Indy 500 and USAC racing 1978
Equipped with a new Penske PC6 and the dominant DFX engine, Tom Sneva was not expected to struggle to retain his title. The challenge came from an unexpected direction: the partnership of Carl Haas and Jim Hall had dominated Formula 5000 and Can-Am for four seasons and, recognising the opportunity provided by the Cosworth DFX, commissioned Lola to build a new Indy car. Al Unser joined the team from Parnelli and sponsorship was secured from First National City Travelers Checks. Unser and the Lola won all three 500-mile races, an unprecedented 'triple Crown' but the car was otherwise unreliable and Sneva took the title by a narrow margin.
Parnelli was largely defunct but Danny Ongais drove the VPJ6B design for Interscope Racing and took eight pole positions and five wins. However, the USAC points system rewards reliability over speed and his ten retirements meant he finished down in eighth in the title race, a place behind Steve Krisiloff who never qualified his Wildcat higher than ninth and didn't win a single race.
Wally Dallenbach finally left Patrick racing to drive a McLaren M24 for Jerry O'Connell. His erstwhile teammate Gordon Johncock stayed with with Patrick Racing's Wildcat-DGS cars and accrued enough solid placings to take third in the title.
AJ Foyt finished fifth but realised his five-year-old Coyote design was losing out and bought a pair of Parnelli VPJ6Cs later in the year. His two wins of 1978 came in Coyotes: at Texas and impressively at Silverstone when USAC visited Britain in October that year. Last of the top runners was Rick Mears who joined Penske as a stand-in for Mario Andretti and won three races, including the race at Brands Hatch.
18 Mar 1978 > Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix International Raceway
26 Mar 1978 > Ontario 200 at Ontario Motor Speedway
15 Apr 1978 > Texas 200 at Texas World Speedway
23 Apr 1978 > Trenton 200 at Trenton International Speedway
28 May 1978 > Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
11 Jun 1978 > Mosport Park 300k
18 Jun 1978 > Rex Mays Classic at Milwaukee (Wisconsin State Fair Park)
25 Jun 1978 > Pocono 500 at Pocono International Raceway
16 Jul 1978 > Michigan 200 at Michigan International Speedway
23 Jul 1978 > Atlanta 150 at Atlanta International Raceway
06 Aug 1978 > Texas Grand Prix at Texas World Speedway
20 Aug 1978 > Tony Bettenhausen 200 at Milwaukee (Wisconsin State Fair Park)
03 Sep 1978 > California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway
16 Sep 1978 > Michigan Grand Prix at Michigan International Speedway
23 Sep 1978 > Trenton 150 at Trenton International Speedway
01 Oct 1978 > Silverstone, Indy
07 Oct 1978 > Brands Hatch Indy Trophy
28 Oct 1978 > Bobby Ball 150 at Phoenix International Raceway
1978 USAC National Championship table
|1||Tom Sneva||Penske PC6 - Cosworth DFX V8|
Penske PC6B - Cosworth DFX V8
|4153 pts||0 wins|
|2||Al Unser||Lola T500 - Cosworth DFX V8||4031 pts||3 wins|
|3||Gordon Johncock||Wildcat - DGS 158ci turbo||3548 pts||2 wins|
|4||Johnny Rutherford||McLaren M24 - Cosworth DFX V8|
McLaren M24B - Cosworth DFX V8
|3067 pts||2 wins|
|5||AJ Foyt||Coyote - Foyt turbo|
Parnelli VPJ6C - Cosworth DFX V8
|3024 pts||2 wins|
Points table by Phil Harms.