The Indy 500
Top 10 Indy 500 Drivers Born In Indiana
Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Top 10 Hoosier Drivers
#10 Johnny Aitken
Born in Indianapolis, Aitken is the answer to an unusual trivia question, as the early-era driver won more races at the Brickyard than any other driver, despite never having won the “500”. Aitken did race in the “500” twice, starting from the pole in 1916. Aitken swept all three races of the Harvest Auto Classic at the Speedway that same year.
#9 Pat O’Connor
The pride of North Vernon started from the pole in the 1957 Indianapolis 500, but tragically lost his life in the 15-car first-lap crash at the Brickyard the next year. O’Connor was an extremely popular driver who won two IndyCar races and was a champion in sprint cars.
#8 Charlie Merz
An outstanding driver in the early days of the sport, Merz never placed higher than 00th in the Indianapolis 500, but he finish in the top five twice in four starts. The Indianapolis native won three championship car races, including at the famous Elgin Road Races in 1912. After retiring from racing, Merz later was Chief Steward of the Indianapolis 500 from 1935 to 1939.
#7 Roscoe Sarles
A native of New Albany, Indiana who is credited with six wins in IndyCar competition in the early days of racing. Perhaps Sarles biggest win was a 250-mile event at the board track in Beverly Hills, California in 1921. Sarles’ best finish at the Brickyard was 2nd that same year to Tommy Milton.
#6 Tony Stewart
One of the most versatile drivers in recent racing history, the Columbus native has become a champion in USAC, NASCAR and the Indy Racing League. Stewart started first in his debut Indianapolis 500 but finished 24th. “Smoke’s” best finish in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing was 5th in 1997.
#5 George Souders
The Lafayette native won his first-ever start in an IndyCar at the 1927 Indianapolis 500. Souders backed up his 1927 win with a third-place finish the next year, but only had one other start in the big cars after being seriously injured at a race in Detroit in 1928.
#4 Louis Schneider
A former policeman who pulled off a mild upset with his win in the “500” in 1931. Although Schneider had finished third the previous year, The New York Times called his 1931 triumph a “stunning upset”. It was Schneider’s only career win in 17 starts in championship car racing. The Indianapolis native was badly injured in a midget race 1938 and never completely recovered. He passed away from tuberculosis in 1942 at the age of 41.
#3 Howdy Wilcox
One of the true greats of the first full decade of American automobile racing, the Crawfordsville native is best known for winning the 1919 Indianapolis 500. Wilcox also sat on the pole for the “500” in 1915. Wilcox is credited with 4 wins and the 1919 championship. Wilcox was killed in a race on the Altoona board track in 1923.
#2 Bill Cummings
The Indianapolis native won the Greatest Spectacle In Racing in 1934, on the way to a National Championship as well. Cummings started on the pole twice in the “500” and had three top-five finishes. Cummings won six IndyCar races in his career, between 1930 and 1938. Cummings died of injuries suffered in a highway crash near Indianapolis in 1939.
#1 Wilbur Shaw
One of the most important figures in Speedway history, the pride of Shelbyville would clearly be on the track’s “Mount Rushmore”. Shaw won the “500” in 1937, 1939, and 1940, and was on his way to a 4th win in 1941 when he crashed out with the lead with less than 50 laps to go. Shaw also won two National Championships in his driving career before World War II helped to shorten his tenure. Following the war, Shaw played a key role in saving the Speedway, helping to convince Tony Hulman to purchase and renovate the run-down speed plant, and acting as the track’s president prior to his tragic death in a plane crash in 1954.