This year, the Indianapolis 500 celebrates its "centennial era," marking 100 years since the track grew from an idea into the largest single-day sporting event on the planet. Over the next few days, we'll be focusing on everything from Indy's greatest champions to its most bizarre traditions. Today, we kick things off with a look back at some of the most significant moments in Indy's history, and we start at the very beginning:
1909: The track's first race should have been termed the "Indy 5," since it was just a two-lap, five-mile run. Five miles? That's not even enough time to get the grill started! Anyway, it was run over dirt, and all the resulting accidents moved the track's owners to pave the entire surface - first with 3.2 million bricks, and later with asphalt.
1911: Ray Harroun wins the first "International 500-Mile Sweepstakes Race" while utilizing a brand-new invention of his own design: a rear-view mirror.
1936: Louis Meyer wins the race and gulps down a bottle of buttermilk immediately afterward. A tradition is born.
1940: Wilbur Shaw becomes the first driver to win two Indys in a row. It was also his third of four, making him Indy's first three-time winner.
1955: In one of what will be many fatalities at the Indy 500 track, two-time defending champion Bill Vukovich dies while leading the race by 17 seconds. A pileup ahead of him causes him to wreck, sending him over the backstretch's retaining wall.
1965: The Indy 500 is shown on national TV for the first time. It's on tape-delay until 1986, when it's finally shown live and in its entirety.
1966: Only seven cars are running at the end of the race, an all-time low for Indy.
1973: Rain, fan injuries and three fatalities -- two drivers in separate instances and one crew member -- stretch the race to a three-day event; only 133 laps of 200 are even completed.
1977: Gordon Johncock had a 16-second lead on A.J. Foyt when Johncock's crankshaft cracked. (Hate when that happens.) Foyt scooted on by to win his fourth Indy.
1981: Bobby Unser finally claims victory over Mario Andretti five months after the race concludes; hearings and investigations were necessary to determine who won the race. During the race, Unser had passed eight cars under caution and Andretti passed two. Unser won the race but had the victory stripped from him the day afterward.
1990: Arie Luyendyk wins the fastest race ever run at Indy, running a still-standing record 185.98 mph.
1992: Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear dueled right to the finish, with Unser holding off Goodyear by the narrowest margin in Indy history -- 0.043 seconds, or about the length of time to read the period at the end of this sentence.
1994: Speedway president Tony George forms the Indy Racing League, a rival to the existing CART league, with the Indy 500 as its centerpiece. The move draws criticism, with suggestions that George is trying to restore the race's prominence and stem the flow of quality drivers into NASCAR rather than open-wheel racing.
1996: CART boycotts the Indy after George guarantees that 75 percent of the starting spots would go to IRL cars. New rules implemented in 1997 kept CART out of Indy for the next three years.
2001: Tony Stewart races in the Indy 500 in the afternoon, finishing sixth, then cruises to Charlotte to run in the Coca-Cola 600, where he finishes third. Only 1,100 miles in one day, Tony? Slacker. Others to pull off the double-dip feat include John Andretti and Robby Gordon, but Tony is the only one to run all 1,100 miles.
2001: Future "Dancing With the Stars" champ Helio Castroneves wins in his first Indy start, and climbs the fence in celebration. He'd win the next year, too.
2005: In her rookie season, Danica Patrick becomes the first woman to lead the Indy 500. Just four laps from victory, she's unable to hold off Dan Wheldon. But the fact that everyone knows Danica's name anyway indicates who the real winner was.
2006: Sam Hornish Jr. becomes the first driver to win the Indy 500 by making a last-lap pass, winning by catching Marco Andretti with less than 450 feet left in the race.
2009: NASCAR legend Richard Petty enters his first vehicle in the Indianapolis 500, to be driven by John Andretti. Helio Castroneves wins his third race, and Danica Patrick, with a third-place finish, records the highest finish ever by a woman in Indy history.
All right, your turn. What are your favorite Indy moments? The wheel is yours.
Posted Jun 24 2012
Posted Jun 24 2012
Posted Jun 23 2012