was over with Gordon Johncock the winner. The traditional victory banquet was
canceled. Johncock left the track soon after the race to visit Swede Savage at the hospital.
Sweeping changes would come about in Indycar racing at Indianapolis the following year, all in the interest of safety. Fuel
capacity was drastically reduced (from 75 gallons to 40), the large wings used in 1972-1973 were cut back in size, and
pop-off valves were introduced to the turbochargers to reduce horsepower. The changes were designed to slow the cars
down. At the track, several changes were made. The angled inside wall at the northwest corner of the track was removed,
and the pit entrance was widened. Retaining walls and catch fences were improved around the track. In addition, the
spectator areas were moved back away from the track, and many rows of track side seats were removed.
Because of delays, the TV coverage was scattered over 3 days. We see additional segments on safety, drafting, and
analysis of the first lap Salt Walther crash. Excellent commentary by Jim McKay and Sir Jackie Stewart.
QUALITY NOTE : This footage is in very good condition, but it was originally shot on videotape, and appears a little blurry.
This is apparently the best copy of this race available, as this was the version ESPN chose to re-broadcast.
1973 Indianapolis 500 Documentary – (12 min)
This 1973 documentary shows various clips of crashes from different types of motorsport racing, then transitions into the
1973 Indy 500. Narrated by the late William Conrad, who played “Cannon” in the 1970’s TV crime drama of the same name.