There have been a lot of exciting moments that have happened throughout the history of the Indy 500, but some moments of the race just happen to stand out more than others. As a fan of the Indy 500, here are five memorable and exciting moments that I believe stand out from the rest.
Ray Harroun Winning In The First Indy 500
Although I was not alive when the first Indy 500 occurred in 1911, it does stand out to be one of the best moments in Indy 500 history, and the winner happened to be Ray Harroun. Harroun was driving a Marmon Wasp, only averaging about 74 miles per hour, and this is just what makes this Indy 500 race and win so awesome. The first Indy 500 race alone deserves to be recognized for what it was, but it took Harroun over six hours and 42 minutes to complete the race. Harroun also invented the rear-view mirror, so he took great pride in using this invention during the first Indy 500 race, and that helped him eliminate the need of another person in the car with him while he raced. Sure, only going 74 miles an hour might not seem that exciting now, but it was a very exciting moment for fans of racing, and the sport wouldn’t be where it is now without Harroun. Harroun was a pioneer of sorts, but interestingly after he won the race, he declared he was retiring due to the potential for danger during the event.
Memorial For Dan Wheldon
In 2012, the Indy 500 held a special memorial for two-time winner Dan Wheldon, and this was an exciting moment for a very different reason. In October 2011, Wheldon was involved in a massive 15 car pileup during the Indy 300 in Las Vegas, Nevada, and his car burst into flames almost immediately. During the Indy 500 the following year, the car that Wheldon raced in went around the Speedway for one final lap, and all the while Taps was playing. While you might not consider this exciting considering it was a memorial event, the entire racing community coming together to honor Wheldon was, and you could feel how close every driver really is to one another. You had glasses being passed out to the fans, his car making one final lap, and every driver was out there honoring Wheldon in a way that they all would want to be remembered. The memorial lap was exciting to me as a fan of the Indy 500 because it showed how one person can make an impact on so many, and it was just so electrifying seeing everyone honor Wheldon by racing, which is what he loved. When you watch this moment on television, you feel the excitement that Wheldon had for the sport, you feel how his life impacted the community, and you feel a scary excitement knowing this could happen to anyone at anytime.
Janet Guthrie Becoming The First Female Driver
In 1977, a female racing star was born, and her name happened to be Janet Guthrie. The Indy 500 had never before had a female qualify and race, but in 1977, Guthrie was breaking down the barriers for women everywhere. Although Guthrie didn’t win the Indy 500, she did manage to finish in place 29, which was something to definitely be proud of considering the pressure that was on her. In 1978, Guthrie did finish in eighth place, so she was able to prove that she had the skills it took to compete in a sport with all men. Qualifying back-to-back years cemented Guthrie as a legitimate Indy 500 competitor, proving she was not just a one time fluke, and also started a new excitement for the sport. As a female, I believe this was an exiting moment just for the symbolic nature of her competing with only men, and seeing her race got a lot of women interested in watching the Indy 500. I also think the race in 1978 was exciting because she was able to finish in the top 10 only being in the sport two years.
Bobby Rahal Won Our Hearts
Bobby Rahal might be a name you may not know, since he has only won the Indy 500 one time in his racing career, but that one time won our hearts forever. In 1986, Rahal had to come to the realization his friend and team owner, Jim Trueman, was near death after a battle with cancer. Wanting to win for Trueman, Rahal mustered up the speed to pass Kevin Cogan with just two laps to go. Rahal was virtually tied with Cogan for a large portion of the end of the race, so it was really exciting to watch him just start inching out ahead with almost no time left to go. Rahal and Trueman met up to celebrate the win in Victory Lane, both smiling as the milk jug was passed from one man to the other. For me personally, it was exciting to watch because you felt the emotion from both men, you knew that this was something that was almost too good to really happen, and it just won your heart. Trueman lost his battle with cancer a few weeks later, but for Indy 500 fans, the moment of him smiling in the Victory Lane will last forever.
The Amazingly Close Win For Sam Hornish Junior
In 2006, Sam Hornish Junior was in a heated racing battle with Marco Andretti, and they had been going back-and-forth all day. With less than 200 yards to go, Hornish manages to pass Andretti, barely taking the lead in what became the second-closest finish in the history of the Indy 500. It was so exciting because there ended up being .0635 seconds between Hornish winning and Andretti coming in second. It was a race I remember watching because you literally could not blink during those last 200 yards or you would miss who won, since they were just so close together by that point. What I also enjoyed about this Indy 500 race was that these two men both wanted to prove something, I think more to each other than to anyone else. Andretti was also only 19, so he was still very inexperienced as a whole, but it was exciting to watch him get that close to winning. If you are a fan of the Indy 500 at all, then you definitely appreciate the very tight wins, and find them to be the most exciting races of all.