Indianapolis 500 FLASHBACK: Pace car plows into photographer stand in 1971

The Indianapolis 500-Mile Race is filled to the brim with history. One of the more memorable events happened at the 1971 race when the pace car, driven by a local Dodge dealer, came off the track at high speed and barreled into a stand full of photographers. Eldon Palmer, lost control of the Dodge Challenger pace car at the south end of the pit area, crashing it into the photographer stand, injuring 29 people, two seriously.

For 1971, none of the big-three automobile manufacturers were supplied a car to act as the pace car, as the muscle car market had dried up. Four local Dodge dealerships, spearheaded by Palmer, stepped up to provide the fleet of pace cars. The car chose was a Dodge Challenger 383-4V, and Palmer was selected to drive the pace car at the start of the race.

Palmer had practiced his run to start the race the day before, and had set a braking point. The cone or flag he had placed had been removed prior to the race, however, and Palmer sprinted down pit lane in excess of 125 m.p.h. Palmer said he thought he needed to be ahead of the cars on the track and misjudged the length of track he needed to brake safely… read more >

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