From Academic Kids
The Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, frequently shortened to Indianapolis 500 or Indy 500, is an American race for open-wheel automobiles held annually over the Memorial Day weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana. Run for the first time in 1911, "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" is one of the oldest and richest motorsport events in existence. This event lends its name to the "IndyCar" class of race cars.
The early years
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex was built in 1909, and hosted a smattering of small events before the promoters decided to focus on one major event and it was paved with over 3 million bricks urged by principal Carl G. Fisher. The creation of a 500-mile race allowed the track to rapidly acquire a privileged status for automobile races. The first "500" was held at the Speedway on Memorial Day, May 30, 1911, with Ray Harroun piloting a Marmon Wasp -- outfitted with his invention, the rear-view mirror -- to victory. 80,200 spectators paid $1 admission, and an annual tradition had been established.
Although the first race was won by an American driver at the wheel of an American car, European makers such as Fiat or Peugeot soon developed their own vehicles to try and win the event, which they did from 1913 to 1919. However, after World War I, the native drivers and manufacturers regained their dominance of the race, with the engineer Harry Arminius Miller setting himself up as the most competitive of the post-war builders. His technical developments allowed him to be indirectly connected to a history of success that would last until the mid-70s.
Miller and Offenhauser
In the early 20s, Harry Arminius Miller built his own 3.0 litre (183 cu.in) engine, inspired by the Peugeot Grand Prix engine which had been serviced in his shop by Fred Offenhauser in 1914, installing it in the back of Jimmy Murphy's Duesenberg and allowing him to win the 1922 edition of the Indy 500. Miller then created his own automobiles, which were powered by supercharged versions of his 2.0 liter and 1.5 litre (122 and 91 cu.in, also the cars' designations) single seaters, winning four more races until 1929. Miller's cars and engines won other seven events until 1938, then run at first with stock-type motors and later with the international 3.0 liter formula.
However, in 1935, Miller's former employees, Fred Offenhauser and Leo Goosen, had already achieved their first win with the soon-to-become famous 4-cylinder Offenhauser or "Offy" engine. This motor was forever connected with the Brickyard's history with a total of 27 wins, both in aspirated and supercharged form, and winning a record-holding 18 years in a row between 1947 and 1964.
In the meantime, European manufacturers, gone from the Indianapolis 500 for nearly two decades, made a brief return just before World War II, with the competitive Maserati 8CM allowing Wilbur Shaw to become the first driver to win consecutively at Indianapolis in 1941. With the Indianapolis 500 having been a part of the World Drivers Championship between 1950 and 1960, Ferrari made a discreet appearance at the 1952 event with Alberto Ascari, but European entries were few and far between during those days.
In fact, it wouldn't be until the Indy 500 was removed from the calendar that Europeans made their return, with Jack Brabham driving his slightly modified F1 Cooper in the 1961 race. In 1963, technical innovator Colin Chapman brought his Team Lotus to Indianapolis for the first time, attracted by the large monetary prizes, far bigger than the usual at a European event. Racing a mid-engined car, British driver Jim Clark was second in his first attempt at the oval track, completely dominating the race in 1965, also interrupting the Offy's success, and offering the 4.2 litre Ford V8 its first success at the race.
Offenhauser too would join forces with a European maker, McLaren, obtaining three wins for the Penske team between 1972 and 1976, with drivers Mark Donohue and Johnny Rutherford. This was also the last time the Offy would win a race, its competitiveness decreasing until its final appearance in 1983. American drivers kept on filling the majority of entries at the Brickyard for the following years, but European technology took over. Starting from 1978, most chassis and engines were European, with the only American chassis to win during the CART era being the Wildcat and Galmer chassis in 1982 and 1992. Ford and Chevy engines were built in the UK by Cosworth and Ilmor, respectively.
