The 2013 Indy 500 was truly historic in more ways than one

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Several years ago, Firestone put together an Indianapolis 500 ad (above) that asked the question about Indy, “How do I love you? Let me count the ways.”

It may sound like hyperbole, but it’s hard to find anything not to love about this Sunday’s 97th running of the Indianapolis 500. Sure, a green flag finish could have helped, but tradition has always dictated the race stays just 500 miles, and does not implement a NASCAR-style “Green-White-Checkered” outcome.

Consider, from that standpoint, that the last two years the race has ended under yellow only because of a last lap accident (JR Hildebrand in 2011, Takuma Sato in 2012) marked by a driver either going for the win or trying to hold off pressure from behind. The 2010 race marked the last time an Indianapolis 500 ended with more than one lap under yellow, after Mike Conway’s savage accident.

From the view of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway pressroom, let me count the number of historical notes and/or records set on Sunday:

  • Tony Kanaan’s first ‘500 win in his 12th start ties Sam Hanks (1957) for the latest first-time win in race history, and was his ninth 500-mile race he led before winning.
  • Kanaan set a new record for the fastest ‘500 in history: an average speed of 187.433 mph beat Arie Luyendyk’s old record of 185.981, set in 1990.
  • Kanaan was the first driver to win the ‘500 with the number 11, and the first driver to deliver a win for KV Racing Technology under IndyCar sanction (its last win came in the Champ Car finale in 2008 at Long Beach).
  • Kanaan led this race 15 different times, as did Marco Andretti. That marks the most times any driver has led in both a winning and non-winning effort.
  • Scott Dixon extended his own record of consecutive Indianapolis 500 laps completed to 1,566, while completing the full 500 miles for a sixth straight year (ties Wilbur Shaw, Rodger Ward).
  • There were a record 14 leaders (old record 12 in 1993) for a record 68 lead changes (old record 34 in 2012).
  • Six drivers: Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Jakes, E.J. Viso, Carlos Munoz, AJ Allmendinger and Townsend Bell, all led the ‘500 for the first time.
  • The ‘500 tied the record for number of finishers (26, same as the first in 1911) in a full race distance, and tied the record for number of lead lap finishers (19 in 2009).