Michigan Grand Prix

Michigan International Speedway, 16 Sep 1978

1 Danny Ongais Parnelli VPJ-6B - Cosworth DFX V8
#25 Interscope
75 1h 01m 32.410s
2 Tom Sneva Penske PC6B - Cosworth DFX V8
#1 Norton Spirit [Penske Racing]
(see note 1)
75 Finished
3 Gordon Johncock Wildcat Mk 2 - DGS 158 ci turbo
#20 North American Van Lines [Patrick Racing Team]
(see note 2)
75 Finished
4 Tom Bigelow Wildcat Mk 2 - DGS 158 ci turbo
#43 Armstrong Mould [Sherman E. Armstrong]
(see note 3)
75 Finished
5 AJ Foyt Parnelli VPJ-6C [005] - Cosworth DFX V8
#14 Gilmore/American Racing [Foyt Enterprises]
(see note 4)
75 Finished
6 Tom Bagley Watson 77 - Offy 159 ci turbo
#22 Kent Oil [Leader Card] (see note 5)
74 Flagged
7 Johnny Parsons Jr Lightning 77 - Offy 159 ci turbo
#16 First National City Travelers Check [Lindsey Hopkins]
(see note 6)
73 Flagged
8 Sheldon Kinser Watson 78 - Offy 159 ci turbo
#24 Thermo King [Leader Card] (see note 7)
73 Flagged
9 Jim McElreath Eagle 74 [7407] - Offy 159 ci turbo
#26 Circle City Coal [Jimmy McElreath]
(see note 8)
72 Flagged
10 Joe Saldana Eagle 72 [7221] - Offy 159 ci turbo
#69 Team 69 [Hoffman] (see note 9)
71 Flagged
11 Wally Dallenbach McLaren M24 - Cosworth DFX V8
#6 Sugaripe Prune [Jerry O'Connell/Jud Phillips]
61 Engine
12 Eldon Rasmussen RasCar-Atlanta 74 - Foyt-Ford 159 ci quad cam turbo V8
#58 Rent-A-Racer [Eldon Rasmussen]
(see note 10)
60 Flagged
13 Johnny Rutherford McLaren M24B [001?] - Cosworth DFX V8
#4 First National City Travelers Check [Team McLaren]
(see note 11)
35 Gear failure
14 Jerry Sneva McLaren M16B/A [B-3/A-2] - Offy 159 ci turbo
#30 Schram GM Parts [Fred Ruth/Marv Schmidt?]
(see note 12)
24 Gearbox
15 Steve Krisiloff Wildcat 'Mk 4' - Drake DT 160 V8
#40 Foreman Industries [Patrick Racing Team]
(see note 13)
21 Engine
16 Spike Gehlhausen Eagle 74/Leary - Offy 159 ci turbo
#19 Tibon [Carl Gehlhausen] (see note 14)
7 Wrecked
17 Al Unser Lola T500 [HU2] - Cosworth DFX V8
#2 First National City Travelers Checks [Chaparral Racing]
(see note 15)
7 Wrecked
18 Duane "Pancho" Carter Lightning 77 - Cosworth DFX V8
#8 Budweiser [Fletcher Racing Team]
(see note 16)
7 Transmission
19 Larry Cannon Wildcat Mk 1 - DGS 158 ci turbo
#85 Natural Lite Beer [Larry Cannon]
(see note 17)
1 Bearing
20 Mario Andretti Penske PC6 [003] - Cosworth DFX V8
#7 Gould Charge [Penske Racing]
0 Engine
T Johnny Parsons Jr Lightning 77 - Offy 159 ci laydown turbo
#16 First National City Travelers Check [Lindsey Hopkins]
(see note 18)
(Only used in practice)
1 Johnny Rutherford McLaren M24B [001?] - Cosworth DFX V8
2 Tom Sneva Penske PC6B - Cosworth DFX V8
3 AJ Foyt Parnelli VPJ-6C [005] - Cosworth DFX V8
4 Mario Andretti Penske PC6 [003] - Cosworth DFX V8
5 Al Unser Lola T500 [HU2] - Cosworth DFX V8
6 Wally Dallenbach McLaren M24 - Cosworth DFX V8
7 Duane "Pancho" Carter Lightning 77 - Cosworth DFX V8
8 Spike Gehlhausen Eagle 74/Leary - Offy 159 ci turbo
9 Gordon Johncock Wildcat Mk 2 - DGS 158 ci turbo
10 Johnny Parsons Jr Lightning 77 - Offy 159 ci turbo
11 Sheldon Kinser Watson 78 - Offy 159 ci turbo
13 Jim McElreath Eagle 74 [7407] - Offy 159 ci turbo
14 Tom Bagley Watson 77 - Offy 159 ci turbo
15 Larry Cannon Wildcat Mk 1 - DGS 158 ci turbo
16 Tom Bigelow Wildcat Mk 2 - DGS 158 ci turbo
16 Steve Krisiloff Wildcat 'Mk 4' - Drake DT 160 V8
17 Jerry Sneva McLaren M16B/A [B-3/A-2] - Offy 159 ci turbo
18 Joe Saldana Eagle 72 [7221] - Offy 159 ci turbo
19 Eldon Rasmussen RasCar-Atlanta 74 - Foyt-Ford 159 ci quad cam turbo V8
20 Danny Ongais Parnelli VPJ-6B - Cosworth DFX V8

Notes on the cars:

  1. Penske PC6B (Tom Sneva): Sneva's late season PC6B. Said (Autosport 14 Sep 1978 p20) to be the car used since Pocono. The Harms/Ferner data calls Sneva's car a PC6/78 all season but this PC6B assumed to be used through to the end of 1978 (despite the wreck at Ontario and the rebuild in time for Michigan).
