The 1973 Indianapolis 500 win was a very bitter-sweet victory as his teammate David 'Swede' Savage was severely injured in a crash during the race, eventually passing away a month later. In addition, Armando Teran, a mechanic for the same STP/Patrick Racing organization, was killed in a subsequent pit lane accident caused by a safety truck headed towards the Savage crash. The race was also shortened to 133 laps (from 200) because of rain.
Johncock won the USAC Champcar title in 1976, but was frustrated at Indianapolis; in 1975 he started the race on the front row but retired with ignition problems on the 11th lap. In 1976 and 1978 he was 3rd, and in 1977 he was leading A.J. Foyt comfortably when the car's crankshaft broke on lap 184.
Johncock took a second Indianapolis 500 victory in 1982, but by only 0.16 second from Rick Mears. Johncock was a dominant force for much of the race, but by the closing laps Mears was rapidly closing in. In Mears' final pit stop, Mears' team made a miscalculation and filled his car with more fuel than it needed to finish the race. As a consequence Mears had to catch up with Johncock again, and on the 197th and 198th laps came from 3 seconds back to within car lengths. The final lap was one of the most thrilling laps in motorsport history as Mears tried to pass Johncock for the win, with Johncock making a decisive defense of first place in Turn One. Mears would later joke about watching the tape over and over to see if 'this time I get around Gordy'.
Johncock took another three Champ car wins, including the 1982 Michigan 500 to complete two legs of what was then known as the Triple Crown (the three 500-mile races on the USAC Marlboro Championship Trail were known as such from 1970 until 1989, when the Pocono 500 was discontinued afterwards), before retiring from racing in 1985. He returned for occasional appearances in 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991 and finally quit after the 1992 Indianapolis 500 (also the final '500' for Mears).
Johncock also completed in twenty-one NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (then Winston Cup) events in his career. Johncock raced respectably, earning three top-fives and four top-tens in his limited schedules. The best of those finishes were a pair of fourths in 1973 at Daytona and 1966 at Rockingham.
- In 1999 he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame
- He was inducted in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2002.
Indianapolis 500 results
- Johncock ranks 3rd on the list of laps completed at Indianapolis.
|Indianapolis 500 Winners|
Harroun • Dawson • Goux • Thomas • DePalma • Resta • Wilcox • Chevrolet • Murphy • Corum • Boyer • DePaolo • Lockhart • Souders • Keech • Arnold • Schneider • Frame • Cummings • Petillo • Roberts • Davis • Robson • Holland • Parsons • Wallard • Ruttman • Sweikert • Flaherty • Hanks • Bryan • Rathmann • Jones • Clark • Hill • Andretti • Donohue • Sneva • Sullivan • Rahal • Villeneuve • Lazier • Cheever • Brack • Montoya • de Ferran • Rice • Wheldon • Hornish