The Top 10 Greatest Indy 500s Ever

Let’s start at number 10 with Danny Sullivan, ‘The Kentucky Kid’ and finish with number 1 ‘Gordy’, Gordon Johncock.

  1. 1985 Indianapolis 500 – Danny Sullivan Spins to the Win

A NASCAR stock car is not the same as an open-wheel vehicle used in Indiana events. You can rub fenders and make contact in NASCAR and keep driving. Fans couldn’t believe their eyes when Danny Sullivan did it while leading on lap 120. 

Mario Andretti did just enough to save Sullivan from colliding with him. Sullivan regrouped and passed Andretti 20 laps later to win his one and only Indianapolis 500.

  1. 1995 Indianapolis 500 – Jacques Villeneuve and the Indianapolis “505”

On the last restart, on lap 190, leader Scott Goodyear misjudged the restart and blew by the pace car before entering the pit safely. 

Villeneuve slammed on the brakes to avoid passing the pace car and maintained his second-place finish. Goodyear would be penalized with a black flag and forced into the pit in a stop-and-go situation a few laps later.

Goodyear stayed out, believing he was right, and officials eventually stopped scoring him as Villeneuve won. He went on to Formula One and won the World Championship in 1997 due to his performance.

  1. 1912 Indianapolis 500 – Ralph DePalma Pushes His Way

Ralph DePalma took the lead on lap three after not leading the first two laps and continued to lead the following 196 laps, breaking away to an 11-minute lead.

DePalma did everything he could to get his vehicle back on the road after it broke down. With a lap and a half to the finish, both DePalma and mechanic Rupert Jeffkins attempted to push their car the rest of the way. DePalma’s misfortune started a trend of numerous drivers dominating the Indianapolis 500 but failing to win.

  1. 1967 Indianapolis 500 – Andy Granatelli’s Turbine Failure

Picking Parnelli Jones to pilot the car was an obvious choice. He dominated the race from the off. 

A.J. Foyt was the only driver who could stay up, and he only managed to seize the lead by employing a different pit strategy on Jones, leading when he pitted, then relinquishing the lead when he had to put a few laps later.

Jones’ car then slowed and came to a halt in pit road with only four laps remaining. Foyt took the lead and won, but he had to navigate around a five-car accident that stood in the way of the finish line.

  1. 1991 Indianapolis 500 – Rick Mears Fourth Win

The 75th Indianapolis 500 was a fight between Rick Mears and Michael Andretti. Following a caution and with 16 laps to go, Mears took the lead after a back-and-forth battle.

Andretti’s outside pass on Mears was stunning, so much so that Mears repeated the feat during the next lap and took the lead for good.

  1. Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr – 1989 Indianapolis 500. Come Close

After an eventful race, Fittipaldi got a run on the backstretch to move alongside Unser after being passed a few laps prior.

The two drivers touched wheels and sent Unser into the wall, neither willing to give an inch since the person who would back off would end up the loser. Fittipaldi was fortunate not to crash or sustain any damage, and he was able to win the Indianapolis 500 by finishing the final lap under caution.

  1. 2006 Indianapolis 500 – The Andretti Curse

Michael Andretti came out of retirement to race because he wanted to race alongside his kid. Their teammate Dan Wheldon’s tire puncture opened things up with only four circuits to go, and the two were shockingly 1-2.

Marco overtook his father on the outside after getting around the gridlocked traffic, therefore eliminating his chances of winning his maiden Indianapolis 500 race.

When he passed, he realized he didn’t have the tires to overtake his son. Michael transformed from a parent into a competitor and tried everything he could to keep Sam Hornish Jr. from winning. 

Hornish snuck past Michael and charged straight at Marco. Hornish reclaimed the lead and passed Marco on the penultimate lap’s final stretch.

  1. 2011 Indianapolis 500 – JR Hildebrand Losing Crash

Following a late lead by Danica Patrick and Bertrand Baguette, Baguette pitted with four circuits to go, allowing J.R. Hildebrand to seize the lead. On Memorial Day weekend, the conditions were ideal for a young American to win the centennial Indianapolis 500 in an Army National Guard-sponsored vehicle. Then came the final corner of the last lap.

Hildebrand nearly won, leaving a destroyed race vehicle and a finish that stunned everyone. The crowd, which included those watching for the first time as well as those who had been loyal for over 50 years, could not believe their eyes. Sadly for Hildebrand, Wheldon crept by and took his second victory.

The win would be Wheldon’s final race at Indianapolis and the final victory of his career as he died tragically at the age of 33 five months later, at the IndyCar Series season finale.

  1. 1992 Indianapolis 500 – Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear face off

Michael Andretti controlled this race, claiming the lead on the first lap and leading by a whole six seconds.

Then, just as Michael Andretti appeared to be on his way to giving the Andretti family a much-needed triumph after so many years, the fuel pump failed, and Andretti came to a halt.

For the final ten laps, Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear engaged in a fierce struggle. Goodyear was able to narrow the gap on him but could not pass him, and Unser Jr. triumphed in the closest race at the time.

  1. 1982 Indianapolis 500 – Gordon Johncock takes on Mears

After winning the well-known 1973 Indianapolis 500, which took three days due to rain, and saw his teammate Swede Savage and crew member Armando Tehran die, Johncock finally celebrated by defeating Rick Mears in a hard-fought triumph.

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