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40 Years Ago – The 1974 Rex Mays 150 at the Milwaukee Mile

What was happening on June 9th, 1974? President Richard Nixon was rejecting a subpoena from the House Impeachment committee. In Milwaukee, a drifter was arrested in a case of a murdered car salesman and tension was rising at Master Lock as strikers picketed into their second week.

On Jacket day, the Milwaukee Brewers hosted their largest crowd in their young history, however losing to Ken Holtzman and the Oakland A’s. Cale Yarborough held off Bobby Allison by two and half-seconds to win the Tuborg 400 at Riverside International Speedway in California. Billy Cassella won the USAC Sprint Car race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, beating Bill Puterbaugh and Tom Bigelow across the line in the 40-lap feature. Bigelow had decided to pass up the Rex Mays 150 in Milwaukee.

With Bigelow absent, 24 cars were present for the silver anniversary of the Rex Mays 150 at the Milwaukee Mile. Bobby Unser driving the white #48 Olsonite Eagle for Dan Gurney was gunning for his third straight Mays 150 win. SuperTex A.J. Foyt led qualifiers in winning the pole at the speed of 128.986-mph in his four-cam powered Coyote.

Johnny Rutherford fresh from his first Indianapolis 500 win qualified outside the front row, with Bobby Unser starting third and Wally Dallenbach fourth. Gary Bettenhausen, Gordon Johncock, Lloyd Ruby, Steve Krisiloff, Al Unser and Tom Sneva filled out the top-10.

Under nearly perfect weather, over 32,000 fans saw Foyt take the lead at the start and led until Rutherford spun exiting turn-2 didn’t hit anything and was able to continue. After the race, Rutherford was interviewed by the Milwaukee Journal’s Roger Jaynes, “After I spun out, we knew we had to make our stops under yellow to get back into the race and stay up front.”

On the restart Dallenbach charged into the lead and was in control until a green flag pit flag put him at a disadvantage, whereas Rutherford and his Team McLaren crew made their two stops during the caution. In fact, Dallenbach and Foyt both made three pit stops (one each under green) to Rutherford’s two stops under caution.

Rookie Larry Rice making his first Indy Car start in the ancient Precision Racing Eagle-Chevy had a wing strut break causing the talented midget car driver to slide into the battle scarred wall.

Dallenbach suffered magneto issues and slowed coming out of the fourth turn on lap 125th, letting Rutherford take the lead that he would not relinquish.

Rutherford took the checkered flag trailing the Penske Racing McLaren-Offy of Bettenhausen who finished his final lap thirty seconds later in second place. Billy Vukovich came home third and Dick Simon surprised a few railbirds with a fourth place finish. Steve Krisiloff was one of the most disappointed as he had second place sewn up when he ran out of fuel with eight laps to go.

“In the words of the late Peter Revson I guess you could say we persevered. We had our problems but we overcame them. And we had luck, and we were able to take advantage of others’ misfortune.” Rutherford said in victory lane. The race which timed in at an hour and 21-minutes saw ten lead changes and six cautions for a tidy 29-laps.

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Steve Zautke
Steve Zautke, a Milwaukee, WI native, was raised in the sport of auto racing. His father, Bill, was a movie photographer that shot racing footage at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1960's and 1970's Steve's first professional job in racing was as an Emergency Medical Technician at tracks such as Angell Park and Hales Corners Speedway (1988-1991). Steve has also worked for the Milwaukee Mile as videographer, in media relations and historian (1993-2011). Steve also has worked as a reporter for Racing Information Systems (RIS) and has written features for 'Vintage Oval Racing' and 'Victory Lane' magazines. Most recently, Steve has written a book on Road America for Arcadia Publishing. ( http://www.amazon.com/Road-America-Nascar-Library-Collection/dp/1467111457 ) Steve co-hosts "Sparky's Final Inspection" a motorsports-based radio show with hosts, Steve "Sparky" Fifer and "NASCAR Girl" Summer Santana on Sports Radio 1250AM in Milwaukee and is also available on the internet at www.Sportradio1250.com. A member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee, Steve follows all types of racing from the dirt tracks to Formula One.