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Lund, 250 pounds of him, put it as well as anyone when he said, "It's gonna be a ride and a half out there Sunday."
He was right, of course. To hardly anyone's surprise, the race was slowed by 11 caution flags for accidents, which cut Cale's winning time to 143.251 mph, or a speed 11 mph slower than Richard Petty's 1964 record.
The worst mishap occurred just past the halfway point, when Mario Andretti—the Indy import—and Buddy Baker, both of whom had led the race, tangled violently coming off the No. 4 turn and spun down to the infield area in front of the main grandstand.
Andretti, who may be the most unflappable driver around, was visibly flapped. "Baker hit me from behind and I spun," he said. "He shouldn't have been so close." It took Baker a full half hour to get his flaming temper under control. Then he said, "Hell, Mario lost it, plain and simple. He was already going backward when we hit."
Other contenders fell back because of one mishap or another. Richard Petty's Plymouth lost the molding around the windshield, and getting the window literally taped back onto the car cost him two laps. A. J. Foyt, in a Ford, first stalled in the pits, then retired with engine trouble. Donnie Allison crumpled the suspension of his Ford when he hit the wall on the No. 2 turn of the D-shaped track, and his brother Bobby had a cylinder conk out with 50 miles to go. But Bobby still managed to limp home third.
Bobby's slowdown left the track to Cale and Lee Roy when the last yellow caution flag was lifted—with just under 60 miles to go. At that time Lee Roy had the lead by nearly 10 seconds, but by the 190-lap mark Cale was within range—two seconds behind. Four laps later the margin was just .6 of a second, and on the back straight of the next lap the stocky redhead made his first bid for the lead. He pulled even with Lee Roy and actually led going into the No. 3 turn. Lee Roy, who was higher on the track and thus had more driving room, just kept going and regained the first position by the time the two cars had emerged from No. 4.
The next time around Cale, who simply had more horsepower, got by Lee Roy for keeps and led him to the finish line by a few car lengths. Cale barely saw the checkered flag. Just before he hooked up with Lee Roy he had got stuck behind David Pearson, whose Ford was spraying oil all over everything, including Cale's windshield. "I couldn't see a thing," Cale said.
He saw enough. When it was over, he and the 49 other drivers could relish another thrill—of having come out of the race with their hides intact.
"When February is over," said one, "I feel I've got another 11 months to live."