The 5 Most Exciting Moments in Indy 500 History

The 2012 Indy 500 is coming soon, as all racing fans know. The fast speeds and frequent accidents make auto insurance carriers cringe at times, but all in all, the race is fantastic spectacle! It has a history full of improbable wins, amazing sportsmanship, and dangerous crashes: it’s not called the Greatest Spectacle In Racing for nothing. We sorted through Indy history and found five of the Indy 500’s most exciting moments.

1. A.J. Foyt’s Fourth Record-Breaking Victory

In 1977, Foyt became the first of a handful of drivers to win four Indys. That was the moment that Indy truly entered its most exciting era.

2. Arie Luyendyk Breaks Speed Records in 1990

Speed is, of course, incredibly important in the Indy 500: in fact, average miles per hour is one of the most important statistics, as any Indy fan knows. And Arie Luyendyk knows it better than anyone: his 1990 win holds a record that still stands of 185.981 miles per hour. (Don’t tell the car insurance companies!) That’s not just a fast speed; that’s an incredible speed. He had to navigate past his fellow racers, evaluate every single situation at speeds faster than some of us can even think, and keep his foot on the accelerator. It’s not just a display of speed: it’s one of sheer nerves and incredible strategy. It’s telling that this record has stood for more than 20 years, despite huge leaps in technology and design. It just proves the point of Indy: it’s not the car, it’s the driver. 

3. The Johncock-Mears Duel of 1982

In the last four laps of the 1982 Indy 500, it came down to two men: Gordon Johncock and Rick Mears. Johncock had been leading the race, but Mears had been creeping up in the times behind him. Johncock was forced to block Mears, and it became a battle of wits and nerves at high speeds until the final lap. The conclusion? Johncock had beaten Mears…by only .16 seconds. It was the closest race in Indy history at the time, and one of the single most thrilling displays of racing skill seen on the Indy track. It wasn’t rivaled until 10 years later. Of course, Mears would go on to set a record of his own, being the third racer to win four Indys in 1991.

4. Goodyear Vs. Unser Jr. in 1992

Little Al, as Al Unser Jr. is sometimes known, found himself fighting Scott Goodyear for the finish line in 1992. Goodyear put up a hard fight, and it took all both men had…leading up to the closest margin of victory in Indy 500 history, with Unser taking it by .043 seconds. This also marked one of far-too-many times Goodyear came so close to winning, and only missed it by the barest inch, making this a bittersweet race to look back on for many fans.

5. Al Unser Sr.’s 1978 Win
 
Al Unser, by all rights, shouldn’t have won in 1978. He had a huge lead when he pulled in for his final pit stop, but managed to damage his Chapparal Lola’s front wing, putting him at risk for a blowout while driving. It forced him to go more slowly…which is where Unser’s skills came in. He carefully managed his opponents, even as he couldn’t go at top speed, and won by a nine second margin.

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