After foreign cars became the norm, foreign drivers started showing up at the Indianapolis 500 on a regular basis, choosing the USA as their primary base for their motor racing activities. Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi was one of American single-seater racing's most successful drivers in the 80s, but other names known from Formula One, such as Italian Teo Fabi and Colombian Roberto Guerrero, were able to obtain good outings as well. However, it wasn't until 1993 that reigning Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell shocked the racing world by moving to the United States, winning the PPG CART Indycar World Series and only losing the 500 in his rookie year because of inexperience with green-flag restarts. European-born or, at least, bred drivers became a regular fixture of Indianapolis in the years to follow.
At the end of the 1995 season, the Indianapolis 500 was transferred to its fourth regulations ruling body since its inception. At its very beginning, the race was organized under the auspices of the AAA (American Automobile Association), alongside the National Championship, but the USAC (United States Auto Club) took over in 1956, when it became the motor racing sanctioning authority in the USA, allowing AAA to concentrate on its membership program aimed at the general motoring public. Due to control issues of monetary prizes and regulation amendments in the 1970s, the team owners banded together and formed CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams), which started organizing the Indycar World Series in 1978. However, the Indy 500 sided with the USAC for the next several years and became the only high-level raced the body still sanctioned once its own Championship series was discontinued the next year years, and the race was temporarily removed from the championship calendar, although the same cars and drivers were in attendance. The stand-off was eventually diffused and the race became part of the CART calendar in 1983. Although the race only payed the same points as any of the other races it was by far the highest-profile race of the championship, with the largest purse of the year.
Despite the CART - USAC divide, from 1983 to 1994 the race was run in relative harmony, with CART and USAC occasionally disagreeing over the technical regulations. However, in 1994, IMS owner Tony George announced that he planned to remove the race from the CART series and make it the centerpiece of a new series, to be called the Indy Racing League (IRL). Opinions varied on his motivations, with his supporters sharing his disapproval of Indy's lack of status within CART when it was obvious that it was the series' flagship, the increasing number of foreign drivers with big bank accounts forcing professional American racing drivers away, and the decreasing number of oval-track races in the series, while his detractors accused George of throwing his weight around and playing politics with the race and its heritage just for a power play futhering his own interests at the expense of the sport overall.
With an eye towards the skyrocketing popularity (and profitability) of NASCAR, the IRL was to share some of that series' emphasis on capital-A Americana, with more up-and-coming American drivers and fewer imported established champions, more oval races and fewer road courses (and especially fewer city street races, with their lack of revenue-generating grandstands), less technical sophistication and expense, and more positioning as an event for the whole family to enjoy, symbolized by the first race being at the new oval track at Disney World (but slightly marred by the clearly audible agony of Eliseo Salazar, whose leg had been pierced by a suspension arm broken when he crashed during the race). In its first season in 1996, the Indy Racing League attracted mainly little known and inexperienced drivers, smaller teams, slower cars, and widespread ridicule as "replacement players". Both pundits and fans alike predicted success for CART and failure for the IRL, but the IRL played its hole card, the "25 and 8" rule; George announced that 25 of the 33 starting positions at Indy would be reserved for the top 25 cars in the IRL points race, effectively leaving only eight entries for teams who had not competed in the first two IRL races. CART's reaction to this move was to announce a competing race, the U.S. 500, to run on the same day as the Indy 500. Nevertheless, the showdown between the U.S. 500 and Indy 500 ended in something of a tie; relative unknown American Buddy Lazier won a competitive but crash-marred Indy, while the CART race had to be delayed when the front-row drivers collided at the start and triggered a mass pile-up, somewhat spoiling their carefuly chosen public pose as the "old pros". The U.S. 500 never generated much in the way of fan interest or TV ratings associated with a "big-time" race; it was moved from being directly opposite the Indy 500 on the same day and then discontinued altogether.
