The perfect start on Tuesday was carefully designed. Chief Steward Harlan Fengler had called a secret meeting to acquaint the drivers with his low opinion of last year's first-lap debacle, and to threaten them with the stake should it be repeated. Pole-position man Mario Andretti brought the cars down in a line, all in step like mechanical Rockettes. There was a brace of low-hung, rear-engine Fords sitting alongside Andretti, those of Dan Gurney and Gordon Johncock, and behind them, neatly in a row, ran the Fords of Foyt and his teammate, Joe Leonard—and the turbine.
Halfway into the first turn, with the field cranked left and screaming, the monster car made a massive yet dainty right sidestep to the outside, where nobody goes. Nobody but jets. It ticked the leaders off one by one and, coming off the turn in a Day-Glo red swoop, slashed past Andretti. When it materialized out of the cold, gray air on the main straightaway, Jones, driving easily, waved at Sponsor Andy Granatelli, who was pacing on the sidelines football style in a raincoat that would contain two Bear Bryants.
Jones's speed for the first lap was 154.374, well over Jimmy Clark's 1965 record of 151.388, and Parnelli spent most of the rest of the race knocking out other records, despite frequent slowdowns for the yellow caution flag that came out for minor accidents.
But not all on the same day. The rain came. Unlike soccer and Grand Prix racing, Indy does not run in the rain. Jones pulled in, along with everybody else, put on a straw cowboy hat, lit a cigarette and drawled, "Ain't no use for everybody to risk their necks in the rain. If the car lasts through the race she'll beat everybody easy, and if she don't you ain't got a thing to worry about."
On the track, crews wrapped the cars in plastic bags, as though each one had just come from the cleaners, and the fans, who definitely do not have enough sense to come in out of the rain, milled around the infield, creating the world's biggest bog. Track Owner Tony Hulman finally postponed the show. Those who could stay in town restlessly awaited Chapter Two.
The Andretti crew installed a new clutch; Mario had spent the first part of the race in the pits after one big early move past Dan Gurney, who at that point led Foyt in the piston men's despairing pursuit of the turbine. Jones just relaxed that evening, and Foyt was so loose he dined with Hulman and needled him about the postponement. "I'm so sure I'm gonna win this race," he told Hulman, "that I ought to charge you for keeping my money overnight."
On the second day the crowd was down to perhaps 150,000. The fans filed in again, and in the next three hours there were two Indy 500s: Jones's jet division and the race among the suddenly obsolete piston cars. Foyt's strategy was amply clear. He was following—not chasing—Jones around the course, lurking between 13 and 55 seconds off the pace, fully ready to strike when the jet broke down.
"And I knew, I dead-certain knew inside me," he said, "that it was going to break."
But as the cars strung out over the 2�-mile track and the day wore on, the turbine looked as if it would not break in 5,000 miles of racing. Other cars did. Andretti's, reclutched and running nicely but an impossible six laps in arrears, threw a wheel on his 59th lap and was out for good. Scotland's Jimmy Clark, the 1965 winner, fell out after one pit stop in which his crew looked at the sparkplugs and found them bathed in oil. Graham Hill, last year's champion, was running last in a car that needed first aid. Scotland's Jackie Stewart conked out on the fourth turn—right where he conked out last year, when he had the race won.
Others had brief dashes at glory. For two splendid laps—so quickly that the scoreboard failed to record the fact—Gurney actually led, after a moment when Jones was nudged into the infield by another car and lost time wrestling the jet back under control. It was Gurney who was closest to Jones for 58 laps, until he had to pit prematurely with a stuck fuel tank valve.