But the rain held off, and the track proved to be in splendid condition—for dirt, that is: nicely cushioned during the early laps, then taking on a jolting corrugated surface as hard as paving.
The race itself was almost an anticlimax after all the anxiety about rain. During the first few laps, the smooth-driving Andretti jockeyed a bit with California rookie Bruce Walkup (who had surprised everyone by winning the pole position with a track-record qualifying time of 104.076 mph). Then Andretti charged into the lead in his No. 1 car (an honor given to the previous year's USAC winner) and held it for 86 consecutive laps. Dirt clods clustered thick on the windshields of the cars, and spectators standing on a roof three stories above the action found themselves sprayed with clay as the 18 starting cars snarled into skids around the turns. But there was not so much as a scraped paint job during the entire race. And no one—not even runner-up Foyt—came really close to threatening Mario's second straight victory in the Hoosier Hundred. So easy was Andretti's win that the crowd actually cheered more for Billy Vukovich Jr., son of the 500 champion who was killed in 1955 with his third Indy victory within reach. Young Vukovich finished a strong fourth and was picked Rookie of the Race over Walkup.
For the chipper Andretti the day brought the richest 100-mile race purse in history—$28,100, including $150 for every lap he led. He also pulled to within a scant 60 points of Foyt in the USAC competition. There are five races to go, and even though many racing people figure the freewheeling Andretti as the odds-on favorite to outpoint the temperamental Foyt, Mario himself says, "It will go down to the last day, I think." That would be the 300-mile run (worth 600 USAC points) in Riverside, Calif. on Nov. 26.
Win or lose in the national championship, Indianapolis was Andretti's for the taking when last week's race was over. After Mario had accepted a kiss from the Hoosier Hundred Rose Queen and a Steuben crystal bowl (symbolizing the Hoosier's 15th anniversary) from the president of the Indiana State Fair Board and a sterling silver cup and a diamond ring and a blue jacket from a variety of other dignitaries, a red-haired bystander, who might have done very well in the state fair's freckle-counting contest, sighed, "Jeez, some guys have got everything." Even the big winners from the swine barn the week before hadn't gotten quite such an accolade as that.