It has been a few days since the running of the 105th. Indianapolis 500 and from a race fans perspective it may prove to be one of the most historical races in modern history. Don’t get me wrong because every Indianapolis 500 has its’ own piece of history that cannot be ignored.This one was special because the race returned to thetraditional month of May along with the return of the spectators.
Last years 500 made history for all the wrong reasons. It was the first Indianapolis 500 that ran in a month other than the traditional month of May (August 23, 2020) and the first ever ran without spectators. This year the fans were back and with 135,000 spectators made it the largest sporting event of 2021.
We were treated to the fastest starting field in history with an average speed of 230.294 mph. That was followed by the fastest race in history with fan favorite, Helio Castroneves, winning his fourth race averaging 190.690 mph. With the TV ratings up, the return of many of the old pre-race traditions and a new four time winner was indeed a historical month of May.
Indianapolis 500 four time winner A.J. Foyt was honored for the 60th anniversary of his first win in 1961. It was also the 30th anniversary of four time winner Rick Mears fourth win in 1991. Last year was the 50th anniversary of Al Unser’s first win in 1970 and this year was 50th anniversary of his second consecutive win in 1971.
With Castroneves fourth win he joined the elite group of A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears and Al Unser. There are all kinds of stories and statistics comparing the four drivers and I will discuss a few of them. With that said, I encourage everyone to read Eric Smith’s coverage of this year’s race.
Eric mentioned that it took Foyt 20 starts to record his fourth win, Unser 22 starts, Mears 14 starts and Castroneves 21starts.
The number of races between their first win and theirfourth win was Mears 12, Foyt 16, Unser 17 and Castroneves 20.
The oldest driver to win an Indianapolis 500 was Al Unser who was just a few days shy of his 48th birthday. Castroneves is 46, A.J. Foyt was 42 with Rick Mears the youngest at 39.
It was the third time in history that the winner came from the eighth starting position. The other two were Danny Sullivan in 1985 and Kenny Brack in 1999.
The most wins in history came from the pole position with 21wins. Starting position 3 was second with 13, starting position 2 was third with 11, starting positions four and five were tied with 7 wins apiece and starting positions six and seven were tied with 5 apiece. All the rest had less than 5 wins. The farthest back any winner has started was 28th and it was done twice. It was done in 1911 with Ray Harroun and in 1936 with Louis Meyer.
This year was the first time in history that a car numbered 06 has won the race. The top five winning car numbers are number 3 with 11 wins, number 2 with 9, number 1 with 7, numbers 5 and 14 tied with 6 apiece and numbers 4 and 6tied with 5 wins apiece.
The tradition of the winner drinking cold milk in victory lane was started back in the 1930’s by three time winner Louis Meyer. He drank buttermilk because he said that it was refreshing after a hot day. An executive from the milk association saw a picture of him and thought it was great idea to promote the drinking of milk. It was practiced an unknown number of years.
From 1946 to 1955 the victorious driver did not drink milk in victory lane. In 1956 the tradition was resumed and continued to today. The 33 drivers are offered their choice of milk with white milk being encouraged. Buttermilk is discouraged because today’s buttermilk has a culture plussalt added to the milk and it has a sour taste.
In 1930’s the buttermilk was leftover from the making of butter and it was rich and creamy. Today’s buttermilk cannot be compared to that of the 1930’s.
Helio Castroneves chose 2% milk and that was what he celebrated with in victory lane. It was said he also wanted strawberry milk to match the color of his car. He was seen later with a bottle of strawberry milk.
We can now celebrate another historic race with a very popular winner and begin preparing for next years event hopefully with the return to full capacity. Meanwhile until next year remember the phrase immortalized by the late Sid Collins “ STAY TUNED FOR THE GREATEST SPECTACLE IN RACING”.