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1978 Indy 500: Al Unser Sr. wins for 3rd time

Road to 100: 1978
Road to 100: 1978
Road to 100: 1978
Road to 100: 1978
Posted at 6:04 PM, Apr 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-20 18:06:47-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- It was a howling blizzard that brought Indianapolis to a standstill in 1978.

More than 15 inches of snow fell in 30 hours.

Snowdrifts were measured in feet and 11 people died due to a combination of traffic accidents and the cold.

It was hard to shake the sense of sadness that year, especially for the racing world: Just weeks before the 62nd running of the Indianapolis 500, eight United States Auto Club members died in a plane crash. 

It was also the first time in more than 30 years that track owner Tony Hulman would not give the command for drivers to start their engines: He died the previous October. His widow did the honors in his stead.

As for the drivers, Janet Guthrie qualified for her second race, starting 15th, after becoming the first woman to qualify the previous year.

In the front row were two Penske cars, Tom Sneva on the pole, rookie Rick Mears on the outside and the Flyin' Hawaiin Danny Ongais in the middle. 

Ongais dominated the early stages of the race, but eventually dropped out because of a blown engine on lap 146.

It appeared it would be Al Unser Sr.'s Day after that.

The already two-time champ had a commanding 35-second lead, but his car's front wing was bent during a pit stop on lap 180. 

Unser Sr. powered through the setback, and went on to edge out Tom Sneva by a mere 8 seconds, the second-closest finish in Indy 500 history at the time, for his third trip to Victory Lane. It was the first victory for the Cosworth DFX V8 engine, the British-based company that went on to win the Indy 500 for 10 consecutive years.

Guthrie finished ninth and later revealed she drove with a broken wrist.

MORE ON THE ROAD TO 100

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