Since the IRL had decided that their "crown jewel", the Indy 500, should be the climactic last race of the season, the 1996 IRL season consisted of only three races; the Disney World 200 in January, the Phoenix race in March, and the Indy 500 in May. The next race, in New Hampshire in July, began the 1997 season. However, this confused fans who were used to the universal early-spring-through-late-fall season used by almost all motorsports organizations; worse, it did not meet the needs of corporate sponsors, whose budget sheets ran on the fiscal year. Therefore in September, the IRL changed their season back again to the standard early-spring-through-late-fall; however, since the 1996 season was now officially concluded and the 1997 season had already officially begun, this caused the 1997 season to run for 17 months, from the New Hampshire race in July of 1996 through the Las Vegas 500K race in November of 1997. This marathon season coming right after the three-race 1996 season did not help IRL's image as a bunch of amateurs and beginners. Finally, in 1998, IRL's calendar once more fell into sync with the rest of the automotive world.
In 1997 George made his next move and specified new technical rules for less expensive cars and "production based" engines that outlawed the CART-spec cars that had been the mainstay of the race since the mid-1970s. For the next few years almost all of the CART teams and drivers did not compete in the race. While this situation allowed many American drivers to participate in an event they might otherwise have been unable to afford, the turbulent political situation and the absence of the many of the top Indy car drivers, the big-name sponsors and faster CART-spec cars undoubtedly cast a shadow over the race; it was certainly arguable that to the average fan the replacement of at least fairly-well-known foreign drivers by almost-unknown American ones was not perceived as a real gain.
In 2000 Chip Ganassi, while still racing in the CART ChampCar World Series, made the decision to return to Indianapolis with his drivers, the 1996 CART champion Jimmy Vasser, and the 1999 CART champion Juan Pablo Montoya. On race day Montoya put in a dominating performance to win. The defeat was somewhat humiliating for the IRL teams, with the Ganassi team's pit stops frequently being several seconds quicker than their main rivals. Yet the real winner was George, who had brought back one of the CART teams, and its sponsor, to race with the IRL cars. A year later, Penske Racing, CART and Indy's most successful team, also came back to Indianapolis and won. For 2002, Penske and Ganassi became permanent entrants in the IRL, with many other former CART teams joining them in switching sides. In 2003 Honda and Toyota switched their engine supply from Champ Car to the IRL.
As of 2005, both ChampCar and IRL still exist as separate entities, but the former's popularity has decreased, and the latter now boasts more sponsorship dollars and has a larger calendar of races. However, the "500" continues to be the crown jewel of open wheel racing in North America, with far higher name recognition and outside interest than any other IRL or Champ Car race.
NASCAR Drivers in the 500
Prior to 2005, a few NASCAR drivers would be able to compete double duty racing the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, which takes place the same day, just after the race. In order to make it on time, drivers usually catch a helicopter directly from Indy to take them to Indianapolis International Airport fly into Concord Regional Airport, and even then they barely make it in time to race. Notable drivers include Tony Stewart, Robby Gordon, and John Andretti. Stewart competed double duty in 1999 and 2001, but contract limits restricted him from doing so in 2004. Robby Gordon has done it the most number of times; in 2004 the rain caused him to have to hand over driving duties to another driver. In 2000 Robby Gordon missed the start of the Coca Cola 600, which started pace laps when the Indy 500 finished. Gordon, being a team owner, just placed P. J. Jones in his car and finished the Indy 500, receiving no drivers points as P. J. Jones started the race but getting owners points. For 2005 the start Indianapolis 500 was pushed up to improve their TV ratings, thus preventing NASCAR drivers to be able to compete at Indy and Lowe's on the same day; Indiana moving to the statewide use of Daylight Savings Time means that the starting times of the races are likely to remain too close for drivers to compete in both races on the same day in the foreseeable future.
Due to the longevity of the Indianapolis 500, a number of traditions have developed over the years. For many fans, these traditions are almost as important as the race itself, and they react quite negatively when the traditions are changed or broken.
An explosive is set off six hours before the race begins to signal the opening of the grounds to spectators.
In remembrance of Memorial Day, the Purdue University All American Marching Band plays "Taps", and aircraft from the United States military do a fly-by. When multiple aircraft are used, they often execute the missing man formation.
