Highlights from the the Indianapolis 500, Runnings 81-90

Hornish beat Andretti in 2006. Photo: 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 81-90, from 1997 through 2006.

Past pieces:

RACE: 81st Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 25-26-27, 1997

WINNER: Arie Luyendyk

AVERAGE SPEED: 145.827 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Rain washed out the day the race was scheduled to begin, and then stopped the race after 15 laps on Monday. The race resumed Tuesday and pole-sitter Luyendyk led teammate Scott Goodyear when a caution came out on lap 199. Teams expected the race to finish under caution, but the pace car did not come out and instead the green and white flags were displayed at the starter’s stand on the final lap. The track was back to green and the drivers were not prepared for the restart. The officials’ poor handling of the situation led to USAC being removed less than a month later as the sanctioning body of the IRL and Indy 500 in favor of in-house officiating.

NOTABLE: A controversy during qualifying saw two additional cars added to the field after the close of time trials. It was only the second time since 1933 that more than the traditional 33 cars comprised the starting grid. The win by Luyendyk was his second and 50th for Firestone. It was Goodyear’s second runner-up finish. Two weeks after the race, USAC’s officiating hit its breaking point when a malfunction in the electronic scoring system scored Billy Boat as the winner at Texas. Luyendyk stormed victory lane to argue he was robbed of the victory, and Boat car owner A.J. Foyt punched Luyendyk and wrestled him to the ground. The scoring error was caught the next day and USAC was out two weeks later.

RACE: 82nd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 24, 1998

WINNER: Eddie Cheever

AVERAGE SPEED: 145.155 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Former Formula One driver Eddie Cheever won in the first Indy 500 sanctioned by the Indy Racing League. On a restart with five laps to go, Cheever was chased by Buddy Lazier but held off the challenge and won by 3.19 seconds. Steve Knapp was the only other driver to finish on the lead lap and was named rookie of the year. Billy Boat started from the pole in a car fielded by A.J. Foyt, the first Foyt pole at Indy since 1975.

NOTABLE: A rule change allowed cars to return to the garage area to make repairs and re-enter the race; until then, repairs were required to be made in the pit area. Before this year, any car that crossed the entrance to Gasoline Alley was ruled out of the race, as was any stalled car towed to the garage area through escape roads in the infield. The change was made at the request of teams, which argued repairs in the garage were safer and was a fair way to allow more cars to finish the race. The rule prohibited cars from returning to race after the leader had completed 190 laps. The 82nd running also ushered in a compacted two-week schedule, which cut an entire week of practice and qualifying from four days to two.

RACE: 83rd Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 1999

WINNER: Kenny Brack

AVERAGE SPEED: 153.176 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Brack won when leader Robby Gordon ran out of fuel within sight of the white flag. Brack took the lead with just over one lap to go and won for car owner A. J. Foyt, a four-time winner as a driver. It was also one of the most successful races for A. J. Foyt Enterprises, as Brack won, Billy Boat was third and Robbie Buhl was sixth.

NOTABLE: Two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk entered the race and planned to retire at the end of the event. He won the pole and led 63 laps but crashed while trying to pass a back-marker. Luyendyk returned to Indy in 2001. It was the 29th and final Indy 500 victory for Goodyear tires. Tony Stewart became the third driver to race the Indianapolis 500 and Coca-Cola 600. Stewart had moved full-time to NASCAR in 1999 and entered Indy with sponsorship from partner Home Depot and support from car owner Joe Gibbs. Stewart, like John Andretti and Robby Gordon before him, failed to complete the full 1,100 miles of the double.

RACE: 84th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 28, 2000

WINNER: Juan Pablo Montoya

AVERAGE SPEED: 167.607 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Chip Ganassi became the first CART owner to cross the picket line and return to the Indianapolis 500 after a four-year absence of marquee teams and drivers. Ganassi fielded cars for Jimmy Vasser and Montoya, who led 167 laps and became the first rookie to go to victory lane since Graham Hill in 1966. Two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. also returned to the race as a full-time Indy Racing League driver.

NOTABLE: The race was the first to feature two female drivers, Lyn St. James and Sarah Fisher. The start of the race was delayed over three hours due to rain, Montoya became the fourth winner to complete the race in under three hours, and the sky opened again seven minutes after he took the checkered flag. Montoya left for Formula One at the end of the season.

RACE: 85th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 27, 2001

WINNER: Helio Castroneves

AVERAGE SPEED: 141.574 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Roger Penske returned to the Indy 500 after five years on the sidelines during the CART and Indy Racing League split. His two-car effort of Castroneves and Gil de Ferran gave Penske his 11th win in the race and first 1-2 finish. It was redemption from Penske’s previous attempt at Indy in 1995 when all of his cars failed to qualify. Although the open wheel split continued, many top CART teams returned to the Indy 500 and swept the top six spots on race day.

