We all have our own opinions on favorite finishes, whether close or blow outs, overall great races and exciting moments in between but these are largely due to personal nostalgia. If we allow ourselves to take an objective look, there is a clear top five that stand above the rest as some of the most exciting, important and memorable Indy 500 moments that we can largely agree upon.
Exciting Back and Forth Circa 1960
While this one may be before your time there is no arguing how exciting this Indy 500 moment was which is part of the reason Sports Illustrated named it their top memorable moment overall. According to the statistics they cite the two lead drivers, Jim Rathman and the defending champ Roger Ward, battled it out in this back and forth changing leads an astonishing 14 times in the last half of the race. In fact the winner, Rathman, only retook the lead for the final time with 3 laps remaining.
Al Unser Jr. Pulls Off Closest Indy 500 Finish Ever
It doesn’t seem like it but this photo finish is now over 20 years ago. As you may recall Michael Andretti, after leading for 160 laps, dropped to the side with only 11 laps left which sparked this exciting battle for the lead. In the end Unser Jr. never surrendered the lead to Goodyear but it was so incredibly close those entire 11 final laps that TSM Interactive’s Stats show their finishing time difference as a mere .043 seconds, the narrowest finish margin in history.
Robby Gordon Loses by Running Out of Gas
Drivers push it because a pit stop can cost you the race, in fact Robby Gordon took the lead by timing his pit slightly earlier than others, on lap 164, during the 1999 Indy 500. He thought he had enough fuel to finish the race and maintain his lead and it was extremely close, watch the end of the race including his famous out-of-gas while leading on lap 199 moment on YouTube.
First Four Time Winner A.J. Foyt
This one makes the list for the bigger picture, while winning this illustrious race 3 times – or even once – is no easy feat there was a man who started the extremely exclusive club of 4 time Indy 500 winners. In 1977, 10 years since his last win, A.J. Foyt finished the race and put his name in the history books as the first driver to win 4 times, including years 1961, 1964 and 1967, according to ESPN.
1911 Inagural Race
It was no one small thing that lead this day to round out the list of most memorable Indy 500 moments but it was certainly an important day. It was not only the fact that this was the first of many great races to come nor the fact that it was the first of its kind, a 500-mile race, as Indianapolis Motor Speedway points out. After just recently celebrating 100 years since this first race we are reminded how truly special this day was and what it has allowed the sport and this special race in particular to become.