Was the Wood Brothers' involvement the deciding factor in Clark winning the race? No. It's fair to say that Clark's superiority would have given him the victory even if his own Lotus guys continued to muddle through on the pit stops. However, bringing in the NASCAR-honed skills and safe hands of the Wood Bros. crew not only added an extra margin into that superiority (Clark's first stop was timed at 19.8sec, compared to more than 44sec for Foyt) but also brought additional piece of mind…and an extra storyline for Ford's PR machine to push to the media.
Not that the Woods' crew turned up at the Brickyard completely prepared for their task. In NASCAR racing, pit stops involved dump cans and five-lug wheels, not fuel hoses and a single, knock-off nut on each wheel. But what the Woods brought was an innate understanding of the choreography of pit stops and an ability to learn and adapt quickly.
Legend has it that when the Wood Bros. crew arrived at the Brickyard on the weekend before the Monday, May 31 race, team principals Glen and Leonard Wood sought out one of their occasional drivers, a certain A.J. Foyt, in the garages and quizzed him about Indy car pit stops and the order in which things were done. Foyt chatted amiably about it and told them what he knew, then asked them why they were so interested. When they told him it was because they were pitting Clark on Monday, the atmosphere is said to have turned a little frosty…
Anyway, back to the action… On lap 74, Clark regained the lead and drove away. When Foyt retired on lap 115 with transmission issues, Parnelli Jones' Lotus-Ford became the nearest “competition,” but a 1m59.98sec victory margin and a record 150.633mph average speed only confirmed Clark's superiority (RIGHT).
Clark would appear twice more at the Indy 500. In '66, he qualified second and came close to another win, despite spinning twice during the race and elegantly catching it on each occasion without brushing the wall. Given that his Lotus 38 was now painted in STP orange, instead of Lotus' traditional combination of British Racing Green and yellow, Clark joked that STP stood for “Spinning Takes Practice.”
When the race ended, Clark actually drove to Victory Lane, believing himself to be the winner. There, he found the real winner Graham Hill already celebrating his success. The confusion had arisen because the other STP-painted Lotus, driven by Al Unser, had been erroneously scored as Clark for a lap. But, once it was explained, neither runner-up Clark nor the often incendiary Chapman (ABOVE) seemed unduly upset by the mix up and no protest was filed.
In '67, Clark and the Lotus team suffered a month of trials and tribulations, thanks to the Lotus 38 beginning to show its age and Chapman being more than a little distracted on the design and build of the groundbreaking Ford-Cosworth V8-powered Lotus 49 for F1. Clark qualified a lowly 16th and finished 31st, a burned piston ending his day after just 35 laps. Compared to previous campaigns at the Brickyard, this one was lackluster at best, almost as though Lotus was there by obligation, rather than choice, and certainly not worthy of Clark's reputation and abilities.
His last appearance at the Brickyard was a low-key one, testing Chapman's turbine-powered Lotus 56 on a chilly March day in '68. Clark came away from the test enthusing over the car's potential and convinced that it could deliver him a second Indianapolis 500 victory.
Tragically, he was never able to convert the 56's promise into a winning reality: just days later, on April 7, he died in a minor Formula 2 race at Germany's Hockenheimring.
The Brickyard crowd had lost its Beatle, but they'd never forget the quiet, unassuming Scot who liked to do his talking on the track.
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