The 98th Indy 500 will take place on Sunday, May 25, 2014. As fans anticipate the pre-race pageantry and tradition leading up to what’s sure to be another suspenseful year, we look back over some of the most exciting moments in Indy 500 history.
1. The Inaugural Indianapolis 500 Win (1911)
In a race known for its high speeds and danger, the first Indy 500 winner was Ray Harroun whose time clocked in at 6 hours and 42 minutes with average speeds of only 74.59 mph. His win brought him a prize of $14,250, and his success has been attributed to the Marmon Wasp’s rear-view mirror installation — the first of its kind.
2. Ward and Rathmann Face-Off (1960)
High intensity characterized the 1960 Indy 500 as Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann fought to the finish. This competitive race saw 29 lead changes between five drivers. In the race of 1959, Ward placed 1st and Rathmann 2nd, so both men were eager to earn the top spot in 1960. In the last 30 laps alone, the two changed leads seven times. In the end, Rathmann pulled out a 13 second lead to victory.
3. First Female Driver, Janet Guthrie, Competes (1977)
Before being invited to test a car for the Indy 500, Janet Guthrie had an impressive list of accomplishments: pilot, flight instructor, aerospace engineer, technical editor, corporate public representative, and let’s not forget her 13 plus years of race car building and maintenance experience. Though she only made it through 27 laps due to mechanical problems, Janet Guthrie is still the first female driver to compete in the Indy 500 making 1977 an exciting year for this time-honored race.
4. AJ Foyt’s Fourth Indy 500 Win (also 1977)
A.J. Foyt’s 1977 fourth win highlights the unpredictability and excitement of the Indy 500 race. The race had been led by Gordan Johncock for a surprising 129 laps when his engine blew up on lap 183. This allowed Foyt to rush ahead to the number one spot. The 1977 race helped usher in a new era of excitement for the Indy 500.
5. Arie Luyendyk Breaks the Speed Record (1990)
Arie Luyendyk’s 1990 win brought new speed records to the Indy 500. His race time of 2 hours, 41 minutes, and 18.404 seconds put him at an impressive speed surpassing any other recorded time by an average of 10 mph. His 1990 race set a record of 185.981 mph, which still stands today.
6. Unser and Goodyear’s Photo Finish (1992)
If Michael Andretti hadn’t left the race due to engine failure, we may not have this historical close finish between Al Unser, Jr. and Scott Goodyear. Andretti pulled out with only 11 laps to go, leaving Unser to move into the lead. Unser barely held onto it throughout the final seven laps. He won by a mere .043 seconds leaving Goodyear with a 2nd place finish. This Indy 500 holds the distinction of having the closest victory margin in history.
7. Best Female Finish by Danica Patrick (2009)
Before Danica Patrick’s third place win in 2009, Janet Guthrie held the highest female finish record at 9th place in 1978. While Helio Catroneves won the 2009 race, Patrick’s accomplishment is still an exciting moment for women in Indy 500 history.