On November 21, 1970, Swede Savage battled his way to the top of the podium at the Marlboro-USAC Championship series Bobby Ball 150 in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a great day for the up-and-coming driver, obviously, but also a great race for Dan Gurney, who had recently stepped out of the role of driver and into the role of full-time team manager — and Savage was piloting a Ford-powered Eagle.
And what a race for fans! All 16,500 of them, we reported in the December 12, 1970 issue of Competition Press & Autoweek, were on their feet and screaming through he last laps. If the spins and dramatic comebacks weren’t enough, the controversy continued after the checkered flag dropped; Al Unser recovered from a late-race crash to take second place…only to be disqualified for a too-capacious fuel tank in post-race tech inspection.
Sadly, the win in Phoenix would be Savage’s sole professional driving victory; he died from injuries sustained during a horrific crash at the 1973 Indianapolis 500.
There is a second part to the Phoenix 150 story: Unser appealed his disqualification, and after the USAC found that their fuel tank measuring device improperly calibrated, his second-place finish was reinstated.
Read all about the saga it in the excerpts below. Thanks to reader Gerald Kelly for the article suggestion, and Happy Thanksgiving!
Competition Press & Autoweek — December 12, 1970 coverage of the Phoenix 150