Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, first 10 runnings

Getty Images

The Associated Press has compiled a list of highlights of all past Indianapolis 500 races, as the buildup to the 100th running presented by PennGrade Motor Oil takes place this May 29.

Here are runnings 1-10, from 1911 through 1922:

RACE: First Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1911

WINNER: Ray Harroun, Nordyk & Marmon Company

AVERAGE SPEED: 74.602 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Races had been held on what would become Indianapolis Motor Speedway for two years before the first Indy 500 was run over the brick-paved track. Forty cars took the starter’s red flag – yes, red. The race’s first fatality occurred when Arthur Greiner hit the wall in Turn 2, and his riding mechanic Sam Dickson was killed. The race came down to Ray Harroun, who had come out of retirement, and Ralph Mulford dueling for the victory. Harroun ultimately won and returned to retirement.

NOTABLE: Harroun drove the No. 32 Marmon “Wasp,” the only single-seat car in the race. All the other cars had riding mechanics who pumped oil, watched for traffic and made other repairs. Harroun won $10,000, the same amount baseball star Ty Cobb earned for the entire season.

RACE: Second Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1912

WINNER: Joe Dawson, National Motor Vehicle Company

AVERAGE SPEED: 78.712 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Italian-born Ralph DePalma dominated the race in a Mercedes, leading 194 laps. But his car began sputtering near the finish, and a connecting rod broke loose on the back stretch with just over a lap to go. DePalma and his riding mechanic, Rupert Jeffkins, jumped out and pushed the car across the start-finish line, but Joe Dawson roared past to complete the final lap and win the race.

NOTABLE: Eddie Rickenbacker makes his Indy 500 debut. He is better remembered as a World War I flying ace who earned the Medal of Honor, Croix de Guerre and seven Distinguished Service Crosses. Rickenbacker later bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway and ran it for a long period before selling it to the Hulman family, and spent many years leading Eastern Air Lines.

RACE: Third Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1913

WINNER: Jules Goux, Peugeot

AVERAGE SPEED: 75.933 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Europeans made their first mark at the Indianapolis 500 when French-born Jules Goux drove a Peugeot to the front of the race. After dueling with American driver Bob Evans, Goux dominated the remainder of the race to become the first foreign-born winner. Another Frenchman, Albert Guyot, was fourth and German-born Theodore Pilette was fifth.

NOTABLE: The third edition may best be remembered for local boy Charlie Merz, whose car caught fire on Lap 199. Rules at the time dictated that drivers had to finish the race to collect their prize money, so Merz drove his flaming Stutz the final lap with his riding mechanic trying out the fire. He wound up finishing third.

RACE: Fourth Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1914

WINNER: Rene Thomas, Louis Delage Company

AVERAGE SPEED: 82.474 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Europeans dominate the race for the second year in a row with Rene Thomas in a Delage finishing first. Fellow Frenchman Albert Guyot was third in another Delage, while Peugot cars driven by Arthur Duray and Jules Goux rounded out the top four. Barney Oldfield in an Indianapolis-built Stutz was far behind in fifth.

NOTABLE: A French luxury automobile company, Delage would be sold to Delahaye in 1935 and continue to build cars until the 1950s. But despite innovative engineering and designs along with a successful racing pedigree, the manufacturer never won another Indy 500.

RACE: Fifth Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 31, 1915

WINNER: Ralph DePalma, E.C. Patterson

AVERAGE SPEED: 84.001 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Italian-born Ralph DePalma, who immigrated to the U.S. as a child, finally wins the Indy 500. DePalma had dominated the second edition of the race before a mechanical problem in his Mercedes brought his car to a halt two laps from the finish. Britain’s Dario Resta was second and Norway’s Gil Andersen was third.

NOTABLE: Louis Chevrolet makes the first of his four Indy 500 appearances. While he would never finish better than seventh, his name remains a part of Brickyard lore. He co-founded the Chevrolet Motor Car Company in 1911, and the manufacturer continues to build cars for the Indy 500 to this day as part of General Motors.

RACE: Sixth Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1916

WINNER: Dario Resta, Peugeot Auto Racing Company

AVERAGE SPEED: 84.001 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Organizers shortened the race to 300 miles, hoping to make it more appealing to fans. World War I flying ace Eddie Rickenbacker led early before eventual winner Dario Resta took the lead. There were only 21 cars in the field in part because of the impending war, the smallest field in Indy 500 history

NOTABLE: The race was supposed to be 500 miles the following year, but the outbreak of war in Europe halted the Indy 500. For the next two years, the speedway became a landing strip and maintenance station for the military and a testing ground for experimental aircraft.

RACE: Seventh Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 31, 1919

WINNER: Howdy Wilcox, IMS Corporation

AVERAGE SPEED: 88.050 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: The Indy 500 returned after a two-year hiatus for World War I, and 1915 winner Ralph DePalma dominated early. Two fatal accidents marred the middle portion of the race, the first killing driver Arthur Thurman and the second trapping driver Louis LeCocq and riding mechanic Robert Bandini under their car – both were doused in fuel and burned to death. Howdy Wilcox took the lead on Lap 103 and led the rest of the way to victory.

