Five Special Moments in Indianapolis 500 History

 Abstract: The Indianapolis 500, which began in 1911, is the granddaddy of American motorsports. Each year hundreds of thousands of fans pack the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to watch the race. Here are five special moments in Indy 500 history.

The Indianapolis 500 is the granddaddy of American car races. The first Indy 500 race took place more than a century ago, in 1911. This year hundreds of thousands of fans will crowd into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend to watch drivers in one-seat cars fly down the two and a half mile oval track at speeds, which sometimes exceed 230 miles an hour.

With its long and proud history, the Indy 500 has had its share of special moments and thrilling races. Here are five of the ones that standout from the pack.

1. 1992 - The Closest Finish in Indy 500 History: Michael Andretti was on the verge of winning the 1992 Indy 500. However, his car suffered a mechanical failure with only 11 laps to go. Al Unser, Jr. and Scott Goodyear took advantage of Andretti's misfortune and challenged each other for the lead. Unser crossed the finish line .043 seconds ahead of Goodyear. Unser's razor thin margin of victory still ranks as the closest finish in Indy 500 history.

Bruno Junqueira at Indianapolis 500 (1)
2. 1960 - A Battle for the Ages: Jim Rathmann and Roger Ward engaged in a titanic back and forth duel. During the second half of the race, they "traded the lead 14 times." Ward led with only four laps to go and looked like he would come out on top. However, Ward had pushed his tires too far, and he was forced to head to the pits to get new ones. Rathmann took advantage of this opportunity to grab the lead-and the checkered flag.

3. 1986 - A Win that Was Both Thrilling and Special: Bobby Rahal won the 1986 Indy 500 in thrilling fashion. He took the lead with two laps to go and barely held off two challengers to claim the championship. Both the runner-up and third place cars finished within two seconds of Rahal. Even more special, Rahal won the race for his team owner and long-time friend, Jim Truman, who was terminally ill with cancer. Truman had the chance to accompany Rahal down victory lane and to share in the celebrations. Truman succumbed to cancer not long afterwards.

4. 2005 - Danica Patrick's Accomplishments: Danica Patrick achieved several historical milestones, during the 2005 Indy 500. For one thing, she became only the fourth woman to compete in the event. More importantly, she did what none of her three predecessors had been able to accomplish; she led a lap (actually 19 laps). She also set a record by finishing fourth in the race, which was the best finish ever by a female driver up to that point.

5. 1912 - The Heart of a Champion: Ralph de Palma was on his way to victory in the 1912 Indy 500, when his car broke down. Many people would have quit at that point; however, De Palma did not give up. He got out of the car and, with the help of his racing mechanic, pushed it past the finish line. He took this action, despite the obvious risk to his life (and to the life of his mechanic). De Palma did not win the race, but he nonetheless exhibited the heart of a champion. De Palma did not quit, even though he knew he could not win the race.

1. Photographer/Author: Mike Del Gaudio
     Reviewer: Andre Engels
    Date: May 29, 2005
    Title: Bruno Junqueira at Indianapolis 500
     Location/Permission: Wikimedia Commons - Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
     (see linked titled for photo, info. and permissions).

-- Anthony Hopper

#auto #carracing #cars #racing #Indy500 #Indiana #autoracing #US #history #sports history

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