“Run it until it breaks”

22. May 2024 
by Ziv Knoll

Gary Bettenhausen led 138 laps of the 1972 Indianapolis 500, until his car suffered ignition trouble on lap 176 of 200, and he coasted to the pits. Gary’s Penske teammate Mark Donohue won the race, after leading only the final 13 laps.

Roger Penske’s crew (picture above) in action as Gary Bettenhausen makes a pit stop during the 1972 Indianapolis 500. Early in the race Gary realized that the engine was overheating. Roger told him to, “…run it until it brakes.” One can notice Roger himself in a white shirt on the right rear.

Neither thought that would be for long. Surprisingly, the engine continued running. To the point that Gary thought he just might get the win his father never did. Unfortunately the engine finally let go 17 laps from victory and Donohue took the win.

For Roger Penske it was the first of eighteen Indy 500 victories, and the first victory of a McLaren chassis at Indy. Al Unser Sr. (picture below), who won the race in 1970 and 1971, was looking to become the first driver in history to score a ‘hat-trick’ of victories at the Indianapolis 500. He fell short, but his runner-up finish for Parnelli Jones Racing ties for the best three-year span (1st-1st-2nd) in Indy history.

Source: Indy Car Memories

Leave a comment