IRL: Great Moments of the Indianapolis 500

GREAT MOMENTS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500 By Donald Davidson Historian, Indianapolis Motor Speedway 1911: RAY HARROUN WINS INAUGURAL INDIANAPOLIS 500 After two seasons of two- and three-day multi-event programs, Speedway management decides for...

GREAT MOMENTS OF THE INDIANAPOLIS 500

By Donald Davidson
Historian, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

1911: RAY HARROUN WINS INAUGURAL INDIANAPOLIS 500

After two seasons of two- and three-day multi-event programs, Speedway management decides for 1911 to present just one major event paying a huge purse. Seeking something lasting around seven hours, they calculate that an attractive-sounding 500 miles could be run off in that time. On the morning of May 30, 1911 -- Memorial Day -- 40 cars line up for the start of the very first Indianapolis 500. Virtually all of them are stripped-down versions of passenger cars currently being sold to the public. The eventual winner, however, has been built strictly for competition. Following complaints that the locally built, single-seat streamlined Marmon "Wasp" has no provision for carrying the generally accepted "riding mechanic," driver/engineer Ray Harroun finds a solution. Above the cowling, he rigs up a 3-by-8-inch mirror, believed to be the very first rearview mirror ever used on an automobile. Near the race's halfway point, he turns the wheel over to a relief driver, Cyrus Patschke, but returns for the final half and wins the very first Indianapolis 500 in a time of 6 hours, 42 minutes, at an average speed of 74.602 mph.

1912: DePALMA'S BIG PUSH

Italian-born immigrant Ralph DePalma leads 196 of the first 198 laps and is ahead by 5½ laps when his privately entered German Mercedes Grand Prix car breaks down only 1¼ laps short of the checkered flag. With the appreciative crowd giving them plenty of support, he and his riding mechanic then get out and push the heavy car for several hundred yards in an unsuccessful effort to finish. After Joe Dawson comes from behind to win, the defeated DePalma endears himself still further to the public by being among the first to congratulate him.

1914: FOREIGN "INVADER" ALMOST TOPS 100

Frenchman Georges Boillot turns a qualifying lap at 99.85 mph to come within an "eye blink" of the Speedway's first 100-mph lap. He drives a 345-cubic-inch Peugeot Grand Prix car on this, his only trip to the Brickyard. The flamboyant Boillot is the defending two-time winner of the French Grand Prix and considered by many to be the finest driver in Europe at the time. He will give his life for his country in less than two years' time, being shot down in aerial combat over Verdun, France, near the German border, on May 20, 1916.

1919: WILCOX BREAKS 100

Shortly after time trials begin, Howdy Wilcox goes out to become the first to turn a qualifying lap in excess of 100 mph. Six others accomplish this after him, including Frenchman Rene Thomas, who sits on the pole at 104.78 mph. Wilcox starts second and wins the race, the first to be held after World War I.

1921: DePALMA EXTENDS "LAPS LED" RECORD

Ralph DePalma, the first to win the pole under the new four-lap qualifying format (1920), repeats and is the first to win the pole for a second time. He drops out while leading at 112 laps, having extended his "career laps led" total to 612, a record which will not be beaten until Al Unser finally exceeds it 66 years later, in 1987.

1923: FIRST TWO-TIME WINNER

Tommy Milton is the first driver to win for a second time. A further reduction in maximum cubic-inch displacement, to only 122 cid, has also led to riding mechanics no longer being mandatory. Twenty-three of the 24 cars which line up on Race Day are single-seaters. The race is by far the most competitive to date, with six drivers swapping the lead 28 times, a record which will not be beaten until 1960. Milton does not complete the distance alone. His sidelined teammate, 1919 winner Howdy Wilcox, takes over for 48 laps during the race while Milton receives attention to his blistered hands and pinched feet.

1924: "DUESY" TEAMMATES SHARE WIN

After his car has been delayed by mechanical trouble, Joe Boyer takes over the fourth-place-running Duesenberg of teammate Lora Corum at 111 laps and charges up to the lead by Lap 177, winning at a record average speed of 98.234 mph. It is the first win for a car equipped with a supercharger. Throughout history, relief drivers generally do not receive credit, but due to the fact that Corum started and Boyer finished, officials decide to consider them co-winners.