Jim Nabors sings "Back Home Again in Indiana", accompanied by the Purdue Marching Band.
The cars begin the race three abreast in a rolling start. Most other automobile races have two cars in a row.
Tom Carnegie is the track announcer for the race. Carnegie has been calling the Indianapolis 500 since 1946. He is best known for his lines, "He's on it!" (signalling the start of a qualifying attempt), "It's a new track record!" and "He's slowing down on the backstretch!"
A long-standing tradition of the Indy 500 is for the victor to drink a bottle of milk immediately after the race. This became ritual after 1936 when milk companies were sponsors of the race purse and handed a bottle of milk to the winner to promote their product. Among Indycar drivers, Emerson Fittipaldi is infamous for drinking orange juice after his 1993 victory, before he drank the customary milk.
The winner, and often the winning team, kneel and kiss the yard of bricks that remains at the start-finish line.
The winner's face, average speed, and date of victory is added to the Borg-Warner Trophy. A smaller replica of this trophy is later presented to the winner.
Many people promote and share information about the Indy 500 and its memorabilia collecting. The National Indy 500 Collectors Club (http://www.ni500cc.com) is an independent active organization that has been dedicated to support such activities. Based out of Indianapolis, they include an experienced membership available for discussion and advise on Indy 500 memorabilia trading and Indy 500 questions in general.
As of the end of the 2005 race.
- Driver: 4, A.J. Foyt, Al Unser, Rick Mears
- Team Owner: 13, Roger Penske
- Chassis: 7, Watson, Penske
- Engine: 27, Offenhauser
- Tires: 60, Firestone
- Car Number: Cars wearing #3 have won the race 10 times.
- Five drivers have won consecutive races (see list), and the defending champion has finished second on eight occasions.
- 6, Rick Mears
Narrowest Margin of Victory:
Fastest Winning Average Speed:
Slowest Winning Speed:
Fastest Race Lap:
- 13, A.J. Foyt
- 644, Al Unser
Laps Led in a Race:
Laps Led for a Rookie:
Laps Led from the Start:
Last Lead Change: The latest the lead has changed hands is on Lap 199 (of 200). This has happened on three occasions.
- 1912: Joe Dawson passed Ralph DePalma (DePalma’s Mercedes broke down)
- 1989: Emerson Fittipaldi passed Al Unser, Jr. (The two collided while battling for the lead and Unser crashed)
- 1999: Kenny Bräck passed Robby Gordon (Gordon ran out of fuel having earlier inherited the lead by not taking a last pit stop)
- 12, 1993
Changes of Lead:
- 29, 1960
Won Indianapolis 500 and World Championship:
Won Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 hours:
Won Indianapolis 500 and Daytona 500:
Won Indianapolis 500 and Monaco Grand Prix:
Highest Finish by Female Driver:
- Double Winner: Tommy Milton, 1923
- Triple Winner: Louis Meyer, 1936
- Quadruple Winner: A.J. Foyt, 1977
- Back to Back Winner: Wilbur Shaw, 1939-1940
- Rookie Winner (excepting first race): Jules Goux, 1913
- Non-US Citizen Winner: Jules Goux (France), 1913
- Rear Engined Car Winning: Jim Clark, Lotus Ford, 1965
- Female Driver: Janet Guthrie, 1977
- Female Leader: Danica Patrick, 2005
- Pole Position over 100 mph: Rene Thomas, 104.780 mph, 1919
- Pole Position over 150 mph: Parnelli Jones, 150.370 mph, 1962
- Pole Position over 200 mph: Tom Sneva, 202.156 mph, 1978
- 1920: Gaston Chevrolet is killed in a race at Beverly Hills and is the first '500' winner to die.
- 1921: Howdy Wilcox was the first driver to finish in first and last place (1919 & 1921).
- 1922: Jimmy Murphy was the first driver to win from pole and lead the first and last lap of the same race in 1922. In 1923 Murphy was the first defending winner to lead the first lap.