  2. Wildcat Mk 2 (Gordon Johncock): Another new Mk 2 was built for Gordon Johncock to use in 1978 and he used this car throughout the 1978 season, the Mk 3 and Mk 4 having been effectively abandoned. Sold to Herb & Rose Wysard for 1979 and became their #34 Wysard Motors entry for Vern Schuppan. Retained for 1980 and raced by Pete Halsmer and Schuppan up to Watkins Glen in August, after which it was sold to Larry Cannon to replace his Mk 1. Probably the car raced by Cannon in the last few races of 1980 and then entered for Dick Ferguson and Herm Johnson in early 1981. Both Cannon's Wildcats were later bought by Maurice Kraines of Kraco and used as display cars at store openings and malls. Subsequent history unknown.
  3. Wildcat Mk 2 (Tom Bigelow): Wally Dallenbach had a Wildcat Mk 2 for the 1976 season but we cannot be certain when he drove the Mk 2 that season and when he may have used an older Mk 1. The Mk 3s were produced for 1977 but were only used at a handful of races and Dallenbach drove his 1976 Mk 2 at most races. At the end of 1977, the Dallenbach Mk 2 was sold to Sherman Armstrong's Armstrong Mould team and driven by Tom Bigelow through the 1978 season. It was loaned back to Patrick Racing for Steve Krisiloff to drive at Trenton in September after his usual Mk 2 had been wrecked at Ontario three weeks earlier and the alternative Mk 4 had been shipped to England for the two British races. Retained by Armstrong and driven by Gary Bettenhausen and Howdy Holmes in 1979 and by Bettenhausen in 1980. Used briefly by Rich Vogler as an Armstrong Mould entry in Indy 500 practice in 1981. Subsequent history unknown
  4. Parnelli VPJ-6C [005] (AJ Foyt): When Interscope split from Vel's Parnelli Racing at the end of 1977, Interscope took the VPJ6Bs and Vel's Parnelli kept the newer VPJ6C design with its transverse VPJ/Weismann gearbox (Autosport 14 Sep 1978 p20). At the 1978 California 500 at Ontario, AJ Foyt appeared in one of the VPJ6Cs - initially still in its #21 blue-and-white 1977 livery - and continued to use this car through 1978 and 1979. At the 1979 Indy 500, the Laycock car record card states that Foyt's #14 car at Indy had been new at the 1978 Ontario 500 [sic] and had won the 1979 Ontario 200. The USAC Tech sheet for car #14 at that race gives the model as "786C-005" which is assumed to mean VPJ6C-005. It is presumed from this information that VPJ6C-005 was run by Foyt at the 1978 California 500 and was the Parnelli he used at subsequent 1978 races.
  5. Watson 77 (Tom Bagley): New for Tom Bigelow to drive as the Leader Card #24 Thermo King entry at the 1977 Indy 500. He qualified 22nd and finished sixth. Bigelow raced the Watson at six more races that season, but used one of the team's old Eagles at Mosport Park and at the short-track races. He was replaced by Sheldon Kinser for 1978, and he raced this car at the opening races before moving to the new 1978 car. Tom Bagley then took over the 1977 car for the rest of the season at was at his best on road courses, qualifying fifth at Mosport, seventh at Silverstone and eighth at Brands Hatch. Billy Vukovich took over the car for 1979, the year of the CART/USAC schism and achived several good placing in the poorly-supported USAC races, including second place at Milwaukee in June. The car was only seen a few times in 1980 and was then sold to Harry Schwartz' Rattlesnake Racing for Billy Vukovich to drive in 1981.
