IMS Photo Recalls the Year 1977

Published On April 4, 2011 » 2835 Views» By admin » Blogs, IMS Photo Digitization Project

Over 4.5 million photos reside in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Photo archives at the Hall of Fame Museum. In the next few weeks, I will extract some of the most fascinating shots to share the story and provide insight to the “behind the scenes” of how they were taken.

I remember it like it was yesterday…..The buzz around the month of May and the opening of the track at Indianapolis. Several exciting things were happening around the track that year. The fact that a lap of 200 mph in qualifying was almost a foregone conclusion, Janet Guthrie was in a capable car and would be the 1st to make the race.

Tom Sneva in 1977

Tom Sneva at the 1977 Indianapolis 500

It was my 1st year as “Director of Photography” after being an IMS Staff Photographer for the past 5 years. Before the month started out Gordon Johncock had been clocked at a tick over 200 in March tire tests on the freshly repaved Indianapolis Motor Speedway (yes I had to check with Donald Davidson on these facts) and during the week of practice before the Qualification weekend, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford all did “unofficial” 200 MPH laps.

When Pole Day came Tom Sneva was the 1st and only driver to eclipse the “magic number” during qualifying. He was greeted by local sponsor, Phil Hedback of Bryant Heating and Cooling Company with 200 silver dollars which he dumped into Tom’s upturned helmet. This had been done in 1962 when Parnelli Jones was the 1st driver to qualify at 150 MPH. Later, Mr. Hedback put 188 (her qualifying speed) silver dollars into her helmet as the 1st female to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.

Janet Guthrie in 1977

Janet Guthrie at the 1977 Indianapolis 500

How did they top all of that excitement? By AJ Foyt becoming the only driver up to that date to win the race 4 times. While Gordy Johncock ran away with the race, his car failed and AJ won the day. Tony Hulman, for the first time since he owned the track rode on the victory lap with Foyt. It would unfortunately be Tony’s last 500 as he passed away that October.

Foyt's 1977 Victory lap

A.J. Foyt takes his Victory Lap in 1977

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