- 1929: Cliff Woodbury was the first pole winner to finish last (crash Lap 3)
- 1936: Louis Meyer becomes the first driver to drink milk in victory lane. He also became the first driver to receive the pace car for his winning effort. The Borg-Warner Trophy made its first appearance.
- 1952: Art Cross becomes the first Rookie of the Year
- 1958: The front row drivers (Dick Rathmann, Ed Elisian, Jimmy Reece) failed to lead a lap . The only time this has occurred to date.
Year By Year
1911: An accident disrupts the official timing and scoring stand mid-way through the race. Ray Harroun receives the chequered flag first but many believe Ralph Mulford, classified second, actually won the race. Had he pulled straight into the winners circle Mulford might indeed have been heralded as the winner, but he ran some ‘insurance laps’, ironically in case the scorers had missed a lap. Harroun did pull in, received the plaudits, and very little else was said on the matter.
1912: Ralph DePalma’s Mercedes breaks its con rod after leading 196 laps. Joe Dawson wins after leading the only 2 laps of his Indy career. No driver has ever matched DePalma’s 196 fruitless laps in the lead, and only Billy Arnold’s 198 lap domination of the 1930 race tops DePalma’s time at the front.
1915: Ralph DePalma’s Mercedes again begins to slow with con rod problems late in the race. This time though he makes it to the finish to win.
1920: Ralph DePalma leads by 2 laps with 13 to go when his engine catches fire. Gaston Chevrolet takes the lead and wins. DePalma finishes 5th. Chevrolet is killed during a race at Beverly Hills 7 months later, the first 500 winner to die.
1921: Ralph DePalma leads 109 laps but again his con rod breaks and he rolls to a halt. DePalma never leads another Indy 500. His final career total is 612 laps led for 1 win. DePalma’s record number of circuits in front is finally topped by Al Unser… 67 years later.
1924: L.L. Corum’s car is taken over by Joe Boyer, who goes on to win. Corum wins without leading a single lap.
1928: Jimmy Gleason has a good lead when he stops for water on lap 195. A crew member misses the radiator and douses the car’s magneto. Gleason is out and Louis Meyer wins.
1931: 1930 winner Billy Arnold is 5 laps ahead on lap 162 when his rear axle breaks and Arnold crashes. His wheel flies over a fence and hits and kills 12 year old Wilbur Brink who is sitting in his garden on Georgetown Road. Arnold and his mechanic are injured. Louis Schneider leads the remaining laps.
1937: Wilbur Shaw leads most of the way but must slow late on to conserve engine oil. Ralph Hepburn falls short of catching Shaw by 2.16 seconds - the closest finish at that time.
1939: Defending winner Floyd Roberts, driving the same car he drove into victory circle in 1938, dies in a crash on lap 107.
1940: Wilbur Shaw sets up a commanding lead until rain brings out the caution for the last 50 laps and guides Shaw to his 3rd victory.
1941: Floyd Davis’ car is relieved by Mauri Rose, who goes on to win. Davis joins L.L. Corum as a winner who not only didn’t lead a lap during the race they won, but never led any laps at Indy.
1947: Bill Holland leads 143 laps before he is overtaken by team mate Mauri Rose. The team had displayed an ‘EZY’ signal, telling the drivers to hold station to the finish. Holland thought Rose was a lap behind and let him past. Rose wins again but on sheer pace next year and Holland finally wins in 1949. Rose is fired by the team when he again ignores orders and tries to pass Holland, only for his car to fail.
1950: Johnnie Parsons’ engine has an unfixable crack in it so he decides to charge for the lap leader prizes. At 345 miles the rain saves Parsons and he cruises to the win as the race is called at lap 138.
1951: Four days after winning the 500 Lee Wallard is severely burned in sprint car race and lives the rest of his life unable to perspire properly and without the strength to drive a car.
1952: Bill Vukovich leads 150 laps until his steering pin breaks and he crashes on lap 192. Troy Ruttman takes the win.
