The first Indy 500

Indianapolis 500 Memorable Moments

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By Rockin’ Reese 

The Indianapolis 500 has had some memorable events in its over 100-year history.

A lot of people may not know them, but that’s what this article is for. Let’s take a look back from 1911 to now. Don’t worry, we’ll just cover the really historic moments. 

There have been 74 different drivers who have been victorious on the “Brickyard”, at least once (with 52 of them being Americans). However, only one man can have the honor of being the winner of the inaugural race. That man would be Ray Harroun. The native of Spartansburg, PA would come out of retirement for this race only & drive his Marmon Wasp to victory. 

A lot of international drivers have won the Indy 500. Jules Goux from France was the first international winner (winning the 1913 race). However, the United Kingdom & Brazil have been the most dominant regions, with each area having 8 wins. For the UK, there was England-raised “Britalian” Dario Resta (1916), Scottish driver Jim Clark (1965), English drivers Graham Hill (1966) & Dan Wheldon (2005 & 2011), and Scottish-born “Britalian” Dario Franchitti (2007, 2010, & 2012). For Brazil, there was Emerson Fittipaldi (1989 & 1993), Hélio Castroneves (2001, 2002, 2009, & 2021), Gil de Ferran (2003), and Tony Kanaan (2013).

Altogether, there have been 22 drivers from 11 regions outside of the United States who have won 32 races in Indy 500 history. The longest stretch for international winners was from Franchitti’s 2007 win to Kanaan’s 2013 win, although with a win in this year’s race, they could tie that record.

Winning the Indy 500 once is a tough, but incredible feat. Can you imagine winning more than once? As you’ve seen there are some men who have done it. In fact, there are 20 men who have won the Indy 500 on more than 1 occasion. Tommy Milton was the first driver to win the race twice (1921 & 1923). Louis Meyer was the first driver to win 3 races (1928, 1933, & 1936).

However, A.J. Foyt would create the Mount Rushmore of the Indy 500, by winning the race a record 4 times (1961, 1964, 1967, & 1977). Foyt would share that record with Al Unser (1970, 1971, 1978, & 1987), Rick Mears (1979, 1984, 1988, & 1991), and Castroneves.

AJ Foyt wins the Indy 500 in 1961

Just as impressive in the category of multiple Indy 500 wins is winning the race in consecutive years. Wilbur Shaw was the first driver to achieve this feat (winning in 1939 & 1940). The only other men to achieve this feat would be Mauri Rose (1947 & 1948), Bill Vukovich (1953 & 1954), Unser, and Castroneves. Ironically, of the 5 back-to-back winners, Vukovich was the only man who didn’t win a 3rd race.

Though car racing is an individual sport, there are occasions where teamwork is a factor. In fact, there are 2 incidents where the race had co-winners. The first time it happened was 1924, when Lora L. Corum drove the first 111 laps & Duesenberg teammate Joe Boyer finished the remaining 89.

The other time it happened was in 1941. Floyd Davis drove the first 72 laps, then was replaced by Rose. Paired with the 2 wins he would earn later in the decade, Rose would become the only driver in Indy 500 history to win as a replacement & a starting driver.

While their appearances have been few & far between, women have competed in the Indy 500. Janet Guthrie would be the 1st of 10 women  to drive on the “Brickyard”, doing so in 1977. The following year, she would be the 1st female driver to have a top-10 finish in the Indy 500 (she would finish in 9th place). However, 2 other women would be more prominent in the Indy 500 scene. Sarah Fisher has competed in the Indy 500 on 9 occasions, the most by a female driver. Danica Patrick would set 2 records for a female Indy 500 driver…most top-10 finishes (6) & highest finish (3rd place in 2009).

While you actually want to win a race by completing it, sometimes, “Mother Nature” has a hand in helping you.  On 7 occasions, rain shortened the Indy 500, so the winner was whomever was the furthest along. The first time it happened was in 1926, when Frank Lockhart won, despite only completing 160 laps.

The quickest a race was stopped was in 1972, when Johnny Rutherford won, only completing 102 laps. The longest a race went before it was stopped was in 2004, when Buddy Rice won, only completing 180 laps. The other men who won were Johnnie Parsons (1950-138 laps), Gordon Johncock (1973-133 laps), Bobby Unser (1975-174 laps), & Franchitti (2007-166 laps). Of those men, Rutherford (1974 & 1980), Unser (1968 & 1981), Johncock (1982), and Franchitti would win completed races.

There are many other records that are part of Indy 500 lore. Team Penske has owned 18 winning cars. A #3 car has won 11 times. Drivers have won 21 times, when they have started from the pole position. In 2021, Castroneves had the fastest victory for a completed race (2 hours, 37 minutes, 19.38 seconds). 

The Foyt Family would be part of starting driver history. AJ would the oldest (at 57 years & 128 days old in 1992), while AJ IV would be the youngest (on his 19th birthday in 2003). Troy Ruttman would be the youngest winner (22 years & 80 days in 1952), while Al Unser would be the oldest winner (just 5 days shy of his 48th birthday in 1987). Ironically,

Al would take that record from his older brother, Bobby (who was 47 years & 93 days old in 1981). This wouldn’t be the only record involving the Unser Family. In 1992, Al Unser Jr. winning would make him & Al the first father-son duo and him & Bobby the first uncle-nephew duo to win an Indy 500.

Indianapolis 500

Who will add their name to the Indy 500 record books, next? Maybe Marcus Ericsson becomes the first back-to-back winner, since Castroneves in 2001 & 2002. Maybe Castroneves wins a record 5th race & becomes the oldest winner ever. Maybe Sting Ray Robb pulls off an upset, to become the youngest winner ever. Maybe a 21st man adds his name to the list of multi-time winners.

Maybe a 13th region of the world will have a winner. There are so many ways it could happen. The only way to find out is to watch.

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