1925: DePAOLO AVERAGES FASTER THAN 100

In spite of taking 21 laps of relief from Norman Batten, while he gets his badly blistered hands bandaged, Peter DePaolo, driving a supercharged Duesenberg, is the first to win in less than five hours, averaging 101.127 mph. His elapsed time of 4 hours, 56 minutes, 39.46 seconds is less than Ray Harroun's 1911 time by an hour and three-quarters.

1926: "UNKNOWN" WINS RAIN-SHORTENED RACE

Frank Lockhart, who two years later will lose his life in an attempt to break the World Land Speed Record at Daytona Beach, shows up at Indianapolis as a 23-year-old unknown. He is due to serve as a relief driver for Bennett Hill. In the meantime, driver/owner Peter Kreis is stricken with pneumonia and cannot drive. Lockhart replaces him, sets a one-lap track record of 115.448 mph on an incomplete qualification run and then wins the rain-shortened race (400 miles) by two full laps.

1927: LOCKHART BREAKS 120

Defending winner Frank Lockhart is the first to qualify in excess of 120 mph. His four-lap average is 120.100 mph, with his fastest being almost 121 at 120.918 mph. He sets another record by leading the entire first 200 miles. Dutch Baumann takes over when Lockhart makes a stop, but the defending winner is back in front by Lap 91. He drops out at Lap 120 with a broken connecting rod.

1928: DURAY PUSHES RECORD TEMPORARILY OUT OF REACH

Leon Duray (real name: George Stewart) wins the pole with a four-lap record of 122.391 mph. His new single-lap record is 124.018 mph. His tiny supercharged straight-eight Miller engine displaces only 91½ cubic inches. Largely due to specification changes in 1930, which eliminate superchargers for the next several years, both records will remain unbroken for nine years.

1930: ARNOLD UTTERLY DOMINATES

It seems like a movie script. Harry Hartz, recovering from injuries, plans to drive his own car right up until the first qualifying day. He makes an incomplete attempt and then turns the car over to 24-year-old Billy Arnold, who qualifies for the pole. Arnold leads all but the first two laps, wins by five laps and is the first to average 100 mph without the aid of a relief driver. His record of leading 198 out of 200 laps in the same race has never been broken and probably will stand forever.

1936: THREE BY MEYER -- IN MORE WAYS THAN ONE

Not only is Louis Meyer is the first driver to win the "500" for a third time, but he is also involved in the beginning of three major Indianapolis Motor Speedway traditions. He is the first to be presented with the keys to the Pace Car (a Packard), it is the first year for the Borg-Warner Trophy, and he unknowingly begins a tradition by being photographed in Victory Lane drinking what appears to be regular milk. It is actually buttermilk. Milk industry executives seize upon the opportunity and make sure that milk is handed to the winner for the next several years. Milk disappears from the victory celebration between 1947 and 1955, but it returns for good in 1956.

1937: SNYDER DOES 130

With supercharging once again permitted, Jimmy Snyder is the first to turn a qualifying lap in excess of 130 mph. The new European formula of 183 cubic inches supercharged (and 274 cubic inches unsupercharged) will come into effect in 1938, but for the time being a massive 366 cid is still permissible. Chief mechanic Art Sparks takes advantage of that, and Snyder rides a rocket ship. He starts all the way back in 19th but is leading by Lap 3! He is far ahead when his transmission breaks after 27 laps.

1937: WILBUR BEATS "HEP" BY TWO SECONDS

Wilbur Shaw is forced to slow in the closing stages because of a severe loss of oil pressure in a car he designed himself and helped build. He holds off fast-closing Ralph Hepburn and beats him to the finish line by 2.16 seconds, the closest finish up to this point and a record which will not be broken for 45 years.

1939: A VIEW TO THE FUTURE

During 1939's opening day of qualifications, George Bailey puts together a four-lap qualifying run of 125.821 mph to land himself a starting position on the outside of the second row. He lasts only 47 laps in the race, but history again has been made. His curious-looking four-wheel-drive supercharged "slant-six" Miller is the first car ever to start in the Indianapolis 500 with its engine mounted behind the driver.

1940: SHAW FIRST TO WIN "BACK TO BACK"

Wilbur Shaw is the first driver to win the "500" in consecutive years. Driving the same imported Italian Maserati he steered to victory in 1939, the diminutive and dynamic Shaw joins Louis Meyer as a three-time winner of the "500" while also becoming the first ever to win in consecutive years. With three firsts and three seconds since 1933, Shaw now has the best record of any "500" driver.