  6. Lightning 77 (Johnny Parsons Jr): New for Lindsey Hopkins' team and appeared as the team's second entry at the 1977 Indy 500, the #10 '1st National Travel Check' Lightning as raced by Lloyd Ruby. The car was extensively damaged when Ruby hit the wall on lap 34 and burst into flames. It was returned to Autoresearch and completely repaired. The car does not appear to have raced again in 1977, but was retained by the Hopkins team for 1978 alongside the Laydown and was Hopkins' #16 entry for Johnny Parsons at the 1978 Indy 500. Photographs show that Parsons used it at most races that season, with the Laydown only being raced three times. At the final race of the season at Phoenix, Parsons damaged his primary car in practice, and photographs have not yet been found to determine which car he crashed. It is likely to have been this car, with the Laydown by then serving as his backup. It is then distinctly possible that this car was rebuilt as the team's Drake V8 car for 1979, but that remains unproven.
  7. Watson 78 (Sheldon Kinser): New for Sheldon Kinser to drive as the Leader Card #24 Thermo King entry at the 1978 Indy 500, and at races later in the season. Kinser continued to race this car for the team in 1979, now with Genesee Beer sponsorship. The car was updated for 1980 with "ground-effect" sidepods. Kinser started the season in it before moving over the the 1979 Watson, and Billy Vukovich then qualified it for the Indy 500, finishing 12th. Kinser and Vukovich both raced it later in the season, as the team rotated all three of the 1977-1979 cars. It was entered as a backup car for Dick Simon in his #22 Vermont American livery at the 1981 Indy 500 and was raced by Simon at Pocono and Milwaukee later that season. It was then sold to Rolla Vollstedt for Max "Rusty" Schmidt to attempt to qualify at the 1982 Indy 500. Vollstedt recalled selling it to a female Formula Ford racer in Portland whose cheque bounced. This must be the Amber Furst (Brightwood, OR) who entered a Watson-Offy for the 1983 Indy 500 with husband Tim Furst as chief mechanic but was refused a chance to take her rookie test. After Vollstedt got the car back he sold it to "a local fellow" who put a Chevy in it. Subsequent history unknown.
  8. Eagle 74 [7407] (Jim McElreath): New to Jerry O'Connell's team for 1974 and raced by Billy Vukovich as the #4 Sugaripe Prune Special, with Jud Phillips as chief mechanic. Presumably the car used through 1974 by Vukovich and then through 1975 by Mike Mosley but the team had older 1972 Eagles available and those older cars may have been used at some races. Used again by Mosley in 1977 but O'Connell also acquired a new Lightning for that season. After Pocono in July 1978 the Eagle was sold to Jim McElreath, who had damaged his ex-Patrick 1973 Eagle at that race. Identified by Simmo Isk├╝l from photographs as McElreath's #23 in 1979, and presumed to be the McElreath Racing #23 right up to 1981, although the ex-Patrick car was also repaired and used again. Subsequent history unknown, but at some point in the next 30 years the car was acquired by Chuck Haines and restored to it original Sugaripe Prune livery. For reasons currently unknown, Haines advertises the car as chassis 74-08.
  9. Eagle 72 [7221] (Joe Saldana): New to Leader Card Racers in time for the TWS race at the start of 1973. Raced by Mike Mosley as the #98 Leader Card entry. Then taken to the Indy 500 as a backup, renumbered #97, and qualified by Rick Muther. It was then Mosley's short track car, and raced by Muther at Pocono and by Johnny Parsons Jr at Ontario and at the late-season races. Presumably for Parsons again at Ontario in March 1974. Then Mosley's short track car when he wasn't using his new 1974 Eagle. Signs of repairs to the left side of this car allow it to be identified from 1975 onwards. It was raced by George Snider as the #97 at Ontario at the start of 1975, then by Steve Krisiloff in the Indy 500 as the #98 and later in the season as the #98 and then the #10. For 1976, the car was sold to Patrick Santello and was his #65 City of Syracuse or S&M Electric entry that season for Larry Dickson and Lee Kunzman. Then to Gus and Richard Hoffman (Milford, OH) of Hoffman Racing for 1977 and entered for Jerry Grant and later Joe Saldana as the #69. Driven again by Saldana in 1978 and 1979. Also appeared once for Bob Frey in 1980. Reappeared briefly in 1982 when it was entered by George T. Smith's GTS Racing as the #86 Empress Traveler for Al Loquasto. Sold by Smith to Chuck Haines (St Louis, MO) who sold it to Bob Colllings (Boston, MA) in April 1985. Retained by Collings and now forms part of the auto collection in The Collings Foundation (Stow, MA).
