During the in-between days where the luster of the Indy 500 becomes patina and the pomp of season culmination not quite here, I dare to fill that space with something that most other outlets do not – rewrite the amazing and rich history of Indycar’s biggest event, The Indy 500.
Knowing that between the fates, Racing Gods, and free will, something amazing can and often does happen. I find it refreshing to not simply rehash and parse history, but to ponder “what might have been”.
I think of some of those events, that nine times out of ten would turn out differently and more predictably, yet didn’t, forever changed the future course of the race itself.
From time-to-time, I’m going to offer some of the most influential twists of racing fate in Indy 500 history. I hope you enjoy this installment of Alternate Realities:
The 51st Running of the Indy 500 set for Tuesday, May 30th, 1967 was one of the most historic before any race laps were ever turned. A wildly innovative car was brought by Andy Granatelli to the speedway in 1967 – the STP Paxton turbine. Utilizing a helicopter jet engine and four-wheel drive, the totally purpose-built car incited as much fear as curiosity in the racing community and beyond. While I was not present to observe this car and the reactions of those around, it is generally noted that the reactions centered around one of two – disapproval for how it could affect the integrity of the Indy 500, or wide-eyed curiosity for what it could mean for the future of racing and production automobiles.
The end-result however was one of heartbreak and disappointment for Granatelli, STP, and all those who developed and supported it. With just under four laps to go, after leading 170 of the 196 laps, an inexpensive but invaluable part failed in the transmission line sending the disturbingly quiet turbine car to an even-more-shockingly silent end and A.J. Foyt into victory lane for his third time, tying Louis Meyer, Wilbur Shaw, and Mauri Rose for most Indy 500 wins.
Now let’s engage some imaginative thought; just forget the history as it exists and travel down a new path…
The internal combustion engine soldiers on in rapidly-decreasing numbers in passenger cars but still with primary use in farm and heavy equipment. Never again is the internal combustion engine seen as being near the forefront of propulsion technology.