1941: SHAW'S BID FOR "THREE IN A ROW" ENDS IN CRASH

Wilbur Shaw appears on his way to winning for a third consecutive year (and a record fourth overall), but he suffers a back injury when a collapsed right rear wire wheel sends him into the wall while he is leading at the three-quarter mark. It turns out to be his final race. The entry of America into World War II will bring racing to a halt for four years, after which Shaw will play a major role in saving the Speedway from extinction.

1941: ROSE TAKES OVER FOR DAVIS -- AND WINS

After pole sitter Mauri Rose is forced out with mechanical trouble at 60 laps, he takes over (from teammate Floyd Davis) the car he drove to third place in 1940. He advances from 12th at Lap 80, to eighth by Lap 100, to second at Lap 160 and into the lead for the win at Lap 162. Because one started and the other finished, officials repeat the decision made for the similar situation in 1924 (Corum and Boyer) by naming Davis and Rose co-winners.

1946: TONY'S MIRACLE

Just six months after Terre Haute businessman Anton "Tony" Hulman Jr. has purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (sadly neglected due to four years of inactivity during World War II), the 500-Mile Race is revived. Hulman goes into the event concerned that interest may have diminished in the interim. On the contrary, a massive crowd shows up, and gigantic traffic jams persist long after the race has started. George Robson wins.

1946: HEPBURN (NOVI) OBLITERATES QUALIFYING RECORDS

Race fans are thrilled four days before the race when 50-year-old Ralph Hepburn destroys the one- and four-lap qualifying records by almost 4 mph. His low-slung Kurtis chassis is powered by an ear-splitting V8 supercharged Winfield engine which has recently been renamed "Novi." The new records are 133.944 mph for four laps and 134.449 mph for one.

1948: YOU MEAN, IT HAS SIX WHEELS?

Into the 1948 starting field at a creditable 123.967 mph comes Billy Devore. The car is getting plenty of attention. Many had just laughed at it when it showed up for practice, and with good reason. It has six wheels!! The front looks normal, but in the rear are tandem axles. Former dirt track driver Pat Clancy, now owner of a small trucking company, thought the double rear axle concept for trucks might just work at the Speedway. Devore runs all day during the race and is flagged off after 190 laps in 12th place. The following year, Jackie Holmes will make the lineup at 128.087 mph but falls by the wayside with a broken driveshaft after 65 laps. By the time this unique car returns in 1950, it will have been converted into a standard four-wheeler.

1949: NALON, MAYS THRILL NOVI FANS

The increasingly large number of fans of the noisy V8 supercharged Novi racing cars are thrilled when Duke Nalon and Rex Mays start one-two and then proceed to run away with the race in its early stages. Nalon receives painful burns in a fiery accident when the right rear wheel comes off in Turn 3 after only 23 laps, and Mays pulls in to retire after 45 laps, but the fans are already warning, "Wait until next year."

1950: SENSATIONAL ROOKIE BREAKS NOVI RECORDS

Only seconds before the first day of qualifications ends, diminutive rookie Walt Faulkner takes off in J.C. Agajanian's dirt-track car and proceeds to cause a sensation by breaking Ralph Hepburn's one-and four-lap Novi track records with speeds of 136.013 mph and 134.343 mph, respectively. It seems that the only person on the grounds not jumping up and down and cheering is Faulkner.

1951: "CINDERELLA MAN" PULLS IT OFF

Lee Wallard, a 40-year-old World War II Navy vet, who once earned his offseason living driving a bulldozer, is the first to win in less than four hours. He averages 126.244 mph. Late in the race, the right rear shock mount breaks on his dirt-track car, causing him to take a substantial beating on the bricked main straightaway. Then the exhaust pipe breaks, and with 12 laps remaining, the brakes fail. He refuses to give up and is an extremely popular winner. In addition to being fairly well beaten up, the coarse material of his fire retardant-treated uniform has chafed his skin. After being taken to the infield hospital to have his body rubbed with liniment, he is placed on scales and found to have lost 15 pounds since breakfast.

1952: QUALIFYING RECORD BROKEN -- BY A DIESEL!

