I have been attending the Indianapolis 500 almost every year since 1977. It is THE sporting event in the world for me. The Super Bowl, World Series, and Olympics all rolled into one. It is the largest single day sporting event in the world. More people attend this event than anything else on planet Earth. How many? For the duration of the race, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway becomes the 24th largest city in the USA. It is the ultimate expression of humans testing their limits with the ultimate price of risk and reward on the table. To quote Ernest Hemingway: "There are only two sports in the world: auto racing and bullfighting. The rest are just games."
This weekend, the Indy 500 will run for the 99th time. Below are the five best finishes I have personally witnessed:
Emerson Fittipaldi led almost all day but got held up by lapped cars in the final ten laps. Al Unser Jr. managed to pass him with 5 laps to go. They then engaged in one of the tightest dogfights in Speedway history. It ended with wheel to wheel contact right in front of us in Turn 3 with a little over a lap to go. Unser went into the wall and Fittipaldi took the checkered flag.
Sam Hornish stalled his car on his final pit stop. His chances of winning seemed over but he still managed to run down rookie Marco Andretti in the closing laps. It seemed impossible but Hornish managed to draw even with Andretti coming down for the checkered flag. No matter how long the odds, never give up!
Nobody remembers that Danica Patrick almost won that day (for the 2nd time) but she had to make a pit stop while leading with ten laps to go. That gave the lead to rookie J.R. Hildebrand who just had to bring it home. Instead, he hit the wall on the last turn of the last lap and Dan Wheldon came through to claim his second 500 win driving for a team that had never won a race before. It was a fairy tale finish for everyone but Hildebrand.
Ryan Hunter-Reay and Helio Castroneves went wheel to wheel over the final 6 laps, trading the lead back and forth and back and forth. Hunter-Reay just managed to hold him off at the finish line. It is now the second closest finish in history.
Michael Andretti dominated the day only to have his car break with 11 laps to go. That set up a dogfight between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear (Goodyear had started 33th and last in the field). For 10 laps Goodyear tried everything he could to get around. He almost did it at the line but came up just short in a near photo finish. It remains the closest finish to date. FYI, that day was also the coldest 500 in history: only 38 degrees. We weren’t feeling the cold over those final ten laps!
Can't wait for Sunday!