The Five Most Exciting Indy 500 Finishes

Indy 500
Indy 500 / Flickr


The Indy 500 race has been a Memorial Day event since 1911, and there have been some exciting and close finishes. Here are some of the most exciting finishes in the history of the Indy 500.



1991 Indy 500


At one point during the race, Michael Andretti was leading second place Rick Mears by almost one lap. It seemed that Andretti would easily win the race when he had a flat tire, keeping Mears in the lead lap.

Still leading Mears by 15 seconds in the final 20 laps, Andretti made a pit stop for fuel during a caution flag which allowed Mears to take the lead with 13 laps to go on the restart. Battling neck-and-neck, Andretti passed Mears using a pair of lapped cars. On the very next lap, Mears used the same trick passing Andretti for the final time going onto winning his fourth Indy 500.

1989 Indy 500


For the first 158 laps of the race, it looked like Emerson Fittipaldi would run away with the race. After a restart with 15 laps to go, Al Unser Jr. made his run at Fittipaldi.

With just seven laps to go, Unser Jr. was right on Fittipaldi's tail and at one point their wheels had touched and they were side-by-side. Unser Jr. had briefly taken the lead when Fittipaldi pulled even again. Fighting through traffic, they continued to battle for the lead when they bumped wheels again sending Unser Jr. into the wall. Fittipaldi continued on to win the Indy 500.

1982 Indy 500


With just 20 laps to go in a crash-filled race, the only two leaders left fighting it out for the finish were Rick Mears and Gordon Johncock.

After their final pit stops, Johncock was leading, but Mears had the faster car and was catching up quickly. With just two laps left, the gap between Johncock and Mears was less than one second. At the white flag, the two drivers were side-by-side with Johncock finally pulling ahead to win the race with a margin of victory of 0.16 seconds and the third closest finish ever.

1982 Indy 500
Johncock leading Mears in the 1982 Indy 500 /Wikimedia

1992 Indy 500


After leading almost the entire race, Michael Andretti's fuel pump failed and his car stalled in the north chute with Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear 1/2 lap behind.

With Andretti out of the race, the fight for the finish was between Goodyear and Al Unser Jr. Seven laps remained when the green flag came back out after the caution to remove Andretti's car. Goodyear tried everything, but could not pass Al Unser Jr., coming as close as even with Unser's rear tires. In the end Al Unser Jr. won his first Indy 500 by 0.043 seconds and the closest margin of victory in Indy 500 history.

2006 Indy 500


The 2006 Indy 500 had the second-closest finish in Indy history and maybe the most exciting finish ever. It didn’t look good for Sam Hornish Jr. on lap 150, when he pulled away from a pit stop too soon with the fuel nozzle still in the tank. After the delay, he dropped to seventh and by the time the penalty was tacked on, he dropped to the back of the lead lap.

With three laps to go, Marco Andretti jumped ahead of Michael Andretti with Hornish in third. With the checkered flag in sight, Hornish overtook Marco Andretti for the win with a 0.064 margin of victory and the second closest finish.

Copyright © 2014-2015 Sam Montana

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