Throughout the years, the Indy 500 race has inspired some of the most unusual, heart-warming, and inspiring moments in American sport history. With the 98th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race quickly approaching, it is important to take some time to reflect on some of the most exciting, and pivotal moments in Indy 500 history.
Ralph DePalma pushes his car across finish line (1912)
During this memorable race, Ralph DePalma had a dominating lead from laps 3 to 196. According to Sports Illustrated, DePalma was ahead by 5 1/2 laps when suddenly his car experienced piston failure. Since DePalma was only 1 1/4 laps from victory, he and his mechanic decided to get out of the car and push it down the front-stretch. Although DePalma was passed by Joe Dawson and did not win the race, he was still honored by the fans for his bravery and perseverance!
Jim Rathmann, Rodger Ward’s back-and-forth battle (1960)
This race between defending Indy 5000 champ Rodger Ward and Jim Rathmann may just be the most dramatic and suspenseful race in Indy 500 history. According to Sports Illustrated, these two drivers drove “nose-to-tail, wheel-to-wheel ” throughout the duration of this memorable race. The two swapped the lead spot 14 times in the second half of the race, until finally Rathmann took the lead on lap 197 and kept it until he won his first and only Indy 500 race.
Bobby Rahal pulls out a win for his team owner and good friend, Jim Truman, weeks before his death (1986)
Bobby Rahal is a driver who allowed the declining health of his team owner and good friend act as his fuel to win the race. In 1985, Jim Truman was diagnosed with cancer. By the time of the 1986 Indy 500, Bobby Rahal could tell that his friend’s health was quickly declining, and there was little hope for his survival. According to Total Pro Sports, Kevin Cogan was still ahead of Rahal with only three laps to the finish. Suddenly, with only two laps to go, Rahal passed Cogan to take home the checkered flag! Rahal therefore won his only Indy 500 race as a tribute to Truman,celebrated with him in Victory lane, and even shared the celebratory milk jug with him.Jim Truman passed away only a few weeks later.
Danica Patrick is the first woman to crack the top 3 (2011)
While Janet Guthrie paved the way for women to join the Indy 500 race in 1977, Danica Patrick was the first woman to make a real impression on the competition and give male drivers a run for their money. According to Total Pro Sports, during Patrick’s Indy 500 debut in 2005 she led the race for 19 laps but only finished in the top 4. Later, during the 2011 Indy 500 race, Patrick led the race for 10 laps and became the first woman to crack the top three. This moment proved that women can be worthy competitors in the Indy 500 race!