Freddie Agabashian causes a major upset by winning the pole and upping the single-lap qualifying mark to 139.104 mph, his powerplant being a diesel. The Cummins Engine Company of nearby Columbus, Ind., has placed one of its hefty 401-cubic-inch truck engines, laid on its side, into a low-slung Kurtis chassis and boosted it with an ingenious implement, which, while not listed as such at the time, is the track's first-ever turbocharger. The latter turns out to be the car's undoing. Because the inlet has inadvisably been placed down in front of the engine and directly behind the grille, it becomes blocked with rubber particles and causes the engine to overheat after 71 laps.

1952: VUKY DROPS OUT; TROY (ONLY 22) WINS

Bill Vukovich is only nine laps away from winning the "500" with an offset Kurtis/Offenhauser (which he himself has nicknamed "the roadster") when the steering mechanism fails. Into the lead and on to victory sweeps the dirt-track car of Troy Ruttman, who, at only 22, becomes the youngest-ever winner of the "500."

1953: VUKY WINS IN OPPRESSIVE HEAT

On the hottest race day in history (temperatures reach into the mid-90s and the track surface registers 130 degrees), Bill Vukovich waves off a relief driver and leads 195 of the 200 laps to win. Because many of the cars use second and third drivers, Vukovich is nicknamed by some, "The Iron Man." The mysterious and private Vukovich -- a man of few words -- is also a needler. "You think this is hot," he barks, "you ought to try driving a tractor in Fresno in July."

1954: "GENTLEMAN JACK" BREAKS 140

Jack McGrath is the first to qualify in excess of 140 mph, his best lap being 141.287 mph. The soft-spoken and mild-mannered "Gentleman Jack," who also effectively serves as his own chief mechanic, comes within seven seconds of finishing second in the race. He sets one- and four-lap qualifying records in both 1954 and 1955, sits on the front row in five out of six starts between 1949 and 1954, but sadly will never win.

1957: SALIH'S MIRACLE

Intrigued by the design of the 1952 Cummins Diesel, George Salih, the winning crew chief of 1951, has been trying to interest potential car owners in a vehicle featuring a four-cylinder Offenhauser engine laid over on its side. When no backers materialize, he proceeds to build the car himself and goes heavily into personal debt to finish it. Veteran driver Sam Hanks agrees to drive it and silences those who said the concept would never work by winning at a record average speed of 135.601 mph. With Hanks announcing his retirement in Victory Lane, and the joyous Salih now happily turning down offers, Jimmy Bryan will come on board in 1958, and the car will win again.

1960: ROOKIE "HERK" ALMOST TOPS 150

The recently established one- and four-lap qualifying records by pole sitter Eddie Sachs (147.251 mph and 146.952 mph) are obliterated on the final qualifying day by a rookie. Literally "dirt-tracking" his car through the corners, 26-year-old Jim Hurtubise comes within an "eye blink" of the first 150-mph lap on his third circuit, when he turns 149.601 mph. A slight bobble on the final lap drops his speed slightly, but the four-lap average of 149.056 mph has the place in an uproar.

1960: THE GREATEST TWO-MAN BATTLE EVER

Jim Rathmann and defending winner Rodger Ward engage in the greatest sustained two-man battle the race has ever seen. There are a record 29 lead changes, of which 14 are between these two alone during the entire second half. They are never any more than a few feet apart from each other and constantly swapping the lead until a handful of laps from the end, when Ward sees the white cords beginning to show through on his right front tire. Rather than pit, the cagey veteran slows down and nurses his car home to second. Rathmann, already a three-time runner-up, finally wins and raises the 500-Mile Race record to 138.767 mph.

1961: FOYT/SACHS CLASSIC

Another closely contested event sees the lead swapped 20 times among seven drivers. After the third (and presumably final) pit stop, Eddie Sachs is confounded by the fact that A.J. Foyt, with whom he has thus far been evenly matched, is now able to pull away. Unknown to either driver, Foyt's refueling mechanism has malfunctioned on the recent stop, and he has received no fuel. Running "light," he is able to pull away. Only 16 laps from the end, Foyt comes in for an emergency "splash-and-go" and Sachs finds himself with a 30-second lead. But the effort to try and keep up has placed undue wear on his tires, and with only three laps remaining, Sachs comes in to change the right rear. He takes the checkered flag 8.28 seconds after the 26-year-old Foyt has scored his first of four victories.

