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The Indy 500 Top 10 Rookies

Top 10 Indy 500 Rookies

The Indy 500 Top 10 Rookies

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#1 Juan Pablo Montoya
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Photo courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway


#10 Danica Patrick - “Danica Mania” hit in 2005 when Patrick became the first female driver to ever lead the Indianapolis 500. Patrick led for 19 laps, and was out front as late as lap 193 before finishing fourth. 

#9 Nigel Mansell - A “rookie” only by the strictest definition of the term. Mansell was the 1992 World Driving Champion when he came to the Indianapolis 500 in 1993. In his first race on an oval, Mansell led 34 laps and looked like a likely winner until Emerson Fittipaldi took advantage of the Brits oval inexperience on a late-race restart. Mansell finished 3rd on his way to the IndyCar Championship. 

#8 Jim Clark - Another Indianapolis “rookie” who came to the Brickyard as a Formula 1 star, Clark would go on to win two World Driving Championships, including 1963, his first year at 16th and Georgetown. Clark’s green Lotus may have been disconcerting to the “establishment” but it proved to be fast. The Flying Scot led 28 laps on the way to a runner-up finish to winner Parnelli Jones.

#7 Graham Hill - Another “rookie” who made his Indianapolis 500 debut already having won the World Driving Championship. Hill barely avoided the massive pile-up on the first lap and drove a solid, yet unspectacular race. But in the end, despite leading only 10 laps, it was the British star who ended up in Victory Lane in 1966.

#6 George Souders - The Lafayette native made his Indianapolis 500 debut count in 1927. Souders had a solid run going behind defending champion Frank Lockhart, but when Lockhart and 1925 winner Pete DePaolo both had trouble in the second half of the race, it was Souders who led the last 51 laps on the way to a rookie win. 

#5 Rene Thomas - The French star made it back-to-back rookie winners from the hexagon in 1914. Thomas led 102 laps in his Delage. In addition to his racing career, Thomas was also an early aviation pioneer. 

#4 Jules Goux - The 1913 winner may be as famous for drinking champagne during his winning effort as for the win itself. While just how much of “the good wine” Goux consumed during his win has been embellished over the years, there’s no question he did partake. Goux dominated during his win, leading 138 of the 200 laps. 

#3 Helio Castroneves - The Brazilian’s debut at the Brickyard in 2001 got off to a rocky start when he kissed the wall in practice. But the jovial driver just got out a paint roller and helped the track crew turn the wall white again. On race day, Castroneves didn’t get the lead until lap 149, but he never relinquished it, and started a new tradition by climbing the front-stretch fence after his victory.

#2 Frank Lockhart - Very few drivers have immediately taken to the Speedway as Frank Lockhart did. Lockhart dominated the “500” in his rookie year of 1926, leading 95 of the 160 laps on his way to a win in the rain-shortened event. The next year, Lockhart 110 of the first 120 laps before dropping out. Those were his only two Indianapolis 500 starts, as the superstar was fatally injured in 1928 attempting to break the land speed record.

#1 Juan Pablo Montoya - The most dominant rookie in Indianapolis 500 history. Montoya came to the “500” as the 1999 CART series champion, and he made it look easy in his Brickyard debut in 2000, leading 167 of the 200 laps, including all but four after lap 33. 

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