- Written by webmin
While the 100th anniversary Indy 500 is come and gone, it’s never too late for an Indy-related photo. We recently came across this press photo snapped by Chicago Today photographer Frank Hanes of the most infamous Indy 500 pace car, the Dodge Challenger used in 1971, at the moment it crashed into the photographers’ stand at the end of pit lane.
Driving the pace car that day was local Dodge dealer Eldon Palmer, who fielded the car himself that year (Chrysler, along with Ford and GM, sensed the impending end of the muscle car era and chose not to supply an official pace car in 1971. Palmer got together with other local Dodge dealers to round up 50 Challengers for the Indy 500). As the story goes, Palmer had practiced braking in the pits before the race and positioned either a flag or a cone at the point where he should have started to brake. However, before the pace lap and the start of the race, somebody removed the marker, so Palmer – with Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hulman, astronaut John Glenn and Chris Schenkel of ABC Sports in the car – ended up braking late and careening out of control into the stand. Several photographers were injured, but none fatally.
Palmer reportedly felt so awful about the incident that he held on to that Challenger for decades afterward. Only five years ago did he restore it and sell it to Indiana collector Steven Cage, who currently has it in his RPM Collection museum in Fishers, Indiana, just outside of Indianapolis.