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Sports Then and Now




Indianapolis 500 Ready for 100th Run

Posted on May 27, 2016 by Dean Hybl
A.J. Foyt claimed the 1977 Indianapolis 500 to become the first to claim four Indy 500 victories.

A.J. Foyt claimed the 1977 Indianapolis 500 to become the first to claim four Indy 500 victories.

Even though it is arguable that the hey-day of the Indianapolis 500 occurred a generation ago, with the 100th running of the famed event happening this weekend, attention is back on The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Through the first 99 races, 19 different men have claimed multiple titles.

The first multi-race winning was Tommy Milton, who won the ninth running in 1921 and then claimed his second victory in 1923. The first three-time winner was Louis Meyer as he went to the winner’s circle in 1928, 1933 and 1936.

He was soon joined as a three-time winner by Wilbur Shaw. After succeeding Milton as the winner in 1937, Shaw then became the first back-to-back winner in 1939-40. He remains the only person to claim three Indy 500 victories in a four-year stretch.

However, he is technically not the only man to win three out of four races.

In 1941, Mauri Rose started on the pole. However, spark plug issues took him out of the race after 60 laps. He then took over the car originally driven by Floyd Davis and came back to win the race.

There was no Indy 500 from 1942-45 due to World War II.

After finishing 23rd in 1946, Rose returned to victory lane in both 1947 and 1948 to join Meyer and Shaw as a three-time winner.

It would be nearly two decades before another racer reached three Indy 500 wins.

After winning in 1961 and 1964, A.J. Foyt joined the three win club in 1967. Over the next decade, Foyt finished in the top 10 five times, including third place finishes in 1971 and 1975 and second place in 1976.

In 1977, Foyt finally returned to the winner’s circle to become the first four-time Indy 500 Champion. He nearly claimed a fifth title as he finished third in 1979. He finished in the top 10 four additional times before retiring in 1993.

The year after Foyt became the first four-time champion, Al Unser, Sr. claimed his third win (he had previously earned back-to-back victories in 1970 and 1971). It took Unser nine years, including four top-five finishes, before he finally joined Foyt as a four-time champion.

Rick Mears won his fourth Indy 500 in 1991.

Rick Mears won his fourth Indy 500 in 1991.

In what would become an ironic coincidence, the person who kept Foyt from winning his fifth Indy 500 in 1979 would eventually join Foyt and Unser as four-time winners. Rick Mears was competing in only his second Indy 500 when he claimed the pole and went on to win the race in 1979.

Over the next dozen years, Mears finished in the top five eight more times, including victories in 1984, 1988 and 1991. After finishing 26th following a crash in 1992, Mears retired at the age of 41.

Though no other drivers have joined the four-victory club, there have been a pair of racers to reach the three-win mark in recent years.

In 2001 Helio Castroneves became the eighth driver to win the Indy 500 in his first year in the event. The following year he became the fifth driver, and first in over 30 years, to claim back-to-back victories. He registered his third win in 2009 and since then has four top-10 finishes, including second in 2014. He is in the ninth position for the 2016 race.

Dario Franchitti claimed three Indy 500 victories between 2007 and 2012, but he retired after an accident during another race in 2013.

It would be great theatre for the 100th edition of the Indy 500 to include another historic victory. Whether it be the fourth for Castroneves, third for Juan Pablo Montoya or maybe the first win for another driver, you can certainly expect the 2016 Indy 500 to live up to its moniker as The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.


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