Run every year on Memorial Day, the Indianapolis 500 is considered by many to be the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing.’
To win at Indy, is to win one of the biggest motor races in the world.
Many drivers have spent their entire careers looking for victory at the Brickyard, only to come up disappointed year-after-year. Others have been more fortunate in their quest for success.
There have been many memorable winners in the 108-year history of the Indy 500. Out these races, some moments stand out as a true testament to what makes it so special.
Below is a list of five memorable race wins in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
#5 – Mario Andretti, 1969 Indianapolis 500
The Andretti name is synonymous with the 500 and IndyCar racing. Yet, only once has a member of IndyCar’s most famous family reached victory lane at the Brickyard.
Mario Andretti’s Month of May did not get off to a very good start in 1969. In practice, Andretti suffered a serious crash when his car flew into the wall, and destroyed one of the fastest cars at the speedway that month.
Although he suffered a devastating crash, Andretti was able to turn things around and deliver a strong performance in qualifying.
After starting second place, Andretti dominated the race and led 116 out of 200 laps to winning his first ever Indy 500.
Despite more than 20 attempts to return to victory lane at the Brickyard, 1969 remains the only year an Andretti has kissed the famous “yard of bricks.”
#4 – Jacques Villeneuve, 1995 Indianapolis 500
The 1995 edition of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ is often remembered more for who didn’t win, as opposed to who did.
Jacques Villeneuve’s victory in the 1995 Indianapolis 500 is arguably one of the biggest moments in Canadian motorsport history. However, many believe that Villeneuve’s compatriot, Scott Goodyear, was the true winner of the race.
At the drop of the green flag, Scott Goodyear went from third to first in his No. 24 Tasman Motorsports car. Then on only the second lap, a heavy crash involving Stan Fax brought out an early caution.
When green flag running resumed on Lap 10, Arie Luyendyk found himself in the lead.
A second caution on Lap 37 put Jacques Villeneuve in the lead of the race, though this wasn’t known to himself or his team at the time. This occurred as Villeneuve was handed a two-lap penalty by race officials for passing the pace car twice under caution.
By Lap 124, Villeneuve had already made one of his laps back, when a further caution period put him back on the lead lap.
A yellow flag on lap 184 put Scott Goodyear in the lead of the race, followed by Villeneuve in second.
As the field prepared to return to green flag action on Lap 189, the pace car slowed entering Turn 4. Already at full speed, Goodyear passed the pace car and headed towards the finish line for the green flag.
Despite believing the pace car was going too slow as it approached pit lane, Goodyear was given a penalty by race control for passing the pace car.
Subsequently, Villeneuve had the race lead and never looked back. He took the chequered flag and became the first ever Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500.
Despite being the first driver to finish the race on track, Scott Goodyear would be classified five laps down in 15th place.
While many claim Goodyear was the true winner of the 1995 Indy 500, Villeneuve’s efforts after falling behind two laps early in the race cannot go unnoticed.
#3 – Ray Harroun, 1911 Indianapolis 500
Many contemporary race fans may have never heard of Ray Harroun’s name. However his impact on the Indianapolis 500 and American open wheel racing cannot go unnoticed.
The first ever running of the Indy 500 took place on Memorial Day in 1911, and looked a bit different than the race today. Instead of the traditional 33 starters at the speedway, the inaugural running of the race saw 46 drivers at the start.
Ray Harroun, driving his now legendary No. 32 “Marmon Wasp,” started the race form 32nd on the grid. By the halfway point, Harroun had moved into the lead and would eventually lead 88 laps; more than any other driver in the field.
He would go on to win the first ever Indianapolis 500, before retiring for the second and final time of his career.
Sadly, Ray Harroun past away in 1968, at the age of 89.
#2 – AJ Foyt, 1977 Indianapolis 500
America’s AJ Foyt is often considered by many to be one of the greatest drivers of all time.
With one of the most impressive records in racing, Foyt accomplished at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway what most drivers could only dream of.
Driving the No. 14 Foyt Coyote in 1977, Foyt started from fourth on the grid and gained the lead by Lap 27.
After several cycles of pit stops, Gordon Johncock lead AJ Foyt with just 20 Laps to go. However, a broken crankshaft on Johncock’s car handed control to Foyt.
With a nearly 30-second lead over his closest competitor, Foyt cruised to victory. In doing so, Foyt became the first ever driver to win the Indianapolis 500 four times.
While Al Unser and Rick Mears have since won the Indy 500 on four occasions, to date, no other driver has surpassed the record.
#1 – Danny Sullivan, 1985 Indianapolis 500
While history has provided many noteworthy winners of the Indianapolis 500, Danny Sullivan’s path to victory in 1985 will always be one of the most memorable victories in the race’s history.
Starting from eighth, Sullivan had made his way into second place on Lap 52 and trailed race leader, Mario Andretti.
On Lap 120, Sullivan closed on Andretti, and took the lead heading into Turn 1. However, Andretti didn’t relent, and forced Sullivan onto the rough apron below the main racing line.
This forced Sullivan’s car into a spin and allowed Andretti to retake the lead of the race. Surprisingly, Sullivan didn’t hit anything as his No. 5 Penske-Cosworth spun repeatedly along the south short shute.
When Sullivan’s stopped, he was able to put the car back into gear and resume the race. As the spin had brought out a full course caution, Sullivan was able to keep Andretti in his sights.
Twenty laps later, Sullivan managed to pass Andretti successfully and got through without any drama. After this stage, Sullivan opened up a healthy lead over his competitors and cruised to victory.
Now known as the ‘Spin and Win’, Sullivan’s triumph has become one of the most famous moments in the history of the Indy 500.
Looking to the Future
This year, 33 drivers will aim to create their own memorable moments and add their face onto the Borg-Warner Trophy.
The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place this Sunday on Memorial Day. The race will be broadcast live from 5pm on Sky Sports F1.