NOTABLE: Wilcox was born in nearby Crawfordsville, Indiana. According to lore, a band began playing “Back Home Again in Indiana” to honor their favorite son late in the race. The tune would become a part of the Indy 500 pre-race pageantry.

RACE: Eighth Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 31, 1920

WINNER: Gaston Chevrolet, William Small Company

AVERAGE SPEED: 88.618 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Fuel strategy becomes a part of Indy 500 history – sort of. Ralph DePalma, the winner in 1915, led until his car stalled on Lap 187, allowing Gaston Chevrolet to take the lead. He ran out of fuel about three laps from the finish, but was able to coast into the pits for what these days would be called a “splash-and-go” stop. Chevrolet held on to win the race.

NOTABLE: Gaston Chevrolet was the younger brother of Louis Chevrolet, the co-founder of the Chevrolet Motor Car Co. Gaston was killed six months after his Indy 500 victory when he crashed his Frontenac during a race at Beverly Hills Speedway in California.

RACE: Ninth Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1921

WINNER: Tommy Milton, Louis Chevrolet

AVERAGE SPEED: 88.621 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: American driver Tommy Milton won the first of his two Indy 500s, taking advantage of a mechanical breakdown in Ralph DePalma’s car midway through the race. DePalma would retire afterward with one victory and 612 laps led, a record that would stand until Al Unser Sr. tied it in 1987.

NOTABLE: For the first time, cars lined up in rows of three, creating the now-familiar Indy 500 starting grid. But whereas the modern race includes 33 entries, there were just 23 for the 1921 running. Eight of them would complete the 200-lap race with Americans sweeping the top five spots.

RACE: 10th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1922

WINNER: Jimmy Murphy

AVERAGE SPEED: 94.484 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: The winner of the French Grand Prix the previous year, San Francisco-born Jimmy Murphy makes it back-to-back American triumphs in the Indy 500. It was the first victory for Duesenberg, which would provide the cars for three of the next five champions. The manufacturer, which was based in Indianapolis for a time, would fold in 1937.

NOTABLE: Murphy was the first driver to win from the pole position. There have been 20 such winners in Indy 500 history, the most recent being Helio Castroneves in 2009 and Scott Dixon the year before.

The Thermal Club wants an IndyCar race, and series executives liked its initial impact at test

1 Comment

THERMAL, Calif. – Many teams in the NTT IndyCar Series questioned the relevancy of having a two-day preseason test at The Thermal Club.

The team owners, drivers and engineers believed the 17-turn, 3.067-mile race course that winds and twists its way through a gated private community (about 45 minutes southeast of Palm Springs) had no relevance to any track on the 17-race schedule.

To the leaders of IndyCar, however, there was plenty of relevance to hosting its “Spring Training” at a sort of motorsports country club that caters to extremely wealthy residents who also are automotive enthusiasts.

“Both with our stakeholders and the media that covers IndyCar, we wanted them to know that we are going to do things differently,” Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports from the private VIP viewing area that overlooks the long straights and twisting turns of the course. “This is going to be a year when we expect our growth to go to a whole new level.

“What better way to send that message than to be at a place we have never been that is exceptional?

“The quality of this place; the facilities are off the charts. The customer service, the welcoming feeling you get from the staff here. The track itself is fast. The drivers are having a great time on it.

FRIDAY SPEEDSThird session l Fourth session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“It really sent a message to our other promoters and our drivers and team owners that something is up. We want fans around the country and the sports industry to know that something is going on with IndyCar this year.”

The Thermal Club is a concept driven by Tim Rogers, who made his fortune by supplying gasoline to 7-Eleven stores in 36 states. He wanted to create a private community that mixed multimillion-dollar homes and luxury villas with a high-speed race course.

The two-day IndyCar “Spring Training” was the most ambitious motorsports project yet for The Thermal Club.

Rogers wants it to be the first step in a long-term goal for the community.

“Our endgame is we want to host an IndyCar Series race at The Thermal Club one day,” Rogers told NBC Sports as IndyCar hit the track again Friday morning. “This was a good trial to see how the facility can handle it and if the facility works for them.”

Felix Rosenqvist makes laps in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet during the first day of NTT IndyCar Series testing (Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images).

The two-day test was closed to the general public. It was open only to credentialed news media, members of the Thermal Club and a limited number of their guests.

With the spectacular backdrop of the Coachella Valley that is rimmed with snow-capped mountains, The Thermal Club could provide a great setting for an NBC telecast of an IndyCar Series race (and possibly line up a big sponsor for a return on its investment with a larger than normal audience during a ripe time such as the first weekend of February).

NASCAR is using that same model Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum by hosting the Busch Light Clash. The National Football League’s AFC and NFC Championship games were last weekend and next Sunday is the Super Bowl.

“That could work, but we have room where we could separate the public and the private members area, too,” Rogers said. “We could accommodate 4,000 or so of the general public.

“This would be a premium event for a premium crowd.”

