drivers overlooked in the prerace handicapping were starring in supporting
roles. The second-, third-and fourth-place finishers were weak or wounded in
one fashion or another, but all hung in there on determination and inspiration.
Tom Sneva, who would finish second, 29.89 seconds behind Rutherford, had come
from dead last on the grid. He had qualified in a ground-effects Phoenix but
crashed that car practicing later in the week and had to drive his backup car,
a McLaren, which could have been the 1930 model Mike Fanning was talking about.
How old is it, really? Sneva was asked, but all he would say was
"Ooooooold." About four years old is a good guess; five is probably
better. Third place went to the slowest car to qualify for the race, the
Wildcat-Offenhauser of Gary Bettenhausen, who had come oh so close to winning
Indy in 1972. It has been Lean City for him since then. Bettenhausen started
beside Sneva, next to last. At the finish he edged Gordon Johncock by half a
car length. Johncock was driving a two-year-old Penske PC-6 after he had
crashed his newer PC-7 during practice. He was also driving with a cast on his
broken left ankle.
As the race
neared the finish, there was little left for the Chaparral crew to do but wait.
The corners of Hall's mouth twitched. Fanning tilted back his cowboy hat and
grinned, as if all he needed to complete the moment was a guitar to pick. On
the last lap, Rutherford was actually cruising down the backstretch waving to
the fans—with both hands.
Crew chief Steve
Roby—an Australian among all these Texans—who had directed consistently quick
pit stops during the afternoon, was doing nervous little toe raises. But
Rutherford and Roby knew something the others didn't. That morning Rutherford
had picked a ladybug out of his hair. He stared at it like a wagon-train scout
looking at a hoofprint on the trail—a frequent Rutherford expression when he's
thinking hard—then blew the bug off his finger, presumably home to save her
believes in the good fortune of found ladybugs. "Well, that's it," he
said to Roby. "Those other guys might as well go home."
They might as
well have. One thing is certain: that ladybug didn't fly anywhere near Roger
Penske last Sunday.