Saturday, May 28, 2016

LASTCAR EXTRA: The Indianapolis 500 (1911-present)

Salt Walther, 1973
Coming into the 100th running of the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing,” Salt Walther stands alone as the all-time leader in Indy 500 last-place finishes with three (1972, 1973, and 1975).  Walther also joins Howdy Wilcox (1921, 1922) and Andy Linden (1952, 1953) as the only three drivers to finish last in consecutive 500s.

The first last-place finisher of the Indy 500 was Arthur Greiner, whose #44 Amplex started 38th in the 40-car field and crashed on the backstretch after 12 laps.  Greiner suffered a concussion and broken ribs.  His ride-along mechanic, S.P. Dickson, was killed.  1958 last-placer Art Bisch was involved in the multi-car wreck that claimed the life of driver Pat O’Connor.  1964 last-placer Norm Hall spun to avoid the tragic accident that killed Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald.

Mario Andretti finished last in the 1968 Indianapolis 500, one year before his only win.  The other 500 winners to also finish last in the event are Howdy Wilcox (1921, 1922), Louis Schneider (1933), Bill Cummings (1936), Sam Hanks (1941), Jimmy Bryan (1959), Bobby Unser (1963), Johnny Rutherford (1977), Tom Sneva (1986), Buddy Lazier (1991), and Danny Sullivan (1993).  Hanks did not start the 1941 race due to an injury suffered earlier in the weekend and his car was withdrawn.

UPDATE (5/29/16): Juan Pablo Montoya (2016) becomes the 12th different 500 winner to also finish last.

In 2000, Greg Ray led the most laps of any Indy 500 last-placer with 26 - no last-placer has led a single lap since.  The only other 500 last-placers with at least one lap led are Russ Snowberger (11 in 1928), Paul Russo (11 in 1956), and Tony Stewart (1 in 1998).  Ray was also one of only five polesitters to finish last in the 500.  The most recent was Scott Sharp in 2001.  Joining Ray and Sharp on this list are Cliff Woodbury (1929), Pancho Carter (1985), and Roberto Guerrero (1992).

Tony and Gary Bettenhausen finished last in consecutive 500s in 1988 and 1989.  A.J. Foyt IV and Larry Foyt trailed the 500 fields of 2004 and 2005.

In 2012, Jean Alesi became the first Indy 500 last-place finisher to be flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed.  He was joined a lap later by fellow Lotus driver Simona de Silvestro.  Alesi joins Dempsey Wilson (1960) and Ronnie Duman (1966) as the only three last-place starters of the 500 to finish last.

Last year, Conor Daly’s exhaust fire during the pace laps marked the 25th time the last-place finisher of the 500 failed to complete the opening lap.  It first happened in 1936, when Bill Cummings’ clutch gave out on his Miller FD / Offy.  On Sunday, Daly will be one of only five past Indy 500 last-placers in the field, joining Takuma Sato (2011), Graham Rahal (2008, 2014), J.R. Hildebrand (2013), and 1996 winner Buddy Lazier (1991).


1st) Salt Walther (3)

2nd) Roberto Guerrero, Andy Linden, Harry McQuinn, Graham Rahal, Greg Ray, Paul Russo, George Snider, Howdy Wilcox (2)

3rd) Jean Alesi, Martin de Alzaga, Mario Andretti, Ernie Ansterburg, Gary Bettenhausen, Tony Bettenhausen, Jr., Art Bisch, Andre Boillot, Geoff Brabham, Don Branson, S.F. Brock, Jimmy Bryan, Larry Cannon, Shorty Cantlon, Pancho Carter, P.J. Chesson, Charles Cox, Bill Cummings, Conor Daly, Duke Dinsmore, Ronnie Duman, Jules Ellingboe, Bill Endicott, Chet Fillip, Stan Fox, A.J. Foyt IV, Larry Foyt, Aldo Franchi, Milt Frankhouser, Chet Gardner, Spike Gehlhausen, Elmer George, Felipe Giaffone, Al Gordon, Arthur Greiner, Carlos Guerrero, Albert Guyot, Norm Hall, Davey Hamilton, Sam Hanks, J.R. Hildebrand, Bill Homeier, Cliff Hucul, Jim Hurtubise, Joe James, Buddy Lazier, Dave Lewis, Deacon Litz, Jim Malloy, Rex Mays, Jim McElreath, Chet Miller, Juan Pablo Montoya, Mario Moraes, Roberto Moreno, Mike Mosley, Len Ormsby, Francis Quinn, Jimmy Reece, Raul Riganti, Lloyd Ruby, Johnny Rutherford, Eliseo Salazar, Rosco Sarles, Takuma Sato, Louis Schneider, Scott Sharp, Dick Simon, Tom Sneva, Russ Snowberger, Danny Sullivan, Tony Stewart, Bobby Unser, Johnny Unser, Bob Veith, Bruce Walkup, Spider Webb, Dale Whittington, Dempsey Wilson, Cliff Woodbury, Alessandro Zampedri (1)

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