Rogers’ dream of The Thermal Club began 11 years ago. He will talk to IndyCar about a return for Spring Training next year with hopes of getting a date on the schedule for 2025.

“Whatever fits,” Rogers said.

Miles and Penske Entertainment, the owners of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Indianapolis 500, realize Rogers has an ambitious dream of getting a race on the schedule.

Miles, however, isn’t ready to indicate that a race at Thermal is part of IndyCar’s future (though drivers seem open to the concept).

“Tim and everybody at The Thermal Club have done a phenomenal job of being hosts here for this test,” Miles said. “Everybody is very happy we are here, and I expect we will find a way to continue to be here. Whether that means a race and when is really a bridge we aren’t ready to cross yet.

“We really like opening the championship season each year in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’ll have to see. But it’s a great way to start the season in this way, and right now, we are happy to be here.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Defending IndyCar champion Will Power takes laps at The Thermal Club during the first day of the track’s first test (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

On track, it was a successful two-day test session with 27 car/driver combinations that will compete in IndyCar in 2023. It’s the largest field for IndyCar since the 1990s. There were a few spins here and there but no major incidents across 2,560 laps.

Kyle Kirkwood led the final session Friday while getting acquainted with his new No. 27 team at Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood has replaced Alexander Rossi at Andretti, whom Kirkwood drove for in Indy Lights.

His time of 1 minute, 38.827 seconds (111.721 mph) around the 3.067-mile road course was the fastest of the fourth and final session. But the fastest speed over two days was defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Friday morning session (1:38.4228, 112.182 mph in the No. 8 Honda).

Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing was second in the final session at 1:38.8404 (111.707 mph) in the No. 77 Chevrolet. Rookie Marcus Armstrong of New Zealand was third at 1:38.8049 (111.707 mph) in the No. 11 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth at 1:38.8718 (111.672 mph) in the No. 10. Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske rounded out the top five at 1:38.9341 (111.602 mph) in the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Ericsson was the fastest in combined times followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda, Kirkwood, Ilott and Armstrong. Positions 3-5 speeds were from the final practice session on Friday.

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
With members’ houses in the background, Romain Grosjean navigates the turns of The Thermal Club in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

Drivers didn’t know what to expect before hitting the track. After the two-day test was over, NBC Sports asked several drivers what they learned from The Thermal Club.

“I think it’s a first-class facility, no doubt,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske said. “I think the entire facility here at Thermal really rolled out the red carpet for us. They did a tremendous job.

“It was a fairly flawless test, I would say, for two days. I think the great thing about this was we had a two-day test, which was fantastic. You got to have this warmup; this preseason build. That was the biggest positive for me, is that we were here, we were running cars. It was a great facility to do it at.

IndyCar Thermal Club test
Josef Newgarden said his No. 2 team (which has a new lead engineer) used The Thermal Club test as an opportunity for building cohesion (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).
Indycar Series Test - Day 2
Josef Newgarden (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

“I think the track was a lot more fun than we anticipated. It was challenging, definitely technical. I don’t know how relevant it is. For us, it wasn’t really relevant to anywhere we’re going, but that’s OK.”

But even though the track has no sector particularly similar to any road or street course on the schedule, there still were benefits.

“In a lot of ways, it is relevant,” Newgarden said. “For us it was relevant for building the team up, trying to work in a competitive environment, be competitive together. That’s everything. So regardless of is the setup going to apply to a certain track or another, (it) doesn’t really matter.

“For us, it was applying the principles of how we’re going to work together. From that standpoint, it was very productive for everybody. Raceability-wise, it’s hard to say. It was chewing tires up. Big drop-off from run one to two. I think from a race standpoint, that would be quite positive. You’d have big tire deg here.

“You’d have to do more work on runoff areas if we wanted to race here, but it’s possible. I don’t think it would take much effort to do the things to run an actual race.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Will Power (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Kirkwood found speed in his Andretti Autosport machine, but he used the test to create a smooth working relationship with his new crew.

“I wouldn’t say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right?” the 2021 Indy Lights champion said. “This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.

“It was quite a bit faster than what we expected.”

Many of the NTT IndyCar Series teams will test later this month at Sebring, Florida, as they prepare for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the season March 5.

“It’s a very nice facility, a nice area, it’s pretty cool to have two days of testing here with a lot of high-profile people,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske told NBC Sports. “It’s a very technical, tough track.

“It’s pretty good.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 2
IndyCar drivers turns laps on the second day of testing at The Thermal Club, which is nestled in the Coachella Valley that is ringed by mountains in Southern California (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

The Thermal Club received rave reviews, welcomed IndyCar and provided exposure to the movers and shakers of the business community that own the luxury villas and homes in this ultra-rich community.

Could it be a venue of the future for a series that sells lifestyle as much as on-track competition?

“This is a fantastic facility and the circuit is a fast circuit,” team owner Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “It’s pretty exciting to watch the cars run around here. I think it would be attractive to people.

“I’ll leave that up to Mark Miles and (IndyCar President) Jay Frye and everybody else whether we have a race here, but why not?

“It’s a great place.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500