NOTABLE: The tobacco industry settlement created a sponsorship problem for Penske, which was funded by Marlboro full-time in CART. The settlement allowed brand sponsorship in only one sport per season, so CART sanctioned the participation of its teams in the Indy 500. Penske cars practiced and qualified with Marlboro logos during the first week of activity, but the state attorney general’s office objected and the cars had to remove the signage. Tony Stewart attempted the Indy/Charlotte double for the second time in his career and returned much fitter than his previous attempt. Stewart finished sixth at Indy on the lead lap, then made it to Charlotte and finished third to become the only driver to complete all 1,100 miles. Stewart promptly called his critics “idiots” for questioning his ability to do the double.

RACE: 86th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 26, 2002

WINNER: Helio Castroneves

AVERAGE SPEED: 166.499 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Castroneves became the fifth driver in Indy 500 history to win in consecutive years, but it is considered one of the most controversial finishes. Paul Tracy attempted to pass Castroneves for the lead on lap 199 at the same time as a crash on another part of the track brought out the caution flag. Officials ruled the yellow came out before Tracy completed the pass. Tracy’s team filed an official protest, but after an appeals hearing Castroneves’ victory was upheld in July.

NOTABLE: Tomas Scheckter led 85 laps and appeared on his way to a possible victory, which would have marked the third consecutive year an Indy rookie won the race. But he crashed while leading with 27 laps to go. Some 7.5 inches of rain in May heavily disrupted the schedule until race day.

RACE: 87th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 25, 2003

WINNER: Gil de Ferran

AVERAGE SPEED: 156.291 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Helio Castroneves seemed poised to become the first driver to win three in a row, but he was passed by Team Penske teammate de Ferran with 31 laps remaining. The Penske drivers finished 1-2 for the second time in three years. Both Toyota and Honda entered the field, but because of cost issues there were fears there would not be 33 cars in the field. The field was filled on the final day of qualifying.

NOTABLE: For the first time since 1970, the race was not announced as a sellout. Former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were in attendance, the first time in Indy history two former presidents were at the race. A. J. Foyt IV became the youngest driver to compete in the race, which was held on his 19th birthday. Robby Gordon replaced Dario Franchitti in the race after Franchitti was injured in a motorcycle accident. Gordon attempted the Indy/Charlotte double for the second time in his career, but was stymied by a broken gearbox on lap 172. Mario Andretti got back into a car at age 63 after Tony Kanaan broke his arm in April. There was talk of Andretti qualifying for the 500 as he hit 223 mph. But with two minutes left in the session, Andretti hit debris on the track and his car went airborne in a spectacular crash. Andretti was not injured and initially shrugged off the incident, but a day later he admitted he thought as his car was flipping through the air, “`What the hell am I doing here?”

RACE: 88th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 30, 2004

WINNER: Buddy Rice

AVERAGE SPEED: 138.518 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Rain. Lots of it. The race began two hours late because of rain, then was stopped for another two hours after 27 laps. Rain threatened again the rest of the race, and Buddy Rice was in the lead when a final thunderstorm rolled over the speedway. He was declared the victor for team owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman. Future winners Tony Kanaan finished second and Dan Wheldon finished third.

NOTABLE: Rice won the pole position, his team won the pit-stop challenge and he ultimately led the most laps in a clean sweep of May. Tony Stewart flirted with trying to qualify for team owner A.J. Foyt but ultimately did not. Bruno Junqueira was leading the race entering the final round of pit stops, when Rice regained the lead, and wound up fifth. The thunderstorm that ended the race developed into an F2 tornado that missed the speedway by about 6 miles and caused widespread damage.

RACE: 89th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 2005

WINNER: Dan Wheldon

AVERAGE SPEED: 157.603 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: Dan Wheldon became the first Briton to win at the Brickyard since Graham Hill in 1966, but it was Danica Patrick who stole the headlines. She took the lead on a restart with 10 laps to go, the first woman to lead the Indy 500. And while Wheldon passed her for the lead three laps later, she still wound up finishing fourth behind Vitor Meira and Bryan Herta when the race ended under caution.

NOTABLE: Wheldon won six times to capture the series title, while Patrick became the most famous woman in motorsports. She appeared on morning talk shows and graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, prompting Wheldon to jokingly wear a T-shirt that read, “I actually won the Indy 500.” The broadcast crew was heavily criticized for focusing too much on Patrick, but it was the highest-rated race in a decade.

RACE: 90th Indianapolis 500

DATE: May 29, 2006

WINNER: Sam Hornish Jr.

AVERAGE SPEED: 157.085 mph

WHAT HAPPENED: One of the most dramatic endings in Indy 500 history brought more ammunition for those believe in the “Andretti Curse.” Defending champion Dan Wheldon dominated much of the race, but it was Marco Andretti who passed his father Michael for the lead with three laps remaining. Michael Andretti tried to hold off a charge by Hornish, the pole sitter, but he made the pass with two laps to go. Hornish gave chase and passed Marco Andretti, 450 yards from the finish line in what was the second-closest finish in history. Michael Andretti wound up third.

NOTABLE: Track announcer Tom Carnegie retired after 61 years, making the dramatic final lap his final call. Honda supplied all the engines for the field and proudly proclaimed not a single problem during the race. Missing from the field was Paul Dana, who was supposed to drive for Rahal Letterman Racing but was killed during a practice session in March at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).