1955: After 2 wins and 485 laps led of a possible 656 (74%), Bill Vukovich is killed on lap 56 after crashing out of the lead. Two back markers tangle in front of Vukovich, who’s car hits them and vaults over the backstretch wall into a car park. Bob Sweikert wins after Art Cross blows his engine on lap 169 and Don Freeland loses drive on lap 179. Sweikert dies in a sprint car race a year later.
1960: Defending winner Rodger Ward takes the lead from three-time runner up Pat Flaherty on lap 194 but slows with tyre trouble and Flaherty retakes the lead on lap 197 and wins.
1961: A.J. Foyt looks set for a win, leading Eddie Sachs, until his crew signal that Foyt’s last pit stop didn’t get enough fuel in car. Foyt gives up the lead on lap 184 for a splash-and-go. Sachs leads by 25 seconds until the warning tread shows through on his rear tyre and Sachs decides to play safe. Foyt returns to the lead when Sachs stops on lap 197 for tyres and wins by 8.28 seconds. Sachs is killed in a crash at the start of the 1964 race, a race which is won by Foyt.
1963: Parnelli Jones wins despite his car spewing oil from a broken tank for many laps. Officials put off black flagging him until the oil level drops and the trail stops. Colin Chapman, whose English built, rear-engined Lotus Ford finishes second in the hands of Scotsman Jim Clark, accuses the officials of being biased towards the American driver and car. Additionally, driver Eddie Sachs is punched by Jones at a victory dinner after Sachs tells Jones his win is tainted. Clark leads the early going in 1964 but his Dunlop tyres shred and break the car’s suspension. Clark and Chapman finally triumph in 1965.
1966: Jackie Stewart leads by over a lap when his oil pressure drops too low on Lap 192 and his car stalls. Graham Hill leads a total of 10 laps to win his first start. 11 of the 33 starters are eliminated in a first lap crash.
1967: Parnelli Jones’ STP Granatelli turbine car leads 171 laps until a transmission bearing fails on lap 197 and Jones coasts to a halt. A.J. Foyt wins a third 500.
1968: On lap 174 Lloyd Ruby’s engine misfires allowing Joe Leonard’s STP Lotus turbine into the lead. Leonard’s leading Lotus ‘flames out’ on a lap 190 restart and rolls to a silent halt. Bobby Unser goes by to win. The STP team earns a win in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving a non-turbine car.
1972: Gary Bettenhausen leads 138 laps until his engine blows on lap 176. Jerry Grant gets the lead but pits for new tyres on lap 188 in team mate Bobby Unser’s pit. Bettenhausen’s Penske team mate Mark Donohue wins after leading 13 laps. Scoring is stopped on Grant because of the pit lane violation.
1973: Gordon Johncock leads on lap 129 when rain begins to fall. The race is called on lap 133. Johncock’s STP team mate ‘Swede’ Savage dies a month later from injuries sustained during a violent accident during the race.
1975: Wally Dallenbach is 20 seconds in the lead when he retires on lap 162 with a burned piston. Johnny Rutherford loses the inherited lead to Bobby Unser when he pits. On lap 171 the yellow comes out for rain and the two leaders duck into the pits for fuel. On lap 174 a downpour stops the race and Unser is the winner. The rain stops a few minutes later.
1976: Rain stops the race on lap 103. Two hours later Johnny Rutherford is declared the winner of the ‘Indy 255’.
1977: Gordon Johncock leads 129 laps and has the race in hand on lap 184 when his engine blows. A.J. Foyt wins a fourth time. First time a female driver, Janet Guthrie, started the race.
1978: Al Unser easily leads but bends his Lola’s front wing in the pitlane on lap 180. Tom Sneva charges to catch the crippled Lola but is 8 seconds short at the finish. Unser leads 121 laps and holds on for a third win.
