The Indy 500 is an international event that Americans have actually dominated, winning the majority of the races. An unbeatable record of twenty-two straight wins by Americans began with the triumphant A.J. Foyt back in 1967 and didn’t end until 1988, when a very happy Rick Mears took it all. Unfortunately, when 1989 appeared and a Brazilian took the title, it seemed as if the American magic shifted.
It’s a fact that foreign-born drivers have now won the Indy 500 sixteen times, with an American being triumphant only five times in the past two decades. However…when it came to Sunday, an American winner was seen in the cards; this was the best round-up representing the good, old U.S. of A. in quite a long time.
Sunday, a bevy of Americans raced, with five of them starting out in the top ten positions. Some of these me included high-profile names, such as, Ed Carpenter (on the pole), Marco Andretti (on the outside of the front row), and the Indy rookie who all fans have heard about from the NASCAR realm, A.J. Allmendinger, starting fifth. Add into that mix, Ryan Hunter-Reay who claimed last year’s IZOD IndyCar Series (the first American to win the IndyCar series title since 2006), and Americans once again saw hope that they could come out of virtual retirement to reclaim the Indy 500.
So what is so special about these men? Well…Ed Carpenter is the stepson of IndyCar and former Indianapolis Motor Speedway President, Tony George. But it’s his solid record and not his family name that makes him a threat. Ed was looking at his 10th start this Sunday, with his last run in the Indy 500 being more than memorable, considering he made it from 28th to 2nd before spinning out with only twenty laps to go.
Ryan Hunter-Reay is the best all-round American driver on the IndyCar track. With 10 career series wins, he was also named the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year in 2008. Driving for the Andretti team, fans were excited to see the killer DW12-Chevrolets in action.
Marco Andretti is a name that all racing fans know. Grandson of 1969 Indy 500 winner, Mario Andretti, he had an almost fantastic run in 2012, leading with a race-high 59 laps when he spun and hit the wall in turn one.
With all this experience, America most definitely had the skill and speed on Sunday to take the title. But what moments are among the best when it comes to high-energy finishes in the Indy 500?
Many will say that Emerson Fittipaldi’s win when Al Unser, Jr. crashed in 1989 is the most memorable of all time. Fittipaldi led for 158 laps – a basic runaway – meeting no challengers whatsoever during the race. But when a restart came with 15 laps remaining, Fittipaldi became entwined in a duel for the first time that day. Al Unser, Jr. was striving for his first “Indy 500” win, and immediately began closing on Fittipaldi. This was a major battle with seven laps to go, and all fans watched in shock to see what the outcome would be.
With just six laps to go, Al overtook Fittipaldi and began to leave him in his dust. Fittipaldi rose to the challenge and the battle continued, with neither driver backing down. Heading into turn three before the white flag was taken, Fittipaldi bumped wheels with Al and sent him crashing into the wall. Managing to save himself, he continued on to take the whole thing. Al is the one most remembered, however, because he simply clapped and praised his opponent as he drove on by to take the flag.
But Al Unser, Jr. is also a part of another amazing finish; the Indy 500 when he just slid by Scott Goodyear after Michael Andretti literally disappeared.
In one of the most debated races in Indy history, Michael Andretti led for 160 of the first 189 laps, in front of Al and Scott Goodyear by half-a-lap with 11 laps left. As with all races, he hit an unexpected flaw when his fuel pump gave out on the back straightaway. With Andretti gone, Al and Scott got into a serious battle. And with only one lap left, Goodyear gave it a shot, but Al squeaked it out in the end.
So…did the American Dream come back to the Indy 500?
With ten laps to go, Americans were certainly among the leaders; even the rookie was making his presence known. Graham Rahal lost control and slammed into the inside barrier with seven laps to go. Restart, with four to go had Hunter-Reay in the lead…However, Tony Kanaan took the title of 2013 Indianapolis 500 Champion under Caution. Kanaan has tried for the title twelve times; apparently, it was finally the Brazilian’s turn.
Much like the weather in the Southwest, America’s Indy win drought continues.