  10. RasCar-Atlanta 74 (Eldon Rasmussen): New for Lloyd Ruby at the Jimmy Bryan 150 at Phoenix in March 1972, where it was Gene White Racing's #5 Wynns entry, and then used by him at the Indy 500, where he finished sixth. Ruby then tried the team's Lola T270 at Milwaukee, and tried both cars in practice at Pocono before it was rained off. He then crashed the Atlanta before the race at Michigan in July, and used the Lola for the rest of the season. Almost certainly the Atlanta-Ford sold to Loyd Meek's Quality Racing Team for 1973, where it was due to be enginered and raced by Eldon Rasmussen, but Rasmussen did not appear in the car until Texas in October, where it went very well. Rebuilt by Rasmussen as a "Ras-Car", and thereafter described as a 1974 car. Raced by Rasmussen in the 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977 and 1978 seasons, although he generally only appeared for the longer races at Indianapolis, Ontario, Pocono and Michigan. This is believed to be the car that was demolished in Rasmussen's huge accident at Pocono in 1979.
  11. McLaren M24B [001?] (Johnny Rutherford): Johnny Rutherford's intended #4 Team McLaren entry at the 1978 Indy 500 but not run. First used at Milwaukee and Pocono in June 1978 (Autosport 6 Jul 1978 p29) and presumably used for the rest of the season. Definitely used at Ontario (Autosport 14 Sep 1978 p21), Silverstone (Autosport 5 Oct 1978 p19) and Brands Hatch (Autosport 12 Oct 1978 p21). This was presumably Rutherford's backup car during the 1979 season, and is believed to be the car he raced at Trenton in June, at Trenton again in August, and at Michigan in September. It is also likely to have been the #94 car raced by Don Whittington at Ontario's California 500 in September.
  12. McLaren M16B/A [B-3/A-2] (Jerry Sneva): McLaren Cars 1972 for Gordy Johncock (#24) and 'wrecked' at Ontario. Repaired and sold to John Martin 1973 (#89) and 1974 and 1975. Wrecked at Milwaukee June 1975 and tub "thrown in dumpster". Rebuilt using a M16A monocoque bought from Lindsey Hopkins, first appearing in this form at Pocono three weeks later, and raced by Martin to the end of 1975. This M16B/A was acquired by Danny Jones and Roy Dickinson in 1976 and rebuilt for the 1977 Indy 500. They were then joined by Bill Freeman Racing, appearing on the 1977 Indy 500 entry list as #30 Caesars Palace entry. Bob Harkey failed to qualify the car at Indy and it was raced by Johnny Parsons Jr later in the 1977 season. To Fred Ruth for 1978 and qualified for the Indy 500 by Jerry Sneva in 1978 as the #30 Smock Material entry. Ruth was joined and at some point as co-owner by Marv Schmidt. Returned again in 1979, entered by Thunder Racing and with Molly Mate sponsorship. It was next seen in 1981 when John Martin qualified at the Indy 500 but was bumped. Cliff Hucul ran it later that year as the #57. Then unknown until 1991 when it was owned by Chuck Haines (St Louis, MO) and still in Hucul livery.
  13. Wildcat 'Mk 4' (Steve Krisiloff): A new car to continue the development of the Drake V8 engine, replacing the original car "written off" at Mosport Park in June 1978. First raced by Roger McCluskey at Ontario in September, then by Steve Krisiloff at Michigan. Then taken to England for Krisiloff to race at Silverstone and Brands Hatch, but Krisiloff crashed it after practice at Brands Hatch. Next seen in 1981, when it had been acquired by Ross Davis (Grand Junction, CO) and was run from Atlanta in late June onwards. Subsequent history unknown.
  14. Eagle 74/Leary (Spike Gehlhausen): New to Robert L. 'Bob' Fletcher's Cobre Firestone team and entered as the #55 car for Jerry Grant in 1974. Firestone withdrew from racing In August 1974 and Fletcher, who ran the largest Firestone dealership in the US, had to use Goodyear tyres in 1975. He also lost chief mechanic Jim McGee to Penske. This car became the blue #6 entry for Billy Vukovich in 1975 and then the #3 entry for Bobby Unser in 1976. Probably the car raced by Unser at Phoenix at the start of 1977. To Carl Gehlhausen for 1978 and used by John Mahler as Gehlhausen's #39 entry at the 1978 Indy 500. Also the #39 Gehlhausen entry for Al Loquasto through 1979 until he was promoted to the Fletcher team after Steve Krisiloff quit the team. Phil Caliva drove Gehlhausen's Eagle at Ontario, and it was then sold to Walter L. Medlin who entered as the #32 car for Tony Bettenhausen II at three races in early 1980. It reappeared for Bubby Jones as Medlin's #58 entry at the 1981 Indy 500 but did not qualify. The car remained with Medlin and is part of a collection of unrestored cars photographed on occasions since.