1981: After a pitstop on lap 149 Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti pass cars in the caution flag lineup as they exit the pits. Unser wins the race from Andretti but is penalised a lap for the infraction. Unser’s Penske team appeals and five months later the appeals board finally reinstates Unser’s third win. USAC later acts to clarify its vague yellow flag rules and bring them into line with CART’s existing rules stating that cars rejoining from the pits during a caution must not pass any cars in front of them, lapped or otherwise.
1982: After a thrilling duel, Gordon Johncock beats 1979 winner Rick Mears to the win by 0.16 seconds. Mears lost 5 seconds to Johncock on their last pitstops when Mears’ Penske crew miscalculated the amount of fuel needed to finish.
1983: Three-time runner up Tom Sneva is stuck behind the lapped car of Al Unser Jr, who is defending the lead of Al Unser Sr despite the blue ‘move-over’ flags. Sneva takes advantage of some more slower cars to pass both Unsers in one daring move in Turn 3 on lap 190 and goes on to win.
1985: Danny Sullivan beats Mario Andretti by 2.5 seconds despite spinning a full 360 when battling with Andretti on lap 120.
1986: On a final restart on lap 198 Bobby Rahal takes the lead from Kevin Cogan. Rahal beats Cogan by 1.4 seconds and Rick Mears in third by just 1.8 seconds. Jim Trueman, Rahal’s car owner, dies of cancer eleven days later.
1987: After leading 170 laps Mario Andretti’s Lola Chevy breaks and rolls to a stop on lap 177. Roberto Guerrero takes nearly a lap lead over Al Unser, but disaster strikes on his final fuel stop on lap 182. Guerrero stalls, the crew fire the car up again but the clutch is slipping and the car won’t pull away. Unser takes the lead and then laps Guerrero. Guerrero finally gets going again, and a caution allows him back into it, but Unser has enough in hand to win for a fourth time.
1989: On lap 198 Al Unser, Jr. takes the lead from Emerson Fittipaldi, who has lead most of the race. A lap later Fittipaldi tries to get it back in turn 3. Both cars run side-by-side until the Brazilian’s Penske drifts slightly high and the cars bang wheels. Unser spins around into the turn 3 wall. The pace car escorts ‘Emmo’ to his first Indy win. Joe Dawson’s record from 1912 for the latest lead change in a race is equalled. Unser, who gives the winner a sporting thumbs-up as he stands by his wrecked Lola, is still classified second.
1991: Michael Andretti leads Rick Mears by 15 seconds when a caution flies on lap 182. Andretti pits for fuel and then smokes around the outside of Mears in turn 1 on the restart. A lap later Mears repeats the move on Andretti and another caution doesn’t alter the result as Mears powers away again to his fourth win in 14 years.
1992: After leading 160 laps Michael Andretti’s Chevrolet engine blows and the Lola rolls to a stop 10 laps from victory. After a tense duel, Al Unser Jr beats Scott Goodyear to the win by 0.043 seconds, the closest finish ever. Goodyear had started the race in 33rd place after taking over Mike Groff’s car at the behest of sponsors and Unser had started 12th. The distance between Goodyear and Unser on the starting grid turned out to be more than enough to swing the result. Oddly, had Goodyear just managed to inch past Unser, he might still not have been registered as the winner. Unser’s Galmer-Chevrolet had to have it’s timing transponder placed in the nose rather than the side-pod, the standard location in all the other cars. So Goodyear’s Lola could have had it’s nose in front of Unser’s Galmer, but it’s transponder would have still been behind. This potential discrepancy between the visual and computerised results was quickly resolved by specifying a standard transponder placing.
1993: Defending World Champion Nigel Mansell, leading his first ever oval-track race, is too hesitant on a lap 185 restart and both Emerson Fittipaldi and Arie Luyendyk zoom by to take, and keep, the top 2 positions. Mansell clobbers the wall on lap 190 but manages to make the finish in third, aided when his shunt triggers another caution.
