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Swede Savage was comfortably leading the field by 42nd lap, in the STP-sponsored Eagle - Offenhauser #40 prepared by George Bignotti, when he pitted for refueling and new tyres on 55th lap. A few laps after this pitstop, on 58th lap, just as he was about to retake the lead from Al Unser in his Vel's Parnelli - Offy #4, who was in the process of coming into the pits for his second stop, Swede Savage's car suddenly veered off course on the left side at the exit of Turn 4. The car that was carrying a full load of fuel, slid sideways across the track and slammed into the inside wall at high speed and in an acute angle, exploding on fire and disintegrating. Possibly it happened due to a malfunctioning right rear joint, or by running on an incorrect driving line with cold tyres. According to eyewitnesses reporte, the right half of the car's rear wing had come loose before the crash, this has not yet been confirmed. It was also reported that Savage could have lost control of his car due to the oil that Johnny Rutherford's McLaren - Offy was putting down, having been black flagged for dropping oil just a couple of laps earlier.
Despite the sheer violence of the crash, and the fact that he was completely exposed by the impact, Savage never lost consciousness at any time, and later he talked with doctors throughout his journey to the Methodist Hospital Medical Center in Indianapolis. While still being trapped into the wreckage, rescuers saw him moving, a fact that astonished Jim McKay and Chris Economaki, covering the race for ABC Sports broadcasts. Even though Savage suffered extensive and complex fractures on his legs, his return to the tracks was considered sure, and Wally Dallenbach was recruited by George Bignotti for Team Patrick-STP as a temporary replacement during his absence. Sadly, though, Savage succumbed to a kidney infection whilst still in hospital thirty-three days later, on Monday, 02 July 1973. In his book "Rapid Response: My Inside Story as a Motor Racing Life-Saver" published in 2010, Dr. Stephen Olvey who was Swede Savage's attending physician at Indianapolis hospital, and later CART's Director of Medical Affairs, indicated that the real cause of death was complications related to a blood transfusion, contaminated with Hepatitis B, which caused his liver to fail.
USAC National Championship
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
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