1962: PARNELLI BREAKS 150

With the final remaining few hundred yards of bricks on the main straight now covered over with asphalt, Parnelli Jones becomes the first driver to lap in excess of 150 mph. He does it on all four of his qualifying laps, the first being the fastest at 150.729 mph.

1963: SPECTACULAR OPENING LAP

The popular Novi racing cars have not been in the lineup for five years. Now owned by Andy Granatelli, history is made when three Novis are qualified for the first time, Jim Hurtubise starting second. The supercharger is slow to respond at the green flag and he falls to seventh going into the first turn. Coming out of the fourth turn on Lap 1, Hurtubise has moved all the way back up to second behind pole sitter Parnelli Jones, his close friend. The crowd rises to its feet when Hurtubise pulls to the inside, unleashes the power of the Novi and roars past Parnelli to lead Lap 1. The next time around, Parnelli is leading again, but here comes "Herk!" He pulls exactly the same maneuver and passes Parnelli once more, but this time not until after crossing the start/finish line. Parnelli regains command soon after, and Jim will eventually drop out. But fans will never forget those opening laps.

1965: NEW LOOK IN VICTORY LANE: ENGINE BEHIND THE DRIVER

Scotland's Jim Clark leads 190 of the 200 laps in a Ford-powered Lotus and becomes the first driver to win in a rear-engined car. His average speed of 150.686 mph for 500 miles is faster than the Parnelli Jones pole speed of just three years earlier.

1966: THE "WEE SCOT" ALMOST WINS

With a healthy lead, Scottish rookie Jackie Stewart appears to have the race won when he slows to a halt at the north end of the track with only nine laps remaining. Under the mistaken impression that he can still be classed as a finisher by pushing his car across the line (as is the rule in Europe at the time), he climbs out and begins the task. After an official explains that he does not need to do so here, Jackie then abandons the car and walks in, smiling and waving to acknowledge a huge ovation from the crowd. It turns out that the oil pressure had dropped to zero, and the thoughtful Jackie was merely trying to save his car owner, John Mecom, the expense of a blown engine. Fellow Grand Prix driver and teammate Graham Hill wins the race, but Jackie is voted Rookie of the Year.

1967: PARNELLI ALMOST WINS -- WITH A TURBINE

The long-anticipated participation by a turbine-powered car finally becomes a reality, and it almost wins first time out. Turbines have been entered before but none has ever qualified. Driving a revolutionary four-wheel-drive vehicle powered by a Pratt & Whitney gas turbine helicopter engine, Parnelli Jones leads all but 25 of the first 196 laps only to glide to a halt near the entrance to the pits. A bearing in the rear end has failed so that power can no longer be delivered to the track. This allows A.J. Foyt to take the lead, and just moments before he is due to come around to take the checkered flag, a multi-car accident develops on the main straight. Incredibly, Foyt has already had a premonition that something might happen and has taken the precaution of slowing down. He picks his way through the debris and then gears up for the final few yards, past the still-stunned Jones and his Andy Granatelli crew.

1968: MORE LATE-RACE TURBINE TROUBLES

A turbine-powered car drops out while leading within sight of the finish for the second consecutive year. This time it is Joe Leonard, driving a wedge-shaped rear-engine Lotus which was originally assigned to the late Jim Clark. The field has been under caution because of a late-race accident, and Leonard is only eight laps from home when the green comes out. His Pratt & Whitney-powered car suffers a "flame out" and Bobby Unser sails by to his first of three victories. It later comes to light that Unser had lost all but top gear, his departure from the pits after stops having required extraordinary skill.

1969: MARIO'S DAY

Mario Andretti is lucky to be walking around. The car he wanted to qualify, a turbocharged four-wheel-drive Lotus, was totally demolished in a horrendous accident during practice. The crew hauls out its older rear-drive Brawner Hawk, which recently won the Trenton 200, and Mario qualifies for the middle of the front row. He is embarrassed by the flash burns on his cheeks, and while it does appear to be him in the traditional "front row" photographs, it is actually his twin brother, Aldo. Mario and A.J. Foyt trade the lead in the early stages, but after Foyt is delayed by a faulty turbocharger, perennial "hard-luck" driver Lloyd Ruby comes into the mix. Poor Ruby is eliminated just past the halfway mark when, due to a misunderstanding during a pit stop, he tries to leave before the refueling mechanism has been disconnected. Mario cruises to the checkered flag but has been alarmed for quite some time by skyrocketing water temperature. After the car has been rolled back to the garage and Mario has "recovered" from the famous "kiss" by car owner/sponsor Andy Granatelli, the crew is curious as to just how much oil and lubricant is left in the transmission. They dismantle it, and out flutters a bunch of dried-up brown flakes.

