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Front-drive cars like Mauri Rose's Blue Crown Spark Plug Special, a Deidt-Offy, were at an advantage because they had a lower center of gravity and were built especially to handle the bricks and asphalt at Indianapolis, which became slippery with oil. "It was quite an investment because the other tracks that were being used at the time, that car wouldn't work very well on," says Davidson. "You could only use it once a year."
Cockpits in cars like Bill Vukovich's Fuel Injection Engineering Special, an Offy, were slightly offset to the right—though not as much as Vukovich would lead us to believe in this photo—for lefthand turns at Indy and other oval tracks. About a decade later, as road courses became a part of the championship series, these cars were phased out in favor of vehicles that could run at all tracks.
A rear-engined car had run at Indy as early as 1939, but Jim Clark's Lotus-Ford was the first to take the checkered flag. Though sneered at by traditionalists who favored the front-engined roadster design, these vehicles, with their Grand Prix heritage, were far more nimble in the turns. "The balance was better so they could corner easier," says Davidson. By '69, every driver in the Indy field was behind the wheel of a rear-engined car.
Beginning in 1972, cars were allowed bolt-on rear wings, which increased downforce, or the vehicles' ability to hug the track. The front wings, which had started to appear in the late '60s, also helped. This was the era of the Eagle chassis. Gordon Johncock's Eagle-Offy was one of 19 in the field of 33 cars that year; the American-made Eagles would make up 52% of all cars that ran at Indy from '73 through '76.