Al Unser Jr., held off Scott Goodyear by 0.043 to win his first Indy 500.
In this edition of our Vintage Video, we are looking at the closest finish in the history of the Indianapolis 500.
The 1992 Indy 500 is memorable for many reasons.
It started with pole setter Roberto Guerrero spinning out and crashing on the pace lap.
Then, Michael Andretti, the son of legendary driver Mario Andretti, dominated the race leading 160 laps and building a seemingly insurmountable 30-second lead.
However, with 11 laps remaining Michael fell victim to what many have called the “Andretti curse” as his fuel pump failed and forced him out of the race.
That left the door open for another second generation driver as Al Unser, Jr. took the lead and held off Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds to become the third member of the Unser family (joining his father and uncle Bobby) to claim victory at the Brickyard.
Another notable component of the 1992 Indy 500 is that it included more former champions than any previous race and was the final Indy appearance for A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, Tom Sneva and Gordon Johncock.
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. Read the rest of this entry →
Dan Wheldon will best be remembered for twice winning the Indianapolis 500, including the 2011 title.
The headline for the 2011 IndyCar season finale was supposed to be the farewell of Danica Patrick as she is leaving the series to move full-time to NASCAR in 2012. However, just 11 laps into the race the story turned tragic as an accident that consumed more than a quarter of the field took the life of 2011 Indianapolis 500 Champion Dan Wheldon.
The two-time Indy 500 champion is now the latest in an incredibly long list of race car drivers who have lost their life on the track. Since the start of auto racing in the early 1900s, 308 drivers have lost their life across all forms of racing either in a race, practice or testing.
Even though safety has been increased in recent years, Wheldon is the 29th race car driver to die on the track since 2000.
The tragic ending for Wheldon is perhaps especially shocking because his career seemed to have been reborn in 2011.
The 2005 IndyCar Series champion, Wheldon had struggled in recent years to find a consistent ride. Despite competing in just three races in 2011, Wheldon won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 when rookie J.R. Hildebrand crashed on the final lap of the race allowing Wheldon to cross the finish line first.
He was in line to win a $5 million bonus as part of a special promotion if he was able to win the Las Vegas race.
It was expected that with Patrick’s move to NASCAR in 2012 that Wheldon would become the full-time driver for the Go-Daddy-sponsored team for next season.
The Las Vegas race was stopped after the accident and drivers returned to the track for a somber five-lap tribute for Wheldon.
His death is a reminder for all racing fans that the men and women who entertain us each week on tracks across the world are not just skilled professionals, but are indeed putting their lives on the line.
Tragic accidents like the one that claimed the life of Wheldon are indeed sad, but will always be a part of this dangerous sport. Let’s just hope they continue to happen on a very infrequent basis.