1971: REVSON'S UPSET

Although bolt-on rear wings are not permitted, and, according to the official wording, "any aerodynamic device must be an integral part of the body," Team McLaren has cleverly found a way to mold a rear wing into the engine cover. Phenomenal downforce is achieved, and during practice, Mark Donohue, driving a Roger Penske-owned McLaren, reaches almost 181 mph, approximately 10 mph faster than the official record. Naturally, he is considered a "shoe-in" for the pole, but while his four-lap qualifying average of 177.087 mph (fastest lap at 178.607 mph) breaks the old record by a considerable margin, it is far below what was anticipated. Car after car fails to knock Donohue from the pole until Peter Revson, driving for the McLaren team, goes out and records 178.696 mph for four laps and 179.354 mph for one. Donohue is knocked from the pole, and the huge crowd realizes it has witnessed a major upset.

1972: IN COME THE WINGS, UP GO THE SPEEDS

Bolt-on rear wings are allowed for the first time, and qualifying records skyrocket by an incredible 26 mph. Peter Revson's 1971 marks of 178.696 mph for four laps and 179.354 mph for one are broken several times, Bobby Unser finally stunning everybody with 195.940 mph for four laps and 196.678 mph for one.

1973: CLOSER THAN EVER TO 200

Team McLaren's Johnny Rutherford has the crowd on its feet, on a cold and rain-threatening first day of time trials, when one of his laps is turned at 199.071 mph. Noting the wild gesturing of people standing outside the brand-new Turn 2 VIP suites, he later reveals, "I'm thinking to myself, 'Either something is falling off the car or else I'm going very, very quickly.'" The "magic" 200 can't be too far away.

1977: SNEVA BREAKS 200

Tom Sneva is the first driver to officially lap in excess of 200 mph. Gordon Johncock, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford all have managed it unofficially on the recently repaved track, but none can achieve it in qualifications. Sneva's opening lap is 200.401 mph. Lap 2 is even faster at 200.535 mph. On Laps 3 and 4, the speed drops below 200, but Sneva has given the sun-baked crowd what it came for.

1977: JANET MAKES HISTORY

Janet Guthrie becomes the first female driver to qualify for the "500." Mechanical trouble eliminates her after only 27 laps on Race Day, but her four-lap speed of 188.403 mph on the final qualifying day is the fastest turned by any driver on the entire second weekend of time trials.

1977: MORE HISTORY: FOYT WINS HIS FOURTH

When Gordon Johncock breaks a crankshaft with only 16 laps remaining, into the lead sweeps A.J. Foyt, who goes on to become the first driver ever to win the "500" for a fourth time. Once the Victory Circle celebrations have concluded and Foyt prepares to be driven around the track on a lap of honor in the Pace Car, he invites Speedway owner Tony Hulman to ride with him. Masses of people run out onto the track surface to greet them as they come around. It is an extremely poignant moment, for not only has Tony never done this before, it is the last time most people will ever see him. He passes away Oct. 27 at the age of 76.

1980: RICHMOND RIDES IN ON J.R.'s SIDEPOD

Johnny Rutherford has just won the "500" for a third time and is driving around on his "cool-off lap" on his way to Victory Circle when he comes upon rookie Tim Richmond, stranded at the entrance to the pits and standing next to his car. It has run out of fuel. The two drivers have been "garaged" next to each other in Gasoline Alley for the entire month and have become good friends. Rutherford slows down and yells to the charismatic newcomer to climb onto the sidepod, whereupon the crowd on the main straight roars its approval as the new three-time winner gives the ninth-place-finishing Rookie of the Year a "lift" down to his pit.

