INDIANAPOLIS — We finally got another four-time winner here at Indy. It took 30 years since we’ve last witnessed this feat at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in regards to the Indianapolis 500. Rick Mears last did it in 1991 before Helio Castroneves joined Indy lore last May. Mears’ win came four years after Al Unser joined the club in 1987. That came a decade after AJ Foyt being the first to accomplish this exclusive feat in 1977.
Now that Castroneves has done it, will we ever see it again? If we do, will it take three more decades for it to happen or is this one of those sports stats that may never be touched again?
“I don’t see why it won’t happen,” said Ed Carpenter to me. “There’s definitely a lot of talent but it also takes a lot of luck to make that happen. There’s plenty of people that have come along that have the talent to win 4 or more but it’s not as simple as that in a 500 mile race. I’m sure it will happen eventually whether it’s Helio who will start a new club or someone else.”
You have Takuma Sato and Juan Pablo Montoya each with two wins a piece. They’re the only other drivers in the field with multiple Indy 500 wins. Heck, only 20 drivers in this world can say that they’ve won this race more than once. Sato, has two wins in five years, but can he realistically win two more soon? He’s already the fifth oldest winner ever at 43. Does he have enough time to get to four wins?
Montoya is 46 and in a one off entry. The oldest to win this race is Al Unser at 47. I feel like if one of these three don’t win on Sunday, then the odds of one of them getting to four is highly unlikely.
No one else left has more than one Indy 500 win in their career. With the field as competitive as it’s arguably ever been and only four drivers having won this race more than once since 1998, what makes you think we’ll get drivers winners at least three times over the next decade? I mean, we’ve only had two repeat winners of this race in the last 66 years so the odds of someone rattling off a lot of wins in a short span isn’t likely.
Since 2013, only Sato has won this race more than once. We’ve seen parity in teams winning too. Andretti won in 2017. Penske won in 2018 and 2019. RLL won in 2020. MSR won in 2021. That’s 4 organizations in 5 years by five different drivers.
The four win feat may be one of those stats that as low as it sounds, may be unreachable for quite some time.
“It’s difficult because you want to compare Helio to Mario or compare to Rick Mears but it’s such a different era,” Simon Pagenaud told me. “These guys everyt ime they went out there, they risked their lives. I’m not going to set up that we’re not risking our lives but it’s obviously not as dangerous as it was. It’s a different mindset. The kids when they come in, they know that when they hit the wall, it’s not going to kill them. That’s so different. The kids in Mario’s time the mentality that you had to be in when you go home to see your kids it was very different. Now it’s the cars are much more closer. You have much more data. More videos to look at. It’s a very different job and thought process. So Helio’s had to adjust the 20 something years that he’s been around. That’s also a quality because that’s a huge adjustment.”