Jackie Stewart, having just lost his World Champion's crown to Emerson Fittipaldi, asserted his intentions to get it back, as he dominated the entire weekend with pole, win and fastest lap and completed a sweep of the North American races. It was the twenty-second victory of the Scot's career, and his fourth in 1972. Teammate François Cevert completed the one-two finish for Tyrrell, five seconds ahead of Denny Hulme's McLaren.
The then-staggering amount of $275,000 in prize money attracted 31 entries for the last race of the year. Rain and cold winds harried the drivers in qualifying, and Friday's times determined the grid. Stewart took the pole with a time of 1:40.481, ahead of the McLarens of American Peter Revson and Hulme. A third McLaren, driven by South African Jody Scheckter in his F1 debut, was eighth.
The Goodyear teams seemed to be enjoying quite an advantage, some saying as much as one and a half to two seconds per lap in qualifying. Firestone had intended to close its European Racing Division, and their teams were using up old stock that had been produced some time before. Rob Walker said that his team's tires had been manufactured for the Austrian Grand Prix, one of the hottest races of the year, and he was not surprised that they would not work in the 40-degree temperatures at The Glen! After practice, however, a telegram was received from Firestone HQ in Akron saying that, because of all the letters they had received begging them to continue, they would be racing in the following season.
Sunday began bright and sunny, but by the time the cars assembled on the grid, the skies were threatening rain. Stewart jumped quickly off the grid and immediately began to pull away from the rest of the field. Mario Andretti charged from his tenth place grid position up the inside of the first corner in his Ferrari, and banged wheels with Carlos Reutemann's Brabham and Revson's McLaren. Andretti continued, to the delight of the crowd, now in seventh behind the Ferraris of Jacky Ickx and Clay Regazzoni. Reutemann followed in eighth with a broken nose, while Revson pitted at the end of the lap to have his front wing straightened.
Stewart was three seconds clear of Hulme after one lap, and five seconds up after two. Fittipaldi, up to third after the first lap, immediately knew that his car was not right. His right rear tire began deflating on lap five, and when two replacements quickly did the same thing, the team realized that a misaligned suspension was the problem, and he retired. On lap 20, Stewart's lead was 20 seconds, and it was clear that any battle on this day would be for second place.
With Fittipaldi out and Reutemann forced to stop for a new nose cone, the second Tyrrell of François Cevert was now in third and closing on Hulme. Scheckter was comfortably ahead of Ickx, but the Belgian was quickly being caught by Ronnie Peterson. On Saturday, in the rain, Peterson had crashed his March heavily, and the mechanics initially said that it was unrepairable. They decided to attempt to rebuild it in time for the race, and after starting in 26th position, Peterson was now the most impressive driver on the track, apart from race-leader Stewart.
At about half-distance, Cevert got by Hulme for second place, and Peterson passed Ickx for fifth. On lap 40, a brief shower suddenly soaked Turn one. Scheckter, running marvellously in fourth place, was caught out by the slippery surface in the downhill, 90-degree right-hander and spun his McLaren up onto the bank. Ickx, in the meantime, repassed Peterson to take the position vacated by Scheckter. Andretti had been struggling with the performance of his tires, but now found them better on the wet track and increased his pace.
On the last lap, with Stewart coasting home 40 seconds ahead of Cevert, Ickx's Ferrari began trailing smoke. Peterson pulled alongside him and signalled frantically at the back of the car. The Swede's gamesmanship worked, as Peterson beat the Ferrari to the line by just over half a second to take fourth place!
Revson had passed both Andretti and Mike Hailwood on consecutive laps for sixth place, but with five laps remaining, an ignition wire parted and his brilliant drive ended. When Hailwood was unable to avoid the spinning Marches of Mike Beuttler and Niki Lauda just three laps from the flag, Andretti inherited sixth place and the final point.
After the finish, the two leading Tyrrells, plus Patrick Depailler's seventh place sister car, entered the pit lane together in a show of strength, having earned team owner Ken Tyrrell a then-record reward of $97,500.
- Following the season, for the third time, The Glen won the Grand Prix Drivers Association's "Best Organized Race of the Season" award.
- Doug Nye (1978). The United States Grand Prix and Grand Prize Races, 1908-1977. B. T. Batsford. ISBN 0-7134-1263-1
- Rob Walker (February, 1973). "14th U.S. Grand Prix: Stewart Again". Road & Track, 94-98.