1982: THE GREATEST FINISH EVER

Gordon Johncock leads Rick Mears by just a couple of car lengths when Mears ducks in for his final scheduled pit stop at Lap 183. His Penske crew has him away in 18 seconds. Johncock comes in at Lap 186, and his Patrick crew pulls a major coup by giving Johncock only the amount of fuel they believe he will need to finish. They have him away in 13 seconds. The Penske crew is stunned. At Lap 188, Mears finds himself 11 seconds in arrears. It is a virtuoso performance as Mears spends the next few laps slicing away at the disadvantage. The deficit is cut from 7.9 seconds at Lap 192 to 6.4 at 193, 4.6 at 195, three seconds at 196 and a mere two at 197. As the two drivers head for the white flag, Mears is drawing alongside Johncock. They enter Turn 1 together, and Mears is forced to lift just slightly. He loses many yards but remounts his challenge and comes up short at the checkered flag by only 16 one-hundredths of a second. It is the closest finish in history, beating the previous record margin of 2.16 seconds, which has stood since 1937.

1983: THE "GAS MAN" FINALLY WINS, BUT "LITTLE AL" MAKES HIS PRESENCE KNOWN

Al Unser is leading under caution in the closing stages and is attempting to join A.J. Foyt as a four-time winner of the "500." Behind him is Tom Sneva, who has yet to win and who is trying NOT to become a four-time runner-up. The green comes out for the sprint to the checkered at Lap 176 and, surprisingly, a lapped car speeds past both of them. The driver is 21-year-old rookie Al Unser Jr., who is the first in "500" history to be competing against his own father. In a noble attempt to assist his father in winning, he quickly allows "Big Al" to pass, but is less helpful with Sneva. While accused of "blocking," he is in reality running in such a fashion as to disturb the air behind him and make it harder for Sneva to pass. Sneva eventually finds his way around regardless and passes "Big Al" on Lap 191. Sneva's subsequent win is tremendously popular, and it gives chief mechanic George Bignotti an unprecedented seventh victory. But everyone is talking about "Little Al."

1984: SNEVA BREAKS 210!

Tom Sneva is the first to exceed 210 mph and breaks five track records in four laps by recording, on consecutive laps, 209.113, 209.898, 210.423 and 210.689 mph. He looks as if he might successfully defend his 1983 race win, as well, since he is running second to Rick Mears with just over 30 laps to go. The pack is "under caution" and just getting ready for restart when Sneva is forced out with a broken CV joint.

1985: SPIN AND WIN

Danny Sullivan dives low through turn one on Lap 120 to grab the lead from Mario Andretti, only to have the tail slide out as he exits the turn. He spins around one-and-a-quarter times across the south "short chute" as Andretti dives to the inside to successfully avert a collision. Miraculously, Sullivan completely avoids hitting the wall, recovers from the spin and then makes his way around to the pits for a change of tires. None of the drivers can believe what they have seen, and tire engineers are amazed to discover the tires bear no flat spots. Twenty laps later, Sullivan passes Andretti again, in exactly the same place, and this time is successful. He is famously the first ever to "spin and win."

1986: RAHAL'S EMOTIONAL WIN

Kevin Cogan has recently passed both Rick Mears and Bobby Rahal and is leading under a late-race caution period when the green flag comes out for a sprint to the finish with only two laps to go. Rahal gets a better restart and beats Cogan into Turn 1. Mears hangs with both of them and they take the checkered flag only 1.27 seconds apart for by far the closest 1-2-3 finish ever. There is plenty of emotion because Rahal's car owner, Jim Trueman, is extremely ill. He spends the entire race in his pit but is too sick to attend a celebratory parade in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, and he passes away only 11 days after the race.

1987: THE 500 IS WON BY -- A "SHOW" CAR?!

Roberto Guerrero is leading when he makes his final scheduled pit stop at Lap 182. But there is a problem with his master cylinder, and he stalls. Into the lead goes Al Unser, who wasn't even sure he would be driving in this race. He had been replaced on the Roger Penske team by Danny Ongais, but when Ongais sustained a concussion in an accident during practice, Al was invited to rejoin colleagues Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan. Because this pair has already determined that the 1986 chassis are performing better than the new ones, there is a scramble to find an '86 for Al. He qualifies on the final weekend with a chassis retrieved from a display in the lobby of a Pennsylvania hotel. When Al takes the checkered flag, it extends his career total of "laps led" to 613, thus breaking the record held by Ralph DePalma since 1921.

