The Indianapolis 500 also known as the Greatest Spectacle in Racing is one of the most revered events in all of sports. Winning the Indianapolis 500 means instant recognition on a world wide basis. Drivers that have conquered the track and the grueling 500 Miles in May are forever known as an Indianapolis 500 Champion.
Every driver that has ever strapped into a race car, has dreamed of having the flowers draped over their shoulders and drinking the cold milk in Victory Lane at the Brickyard. Narrowing down the top ten Greatest Moments in the Indianapolis 500 is a daunting and controversial task but the following 10 represent a cross section.
AJ Foyt is the first driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times in 1977.
Many drivers attempted to win their fourth Indianapolis 500 before AJ Foyt but the Indianapolis 500 legend, AJ Foyt locked up his fourth after 10 years of frustration. Foyt won his first in 1961 and his third in 1967. Foyt’s fourth and final Indianapolis 500 was the sweetest for him, since it took him so long to get back to Victory Lane. See the ESPN recap here.
Al Unser Sr wins his fourth Indianapolis 500 in 1987.
Replacing an injured Danny Ongais, Al Unser Sr becomes the second driver to ever win the Indianapolis 500 four times. Unser Sr was considered retired heading into May of 1987 and once he was pressed into action it became obvious he had a chance. Unser Sr held off a hard charging Roberto Guerrero and became the oldest Indianapolis 500 winner at 47.
Roy Harroun wins the first Indianapolis 500.
Roy Harroun becomes the first Indianapolis 500 winner in history on May 30, 1911. There is some debate on this topic, according to the story in the North American Motorsports Journal, Who Really Won the First Indianapolis 500? Ralph Mulford was the true winner. Read the story and judge it on it’s own merits but Harroun will forever be known as the first Indianapolis Champion.
Danny Sullivan spins and wins 1985.
Danny Sullivan’s Indianapolis 500 win has an interesting spin along the way to Victory Lane. Danny Sullivan dives underneath Mario Andretti and loses control (see here), Andretti avoids him and Sullivan gathers it up and drives back to win the race. A classic save, that may have been just as much luck as it was skill.
2009 Helio Castroneves emotional third win and Roger Penske’s 15th.
Helio Castroneves is an emotional human being to begin with but his 2009 Indianapolis 500 victory crossed all boundaries. Castroneves had just been exonerated in a tax evasion case and returned to his number 3 Roger Penske ride weeks earlier. Castroneves, who had gained popularity a few years before while appearing and winning on Dancing With the Stars, was now a popular mainstream figure. There wasn’t a dry eye across the world when Castroneves won his third Indianapolis 500. Lost in all this was Roger Penske’s amazing 15th win as a car owner. See the you tube video after the race here.
Andy Granatelli celebrates with Mario Andretti in first win for both, 1969.
Andy Granatelli was an emotional owner that wanted nothing more in life to win the Indianapolis 500. Granatelli went out and found a young Mario Andretti, a man who wasn’t afraid to drive any car anywhere, he just wanted to win. The two were the perfect match. Andretti didn’t cruise to his first and only Indianapolis 500 win easily, he had to earn it. Andretti nearly lost the race on lap 150 when his car went sideways after losing the draft of another car. See the you tube video here.
First rear engine Indy car wins the 500 with Jim Clark in 1965.
The Indianapolis 500 changed forever in 1965. Jim Clark drove the first rear engine race car to victory in the Indianapolis 500. Jim Clark dominated the race and the front engine Offenhauser engines would soon be a distant memory.
Parnelli Jones wins for JC Agajanian 1963.
The victory by Parnelli Jones in 1963 was a controversial one. Jones a racing legend driving for California businessman and race promoter JC Agajanian was leaking oil late in the race and was never black flagged. Jones and Agajanian are awarded the win after some discussion. It was Jones only Indianapolis 500 win.
Al Unser Jr beats Scott Goodyear by .043 seconds 1992.
The closest Indianapolis 500 in history was won by Al Unser Jr just five years after his Dad’s last win in the event and his Dad Al Unser Sr runs in third place. The final laps were a cat and mouse game (see you tube video here) and Al Unser Jr barely hangs on to beat Goodyear.
Gordon Johncock Beats Rick Mears by .160.
Gordon Johncock’s first Indianapolis 500 win was clouded by the death of his teammate in the 1973 race, so the 1982 victory was that much sweeter for Johncock who had to sweat out the last few laps nearly wrecking on the third turn heading to the checkered flag. See the last two laps, with Jim McKay on the play by play here.
Who Really Won the First Indy 500? North American Motorsports Journal.
Espn.go.com classic biographies.
Indianapolis 500 Indycars you tube highlights.