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Wild Video: The Infamous 1971 Indy 500 Pace Car Crash

Wild Video: The Infamous 1971 Indy 500 Pace Car Crash

The 1971 Indy 500 Pace Car situation was screwy from the start, but no one in their right mind could have predicted the stunning crescendo to the story that would take place on the opening lap of the race. We’ve heard the story told but never actually seen the carnage. Luckily for us, we found the video and it is stunning.

For 1971, no manufacturer provided a pace car for the race. It came down to local dealers to provide the cars and the honor was given to Eldon Palmer, the owner of Palmer Dodge in Indianapolis. By “winning” the right to supply the cars he was also allowed to drive the car on the pace lap of the race. Muscle cars were never known as good stoppers, and this video is proof as to why.

The day before the race, Palmer was allowed to make practice runs in the 383 powered 1971 Challenger convertible. On those practice runs he placed a cone on pit row to show him where he needed to start slowing down in order to not have any problems after he broke off from the field. As you’ll see in the video, he was absolutely hauling ass down pit row and began to brake way too late to stop. The problem? Someone took the cone away and he waited too long to apply the brakes. The car slid into a photographers stand that was packed with people. As you’ll see in the video, the stand comes crashing down and people pour into a heap. No one was killed, but 22 were injured.

Riding in the car with Palmer that day were Tony Hulman, the owner of IMS, ABC sportscaster Chris Schenkel, and hero astronaut John Glenn. None were injured.

It is amazing no one was killed.




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8 thoughts on “Wild Video: The Infamous 1971 Indy 500 Pace Car Crash

  1. Stimpy

    Nice recap of the total BS official legendary excuse. Now, let’s think about some facts. He had half a mile to slow down. He was caught by eyewitnesses watching the start of the race instead of what he was doing. Even in his interview after his crash he admitted he messed up.

  2. George

    Most Dodge/Plymouth cars of that era were only equipped with drums at all 4 wheels, some no power assist. They were more concerned with how fast can you get it going, not on how quick can you stop! Stimpy, have you ever drove, say a ’71 Plymouth Satellite with 4 wheel drums? I guarantee you, if you are in excess of 100mph, and need to stop in a hurry, you won’t. I have had half a dozen old Mopars, and the only complaint I ever had about any of them was the lack of stopping power.

  3. Lee

    It is interesting to note that due to the crash, no car manufacturer wanted his car to be the pace car for the 1972 Indy 500. So George Hurst stepped up with the 1972 Hurst Olds.

  4. bob

    looks like the brakes worked some , hard to tell …but the car was sideways right at the end and maybe tire smoke ? so look like maybe the back locked up , might have made it worse , a locked up tire sliding does not work well for stopping.

    1. bob

      and yes he was hauling ass , looks like he was still on the gas as he passed the first cam

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