1989: EMMO AND LITTLE AL

Al Unser Jr., who did not make a pit stop during a late-race yellow, while Emerson Fittipaldi did, finds himself being "reeled in" by Fittipaldi down the backstretch with 1½ laps to go. Several lapped cars are just ahead. Suddenly, just before the end of the backstretch, Fittipaldi whips to the inside and draws alongside Unser. They are side by side -- Fittipaldi on the inside -- as they negotiate Turn 3. They rub wheels. Unser's car is thrown out of control and he executes a half-spin into the wall. The yellow flag flies, along with the white, and the Pace Car picks up the field. Fittipaldi, fearing for his young friend's life, is greatly relieved to see "Little Al" standing safely at the side of the track and giving him a double-thumbs-up.

1990: ARIE WINS AT 185

Arie Luyendyk takes the lead from Bobby Rahal on Lap 168 and goes on to win in record time. Because the race has been slowed by caution periods only four times -- each of them very brief -- Luyendyk is able to complete 500 miles in only 2 hours, 41 minutes, 18.404 seconds for an average speed of 185.981 mph. Not only is this a record by a considerable margin, but it will still be solidly standing 15 years later. And it exceeds Ray Harroun's 1911 time by four hours.

1991: "WILLY T." MAKES HISTORY

With barely 45 minutes of qualifying time remaining, Willy T. Ribbs finally overcomes a month filled with mechanical woes and puts together four trouble-free laps to become the first African-American driver ever to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He rolls slowly down the pit lane after qualifying at 217.358 mph and hoists himself halfway out of the cockpit. Everywhere he looks he sees arms waving in the air. Under threatening skies, the crowd is far from a record, but everyone in it is wildly enthusiastic about what they have just witnessed.

1991: AROUND THE OUTSIDE FOR RICK AND MICHAEL

The fans in Turn 1 are treated to a phenomenal sight late in the race when Michael Andretti out-accelerates Rick Mears on a restart and then passes Mears through the turn ON THE OUTSIDE. This is a rarely seen maneuver, but the fans don't have very long to wait before they see it again. To the amazement of everyone -- Michael included -- Mears performs a breathtaking outside pass of his own, this one at full speed, on the very next lap. While Michael hangs on for second, Mears goes on to join A. J. Foyt and Al Unser as a four-time winner of the "500."

1992: THE CLOSEST FINISH EVER

Following a late-race caution, Al Unser Jr., leads Scott Goodyear on a restart at Lap 194 and many are surprised to see a tenacious Goodyear (who started 33rd) hang with the leader. The separation between the two hardly varies until, coming out of the final turn, Unser gets a little sideways. Goodyear dives for the inside and almost draws alongside, failing to pip Unser at the line by an official margin of .043 of a second, for the closest finish ever.

2001: HELIO CLIMBS THE FENCE

Just one year after a Colombian rookie, Juan Pablo Montoya, has won the race, another South American rookie triumphs. This time it is Brazilian Helio Castroneves. The effervescent Castroneves breaks with the long-standing tradition of driving straight to Victory Circle, instead stopping at the start/finish line on the next lap, climbing out and then running across the track to scale the fence. Many of his crew members run across from the pits and follow suit.

2005: DANICA LEADS!

On a restart at Lap 190, the crowd goes wild when leader Dan Wheldon is out-accelerated by 23-year-old rookie Danica Patrick. Earlier, on Lap 56, during "pit stop shuffles," Danica had become the first female ever to lead the "500." She holds the lead this time for four laps until finally repassed by Wheldon. She ends up fourth, but the ovation afforded her during the final laps is as loud as anything heard in years. After 27 years, Janet Guthrie's 1978 ninth-place finish is no longer the highest ever by a woman.

***

Indy 500 tickets on sale: Tickets are on sale for the 2006 Indianapolis 500, the 90th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Fans can order tickets online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area, or at the ticket office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.

Hours for phone orders and the ticket office are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday, while online orders can be made at any time.

Ticket prices start at just $20.

-ims-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series HISTORY , INDYCAR

User photos

pesca33

pesca33

20 photos
EuroRacer

EuroRacer

1 photos
rh41

rh41

33 photos
imtcory

imtcory

6 photos
koutnas

koutnas

227 photos
Rustyn90

Rustyn90

111 photos
JayAlley

JayAlley

41 photos
anmark

anmark

1 photos
Upload photo

Latest headlines

Latest photos

StartEUROF3NorisringStart28/06/2014 04:14

Latest photos

Cesar RamosBSSZandvoortCesar Ramos06/07/2014 06:40

Latest videos

Latest headlines

Latest photos

Latest videos