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Sensing drastic changes were in order in a hurry, Moore was replaced with Jacques Demers, the former boss of the Cougars and future coach for Les Canadiens and Red Wings. The Racers' sophomore season saw a complete about face. A stellar year from rookie Michel Dion in the pipes also helped cut down on goals nearly 100, earning him the Best Goaltender Award with a 2.74 GAA, best in the league. The strong mix of young talent and established character players such as Pat Stapleton, they finished with 76 points, nearly double the previous year. The league had expanded again that year, bringing the total to 15 clubs, the most ever in one season, which resulted in the alignment being altered to 3 divisions. This paved the way for the Racers to finish first in the east, despite actually having a losing record. They received a bye in the first round of the playoffs and took the New England Whalers to the max in the second, but lost in a dramatic seventh game.
The Racers took their facelift into the '76-'77 season with high hopes. Their third campaign saw a series of ups and downs, beginning in the pre-season with a 2-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. Their goals against skyrocketed and their goal production dropped over the course of the year. Still, they managed to finish the season with 80 points, 4 better than the last year. Unfortunately though their attendance remained stable, they were still averaging only a little better than 5700 a game. Though with 80 points, the league had reverted back to a 2 divisional system and the Racers finished third in the east. They went up against the Stingers, who finished strong following a winning streak that lasted 10 games. Still, Indianapolis prevailed, beating the Stingers in 4 straight. Their second round opponents would turn out to be Les Nordiques, tops in the east and took the Racers out in 5, before going on to win the Avco Cup. Feeling the financial pinch, Deneau sold the club to Harold Ducote.
The '77-'78 season began with an air of uncertainty hanging above the league. Minnesota's team had folded for the second time in the middle of last season, and the Roadrunners, Cowboys and Mariners all followed suit during the summer. The Racers meanwhile were trying to make the leap from 'almost ran' to 'legit contender'. They tried to bolster the scoring attack by signing Claude St Sauveur, a WHA veteran from the Blazers/Cowboys franchise who'd spent the previous season with the Atlanta Flames of the NHL. Adding other NHLers Peter McDuffe, most recently of the Kansas City Scouts, Jim Park and Gary Inness, along with highly touted 17 year-old Ed Mio to the goalie ranks, they were disappointed to finish last in the league with goals against. After a midseason sale to Canadian businessman Nelson Skalbania, they finished dead last in the streamlined 8 team league with 53 points, 25 out of the playoffs.
When the WHA's final season began in the fall of 1978, it was already agreed in principle that the league would suspend operations after that year. Still hoping to be granted admission, the closest the Racers would get would be a 4-1 exhibition win over the St Louis Blues. The turmoil in the executive offices translated to practically non existant attendance during the season. Financial woes were plaguing the club despite the signing of underage rookies Mark Messier and Wayne Gretzky, though they never played together. But the fat lady was singing, and Gretzky's services were sold to Peter Pocklington and the Edmonton Oilers. It was made official during the year that the impending merger with the NHL wasn't going to be including Indianapolis, and Skalbania folded the Racers shortly thereafter after only 25 games.
|ROUND ONE: bye
ROUND TWO: lost to Aeros in 7
|FIRST ROUND: swept Stingers 4 straight
SECOND ROUND: lost to Nordiques 4 games to 1
|folded after 25 games