Bobby Unser in the 1973 Eagle at Milwaukee in 1973.  Copyright Glenn Snyder 2009.  Used with permission.

Indy 500 and USAC racing 1973

Patrick Racing emerged as a leading force in 1973, running 1972 and 1973 Eagles for Gordon Johncock and Wally Dallenbach with STP sponsorship and with George Bignotti moving over from Parnelli as chief crew. The team inherited the #20, #40 and #60 numbers used by Andy Granatelli with STP in previous years. The pair won five races between them and no other team won more than two: AJ Foyt bagging a brace in his new Bob Riley-designed Coyote, Johnny Rutherford sporting a pair in his works McLaren M16C and the Parnelli team also winning races with Mario Andretti and Al Unser. Bobby Unser took three poles but only one win in the 1973 Eagle.

Based on qualifying speed, the Eagles remained quickest, then the McLaren M16C and then the Parnelli, an order unchanged from 1972. But it is reliability that counts in the USAC points system and steadily picking up points through the season was a two-year-old McLaren M16 owned by Lindsey Hopkins and pedalled by Roger McCluskey. He was third at Indy, fourth at Ontario and won the July Michigan to establish a substantial points lead and win the title comfortably. Dallenbach and Rutherford were next but close behind them was another regular accruer of points, the Sugaripe Prune Eagle 72 owned by Jerry O'Connell and driven by Billy Vukovich. For the third year in succession at least, the tortoise had beaten the hare.

The races

07 Apr 1973 > Texas 200 at Texas World Speedway

15 Apr 1973 > Trenton 300 (Race 1) at Trenton International Speedway

15 Apr 1973 > Trenton 300 (Race 2) at Trenton International Speedway

30 May 1973 > Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

10 Jun 1973 > Rex Mays Classic at Milwaukee Mile

01 Jul 1973 > Pocono 500 at Pocono International Raceway

15 Jul 1973 > Michigan 200 at Michigan International Speedway

12 Aug 1973 > Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Milwaukee Mile

26 Aug 1973 > California 500 Qualification Heat 1 at Ontario Motor Speedway

26 Aug 1973 > California 500 Qualification Heat 2 at Ontario Motor Speedway

02 Sep 1973 > California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway

16 Sep 1973 > Michigan 250 (1) at Michigan International Speedway

16 Sep 1973 > Michigan 250 (2) at Michigan International Speedway

23 Sep 1973 > Trenton Times 200 at Trenton International Speedway

06 Oct 1973 > Texas 200 at Texas World Speedway

03 Nov 1973 > Arizona 150 at Phoenix International Raceway

1973 USAC National Championship table

1Roger McCluskeyMcLaren M16A - Offy 159 ci turbo3705 pts1 win
2Wally DallenbachEagle 72 - Offy 159 ci turbo2620 pts3 wins
3Johnny RutherfordMcLaren M16C - Offy 159 ci turbo2595 pts2 wins
4Billy VukovichEagle 72 - Offy 159 ci turbo2440 pts1 win
5Mario AndrettiParnelli VPJ2 - Offy 159 ci turbo2400 pts1 win

Points table by Phil Harms.

In mid-1973, in time for the Pocono 500 and in response to the accidents at the Indy 500, USAC introduced new rules limiting the fuel held in the car to 40 gallons, all of which had to be held on the right side of the car. Also the rear wing width was reduced from 64 inches to 55 inches.