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Moon Recalls the Wettest Indy 500 and The 10 Best All-Time Finishes

2011 Indy 500 Finish
Todd Warshaw, Getty Images

It’s a big weekend for racing here on the country station Sunday. First, at 10 a.m., it’s the Indianapolis 500 — the world’s largest single-day sporting event. Then, the Coca Cola 600 at 4 p.m. More about that elsewhere on Over 400,000 dedicated fans will brave the crowds and any weather element to see the Indy 500. “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” at the 2.5-mile oval track is also one of the most dangerous races for the drivers and sometimes for the patrons. When I lived in Louisville, I’d go every year. I remember the first time I went how amazed I was I couldn’t see the cars as they zoomed by well enough to determine who was driving. Oftentimes, I had to look up at the leader board for any help. Oddly enough one begins to adjust to the speeds and starts to observe the cars’ numbers and colors. In 1976,  the race was cut short due to continuous rain. It was a drenching downpour that went on for hours! I had to walk a mile back to the car. It was the wettest I have ever been! Johnny Rutherford won in 102 laps. Chris Chaberski, of Townsquare Media, has a list of the ten best Indy 500 finishes of all-time for you:

1992: Al Unser Jr. Edges Scott Goodyear

While Michael Andretti led 160 laps of the 1992 Indy 500, he suffered engine problems with just 11 laps remaining. Al Unser Jr. took over the lead with Scott Goodyear close behind. The racers dueled for the final seven laps, but Goodyear was never able to pass Unser Jr., who won the closest finish in race history by .043 seconds.

1977: A.J. Foyt Wins His Fourth Indy 500

A.J. Foyt dominated the Indy 500 during the 1960s, winning the race in 1961, 1964 and 1967. A decade of racing later, Foyt edged Tom Sneva at the 1977 Indy 500 to become the race’s first four-time champion.

1991: Michael Andretti Falls Flat

Michael Andretti led 97 laps of the 1991 Indy 500, but he sustained a flat tire late in the race. While Andretti made a pit stop, veteran Rick Mears grabbed the lead and held on to join A.J. Foyt and Al Unser as four-time Indy 500 winners.

2006: Sam Hornish Jr. Zips Past Marco Andretti

Though he started on the pole, Sam Hornish Jr. had to pass 19-year-old Marco Andretti less than 200 yards from the finish line to win the 2006 Indy 500. The .0635-second margin of victory made the 2006 race the second-closest finish in Indy 500 history. Hornish Jr. went on to win the 2006 Indy Racing League (IRL) championship.

1999: Robby Gordon Runs Out of Fuel

After making a pit stop on lap 164, Robby Gordon believed he had enough fuel to finish the final 36 laps of the race. While most of the field pitted during laps 169-171 of the 1999 race, Gordon took over the lead. He was headed to victory when his car ran out of fuel on lap 199. Driver Kenny Brack swooped in to claim the checkered flag as Gordon fell out of contention.

2005: No Win for Danica Patrick

Danica Patrick became the first female ever to lead an Indy 500, but Brit Dan Wheldon held off Patrick down the stretch and ultimately won the race under caution. Patrick finished fourth, well off Wheldon’s lead.

2011: Dan Wheldon Tops J.R. Hildebrand

American rookie driver J.R. Hildebrand led the 2011 race with one lap left. While on the verge of becoming the first rookie since Helio Castroneves in 2001 to win the Indy 500, Hildebrand hit the wall on the last turn of the last lap. Opportunistic driver Dan Wheldon sped through to the finish line to win his second Indy 500. Tragically, Wheldon died in a terrible crash during a race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in October of 2011.

1982: Gordon Johncock Beats Rick Mears by a Fraction of a Second

Gordon Johncock had a large lead over Rick Mears with 12 laps remaining, but Mears made a final charge as the handling in Johncock’s car became loose. Mears almost passed Johncock in the first turn of the next-to-last lap, but Johncock held off the charge and won the race by .16 seconds, which was the closest margin of victory in Indy 500 history at that time.

1960: Jim Rathmann Passes Rodger Ward

Upstart driver Jim Rathmann and 1959 Indy 500 champ Rodger Ward exchanged the lead 14 times during the final 100 laps of the 1960 Indy 500. Ward was just four laps from the win when tire wear on his car caused him to slow down and allowed Rathmann to regain the lead for good on his way to Victory Lane.

1989: Emerson Fittipaldi Bests Al Unser Jr.

With less than 20 laps left in the 1989 Indy 500, Al Unser Jr. and Emerson Fittipaldi were locked in an epic struggle for the lead. Unser was in front when Fittipaldi charged on lap 199. The drivers’ cars touched as they sped into turn three, causing Unser to careen into the outside wall, while Fittipaldi steered through to the victory.

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