Indy 500 Centennial Era: 1971

April 12, 2011
by Alan

It’s been awhile since we’ve had an Centennial Era Moment and with all the talk of Donald Trump driving the pace car. Let’s revisit the selection of Eldon Palmer in 1971.

From Wikipedia some version of this differ, saying that it wasn’t a cone he was looking for, but a flag pole.

The 1971 Indianapolis 500 was held at Indianapolis on Saturday, May 29, 1971.

Eldon Palmer, owner of a local automobile and truck dealership Palmer Dodge (now Palmer Auto Group), beaten four Dodge dealers to be chosen to provide a pace car for the race when no automakers took up this duty as they had done in the past.

In preparation for the race, Palmer set up a traffic cone to provide himself with a reference for where to begin slowing the car. Someone moved the cone without his knowledge, leading to perhaps the most spectacular Indy crash of the 1970s.

In the car with Palmer on race day were Speedway owner Tony Hulman, longtime ABC television sportscaster Chris Schenkel and astronaut John Glenn. When Palmer realized that the cone was gone, he attempted to stop quickly, but lost control of the car, which skidded into a temporary grandstand packed mainly with photographers. No one was killed, but 22 were injured, some seriously.

Notwithstanding the distraction, Al Unser wins for a second year in a row. ABC television broadcasts the race for the first time in same-day tape delay.

And now the video.

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