After seeing the, in my eyes, historic finish at Kentucky this weekend, I started to ponder other moments that would qualify as indycar lore. NASCAR has a very extensive “lore page” on Wikipedia, and even a TV show called “The 10” on speed dedicated to stock car lore. A quick google search for indycar lore turns up, well, not much. So I have started, most likely, the un-finishable task of compiling such moments. As always, I will say that I am no Donald Davidson, I dont know indycar racing like he does and I am sure there may be a mistake or two. My initial picks may not be at the top of everyone list, but they will be a good place to start. I have every intension of making this a series topic, with the ultimate goal of penning a Wikipedia page as a common repository for all of the wonderful moments across our sports 100 year history.
I did chose the most painfully obvious moments I could think of for this first installment. I will admit; these are a bit softball but a good start to my master plan. (Ed: Mwa ha ha ha) If you disagree with any of my picks, have any moments or races to add, or see any factual errors please contact me through the usual routes. If I had to choose my areas of historical focus, it would be recent IRL and IICS stuff and ancient AAA history. I admit to not having the best working knowledge of the USAC and CART years but I can promise due diligence in my research. This is where you, wonderful seven readers of the blog, can help. This will be a work in progress and any input is appreciated. I plan on authoring the Wikipedia article during the off season, before St. Pete, so there will be plenty of time for community input and discussion.
In no particular order of importance or reasonable chronology, here is the first installment of #indycarlore. Beginning with two moments from this very season that I believe will live on; the kind of times that makes indycar history so amazing.
#TheBluegrassDuel – The reason this whole mess of an article was started; the finish of the 2011 Kentucky Indy 300. A late race caution leg to a sprint to the finish. A track renowned for side by side racing and close finishes would not disappoint this year. Fan favorite Ed Carpenter, driving for the perennial underdogs of Sarah Fisher Racing restarted P3 with 22 laps to go. Making short work of Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon, Carpenter set his sights on leader Dario Franchitti. The two drivers ran side by side for the better part of 20 laps. Carpenter edged Franchitti to the line by 0.0098 seconds and securing a true david verse goliath victory. The little team that could had captured its first win, thanks to Ed Carpenter. This very well could be the last time we ever see a USAC graduate grab their first win in the series. Video
#TheHildebrand – Another late race caution would set up a race finish to remember during the 2011 Indianapolis 500. Restarting on lap 165, in unlucky P13, JR Hildebrand steadily made his way to the front while conserving fuel. The majority of the field would make their final pitstop during that late race caution, setting up a fuel mileage finish. Hildebrand took the lead with only three laps to go and looked to be in position to steal a rookie Indy 500 win. Dan Wheldon stopped on lap 177 and was able to run all out to the finish, steadily passing cars that were running slow to conserve fuel. On lap 200, JR Hildebrand rounded T3 for the final time and chose to go around the slowing car of Charlie Kimball on the outside of T4. Hildebrand smacked the wall after getting up into the marbles, sliding along in a damaged racecar with the waving checkers in sight. Dan Wheldon was able to pass the still moving but wrecked Hildebrand in the last few hundred feet of the race to secure his second Indy 500 victory. Video
With those two out of the way we can focus on the two most defining moments of open wheel racing in recent history. Again, these are in no particular order what so ever, just as they came to me. Unfortunately I was unable to uncover laps charts, pit stop reports or official box scores. Luckily, these are the two most famous moments from our sport so information was relatively easy to come by.
#SpinAndWin – The 1984 Indianapolis 500 may go down as one of the greatest performances in history. It is the only one to my knowledge that has its own “official” nickname moment, and for good reason. The race had suffered heavy attrition that day; already a third of the field was out of the race with a damaged car by the time Danny Sullivan attempted the inside move on Mario Andretti on lap 120. As Sullivan crossed the white line back onto the racing surface from the apron, he lost control and spun in the chute between T1 and T2, amazingly keeping the car off the wall. With an undamaged car, but four squared off tires, Sullivan follows Andretti into the pits where Danny puts on new shoes and Mario takes fuel only. Sullivan is able to re-pass Andretti a mere 20 laps later and would go on for the win. Video
#ThePass – 1996 was a dark year for American open wheel racing. It marked the first year of the infamous split between CART, in its 18th season, and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway backed IRL in its inaugural season. 1986 would go down in infamy for another reason. During the CART season finale at Laguna Seca; rookie of the year Alex Zanardi put an amazing pass on Bryan Herta in the corkscrew. The steep downhill left right chicane is notoriously tight and any pass attempt usually ends with two wrecked racecars. On this occasion, Herta allowed a bit of room and Zanardi, traveling too fast to make the turn, cut through the sand on corner exit to capture his third win of the season, on the last lap of the race. Outside the confines of the racing surface, the pass would not stand in most of today’s series; warranting a black flag. But in the looser rules of the ‘90s, the pass would be allowed and Alex Zanardi wrote his name in the history books forever. Video
These are undoubtedly two of the most famous moments in indycar history, and a couple of easy picks for the first installment of indycar lore. There are many, just as amazing moments in the history books of open wheel racing. I can think of nearly ten off the top of my head. A list of this type could reach into the hundreds of moments. Each race is something special and different to every person watching. Some moments, although not important to some, are the cornerstone of others’ infatuation with indycar racing. Who knows how long this list will get as there is well over 100 years of rich history to sift through, spanning five sanctioning bodies and an international selection of events. If you have a moment entwined in indycar lore, please let me know so I can add it to a future post. Being a fan of the sport now, makes you an active part of the illustrious history of indycar racing. This is why I am a fan; for the history.