Pancho Carter in the offset Eagle at Indianapolis in 1977.  Copyright Glenn Snyder 2009.  Used with permission.

Indy 500 and USAC racing 1977

The main change in 1977 was that the Cosworth DFX moved from being a curiosity in the back of a Parnelli to become the dominant engine. The catalyst was a new design from McLaren, the M24, based on their highly successful F1 M23 design. McLaren M24s were built for Johnny Rutherford (yet again; his fifth season at McLaren) and for Penske Racing for Tom Sneva (his third at Penske). Rutherford won four races to Sneva's two but the Penske driver scored where it mattered, a win at Pocono and second at Indy, and won the title comfortably. The Penske team also entered a second McLaren M24 at some races for Lotus F1 driver Mario Andretti and also introduced their own interpretation of the McLaren, the Penske PC5, later in the season.

Al Unser in the well-sorted 1975 Parnelli won at Ontario and took second in the title race while Foyt won Indy in his Coyote-Foyt to tie with Rutherford for third. The second Parnelli was handed to Formula 5000 graduate Danny Ongais in 1975 who brought Interscope backing. He got quicker as the season progressed and won at Michigan before taking pole position in three of the next four races.

Patrick Racing were sidetracked by the new Drake V8 engine, a flop, and also had the misfortune of wrecking their latest Wildcat on its first outing. Johncock and Dallenbach were fifth and sixth in the title using Mk 2 Wildcats with DGS power.

Eagle tried a comeback in 1977 with a new offset Offy-powered design for Pancho Carter but the car was not a great success. The other "last hope" for the Offy powerplant, the Lighting "laydown" only appeared once at the end of the season.

Lindsey Hopkins had commissioned a set of production Lightnings for 1977 and these were enthusiastically adopted by regular teams Fletcher Racing and Jerry O'Connell to replace their old Eagle stock but also by Alex Morales' new team which ran a pair for Bobby Olivero and Vern Schuppan.

The races

06 Mar 1977 > Ontario 200 at Ontario Motor Speedway

27 Mar 1977 > Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway

02 Apr 1977 > Texas 200 at Texas World Speedway

30 Apr 1977 > Trentonian 200 at Trenton International Speedway

29 May 1977 > Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

12 Jun 1977 > Rex Mays Classic at Milwaukee Mile

26 Jun 1977 > Pocono 500 at Pocono International Raceway

03 Jul 1977 > Mosport Park 300k

17 Jul 1977 > Michigan 200 at Michigan International Speedway

31 Jul 1977 > Texas 200 at Texas World Speedway

21 Aug 1977 > Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Milwaukee Mile

04 Sep 1977 > California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway

17 Sep 1977 > Michigan 150 at Michigan International Speedway

29 Oct 1977 > Bobby Ball 150 at Phoenix International Raceway

1977 USAC National Championship table

1Tom SnevaMcLaren M24 - Cosworth DFX V8
Penske PC5 - Cosworth DFX V8
3965 pts2 wins
2Al UnserParnelli VPJ6B - Cosworth DFX V8
Parnelli VPJ6C - Cosworth DFX V8
3030 pts1 win
3=AJ FoytCoyote 75 - Foyt turbo2840 pts3 wins
3=Johnny RutherfordMcLaren M24 - Cosworth DFX V82840 pts4 wins
5Gordon JohncockWildcat Mk 2 - DGS 158ci turbo2830 pts2 wins

Points table by Phil Harms.