1994: After leading 145 laps in the 1000hp, 250mph, pushrod engined Penske Mercedes, defending winner Emerson Fittipaldi attempts to put 2nd placed team mate Al Unser Jr a lap down on lap 185 but runs too high in turn 4 and whacks the wall. Unser leads the last 45 laps for a second win. For 1995 the rules loophole that allowed the ultra-engine is closed and neither Unser or Fittipaldi qualify when their new Penske suffers from abnormal aerodynamic instability and refuses to traverse the Speedway flat-out.
1995: Early on in the race Jacques Villeneuve, unaware that, due to pitstops, he is the leader, passes the pace car during a caution. Officials rule a two-lap penalty for the infraction and Villeneuve drops from contention. However, thanks to fortuitous timing of yellows and pit strategy, Villeneuve comes back from two laps down to be in fourth position as the race nears crunch time. He is promoted to second when first Jimmy Vasser, and then Scott Pruett crash out while trying to pass Scott Goodyear for the lead. On lap 190 Goodyear mis-times the last restart and passes the pace car before it enters pit-road. Goodyear wins on the road but is not scored after lap 195 because he fails to serve the black flag penalty in the pits. Villeneuve is the winner of his own Indy 505.
1996: Davy Jones grabs the lead from team mate Alessandro Zampedri on lap 190. Buddy Lazier blasts past Jones on the front straight on lap 193 and wins as a multiple shunt in the last turn wipes out Zampedri, leaving him with severe leg and foot injuries.
1997: Scott Goodyear lies second to team mate Arie Luyendyk. The race restarts for a one-lap dash to the finish but the caution lights on the front stretch stay yellow. Luyendyk accelerates as instructed but Goodyear sees the yellow and hesitates. Luyendyk makes the last lap to win. Goodyear has no chance to challenge.
1999: Gambling on not stopping during the last round of stops and using a long final fuel stint doesn’t work for Robby Gordon as all the laps are green. Gordon runs out of fuel halfway round Lap 199 and long time leader Kenny Bräck takes the win, equalling Joe Dawson in 1912 and Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989 for the latest lead change.
2002: A bizarre and controversial finale is set in motion when Tomas Scheckter, aiming to be the youngest ever winner, crashes out of the lead on lap 173. 2nd place Gil de Ferran looks set to inherit a front position with the new fastest car but the Penske crew fail to attach his right rear wheel properly in the ensuing pit stop and he must crawl back round to the pits on three wheels. Team mate Helio Castroneves makes his final fuel stop on lap 158 and cautions and good mileage allow him to make it all the way to Lap 198. Just as he is running dry and Paul Tracy is passing him for the lead, a crash brings out the caution. Castroneves has the fuel to make the last lap under yellow and wins because Tracy is ruled to have passed after the caution flew. In an echo of the first Indy 500 back in 1911, the Penske team celebrate with an impromptu Victory Lane on the yard of bricks, while the driver who many think has actually won sits and waits. The result is confirmed in July amongst more controversy. The Speedway dismiss Tracy’s appeal on the grounds that judgment calls by the officials cannot be appealed, and these calls constitute the only possible official result. Castroneves leads 76 laps to win his first two 500’s and add 2 more wins to Roger Penske’s record.
2004: The combination of impending rain and pit stops threatens to turn the result into a lottery, with the winner being the driver that hasn’t been forced to pit for fuel. First to go is Bruno Junqueira, who gained the lead by not pitting earlier in the hope the rain comes before his fuel runs out. Junqueira pits on lap 151, handing the race back to the day’s pacesetting trio of Buddy Rice, Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon. Kanaan and Wheldon come in soon afterwards. Rice gives up the lead on lap 167. Bryan Herta is in on lap 169. Adrian Fernandez makes it to lap 172 but still the rain hasn’t arrived. After several anxious laps, Rice retakes the lead ahead of Kanaan and is still in front when the rain finally brings a halt to proceedings on lap 180.
2005: The first year a woman, Danica Patrick, led the race. Patrick led 3 separate times for a total of 19 laps. However, she slipped back to fourth place during the last five laps, and Dan Wheldon finished first.