  15. Lola T500 [HU2] (Al Unser): Al Unser's Indy 500 winner, later wrecked (at Mosport next race, presumably) but rebuilt and was the car used at Ontario (Autosport 14 Sep 1978 p21). Presumably HU2.
  16. Lightning 77 (Duane "Pancho" Carter): Bob Fletcher's Cobre Tire team had a second 1977 Lightning for Bobby Unser in 1977, but exactly how it was used that season is currently undetermined. This second car was very probably the one converted to take a Cosworth DFX engine later in 1977 and took pole position at Phoenix in October. New driver Pancho Carter then crashed the Lightning-DFX heavily in testing at Phoenix in early December, suffering major injuries. Although it was repaired in time to be entered in the 1978 Indy 500 as the #55 for Vern Schuppan, it did not appear on track. It returned to service at Milwaukee in June after Carter had damaged his other car at Mosport and was his regular car from then until the end of the season. It was raced by Steve Krisiloff at the start of 1979 and was his intended car at the Indy 500 but was withdrawn and he raced his backup. This car did not appear again in the team until Krisloff left the team prior to the Ontario 500. It then became the #55 Fletcher entry for Spike Gehlhausen from Ontario onwards. Fletcher bought a Penske PC7 for 1980 and neither Fletcher Lightning was seen that season. The other Fletcher Lightning went to Phil Caliva for 1981, but the fate of this second car remains unknown.
  17. Wildcat Mk 1 (Larry Cannon): New for Gordy Johncock in 1975 as Patrick Racing's #20 Sinmast entry. Retained for 1976 and used by Johncock at short track events, winning at Trenton and twice finishing second at Milwaukee. Sold to Wildcat Racing Associates (Lynbrook, NY), a partnership of Frank Curtis, Gene Langsam and Walter Albert, with Curtis as chief mechanic and to be raced by Vern Schuppan as the #85 entry. The car was repossessed by lawyers at Pocono, and in August was sold to Danville barber Larry Cannon, who raced it for the rest of 1977 still entered as #85. Retained by Cannon for 1978, 1979 and 1980, qualifying for the Indy 500 in 1980. The car was again entered by Cannon in 1981 for guest drivers. Both Cannon's Wildcats were later bought by Maurice Kraines of Kraco and used as display cars at store openings and malls. Subsequent history unknown.
  18. Lightning 77 (Johnny Parsons Jr): Designed by Roman Slobodynskyj to have the Offy engine laid on its side, angled just 12 degrees from the horizontal, the 'laydown' Offy was first seen in public at the 1977 California 500. The car required a completely new transmission, designed by Pete Weismmann, and this proved troublesome. Despite the car's speed, Roger McCluskey raced the conventional car at Ontario. New team driver Johnny Parsons drove the car at Ontario and Trenton in early 1978, retiring both times, and then ran it at 197.889 mph in practice at the Speedway before another transmission failure. Photographs show it was at Michigan in September but the car Parsons used to finish in seventh place is now believed to have been his conventional car. Then team focused on the Drake V8 in 1979, but at Indy in May Parsons took the laydown off Hurley Haywood during practice and qualified it ninth. He also qualified it third at Pocono and then - remarkably - finished fourth in it at Milwaukee. Parsons qualified it well again in 1980 but after another retirement, he focused on Hopkins' new ground-effect design. In 1986, the car was donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, and remained with the museum, unrestored, until it was offered for sale in April 2021.


Note that the identification of individual cars in these results is based on the material presented elsewhere in this site and may in some cases contradict the organisers' published results.

The foundation for this research is the work done by the late Phil Harms collating the results of all AAA, USAC and CART races, including the period covered here. His data was refined by Michael Ferner who added more information before making it available to OldRacingCars.com. Since the start of the USAC project on OldRacingCars.com in 2004, a wealth of further information has been gleaned from the Carl Hungness and Donald Davidson Yearbooks, Formula and On Track magazines, USAC News, National Speed Sport News and other published sources. Gerry Measures has also provided much information from his files as have others on TNF and Trackforum. Since 2009, the work of Simmo Iskül and others identifying cars from period photographs has has moved this research forward significantly.

All comments, clarifications, corrections and additions are most welcome. Please email Allen (allen@oldracingcars.com) if you can help in any way with our research.