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The Indy 500's Top 10 Heartbreaks

Top 10 Indy 500 Heartbreaks


The Indy 500's Top 10 Heartbreaks

1 of 10
#1 J.R. Hildebrand


#10  Bill Vukovich / 1952 - “The Mad Russian” led 150 laps in 1952, but was denied his first victory in the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, when the pin on the steering arm of the Fuel Injection Special failed, causing the California driver to brush up against the wall. Another Golden State standout Troy Ruttman swept into the lead and became the youngest winner in “500” history.

#9  Emerson Fittipaldi / 1994 - The former World Driving Champion was looking to win his third Indianapolis 500, and second in a row in 1994, with the dominant, and controversial Mercedes pushrod engine helping him decimate the field. Only teammate Al Unser Junior was on the same lap as Emmo, and Fittipaldi was about to change that on lap 185, when he crashed trying to lap the second-generation star. Unser Junior led the rest of the way for his second Indianapolis 500 win.

#8  Ralph DePalma / 1912 - DePalma dominated the second Indianapolis 500, leading from lap 3, through lap 198. But with victory in sight, a connecting rod had broken on his Mercedes, punching a hole in the crankcase. The car stopped on lap 199, and DePalma and riding mechanic Rupert Jeffkins pushed the car to the cheers of the crowd. Joe Dawson led just the final two laps to take home the surprise victory.

#7  Kevin Cogan / 1982 - Cogan finished fourth in 1981, and qualified second for the “500” in 1982, his first year with powerful Penske Racing. But coming down for the start, Cogan suddenly veered right and hit A.J. Foyt on his right, before turning left and getting collected by Mario Andretti, which put both Cogan and the 1969 “500” winner out of the race. The high-profile accident involving two racing legends caused Cogan to become a target by fans and members of the media, despite the fact it was never proven he had anything to do with the accident.

#6  Eddie Sachs / 1961 - Eddie Sachs was known as the “Clown Prince of Auto Racing”, but he was very serious about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and his goal in life was to win the “500”. The closest Sachs came was 1961, when he led the race with less than 10 laps to go. But with the warning cords showing through on his right rear tire, Sachs decided to play it safe and pit, handing the lead back to A.J. Foyt with just three laps to go. Foyt went on to win his first “500”, Sachs finished second, and was tragically killed three years later at his beloved Speedway.

#5  Roberto Guerrero / 1987 - Guerrero finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in his first three Indianapolis 500’s and was running 2nd in 1987 to Mario Andretti’s dominant machine. But when Andretti dropped out with a huge lead on lap 177, it looked like it would finally be Guerrero’s day. The Colombian had to make a final pit stop, but his car stalled in the pits due to damage from a previous incident. Al Unser Senior swept into the lead and went on to win his fourth Indianapolis 500. Guerrero finished second.

#4  Roberto Guerrero / 1992 - Perhaps an even bigger disappointment for Guerrero than 1987, was in 1992. After breaking the track record, the Colombian speedster didn’t even get a chance to participate in the race. The car got away from Guerrero as he tried to warm up his tires on an exceptionally cold day, the pole sitter finished last.

#3  Michael Andretti / 1992 - The same year as Roberto Guerrero’s misfortunes, Michael Andretti simply dominated, leading 160 of the first 189 laps. But Andretti had a fuel pump failure while out front on lap 190, ending his march to a certain win. Instead of a trip to Victory Lane, Andretti took a trip to Methodist Hospital to visit his father Mario, and brother Jeff, who both had been injured in crashes on an extremely cruel day for the Andretti family.

#2  Marco Andretti / 2006 - It appeared that Marco Andretti would exorcise some of the ghosts of 1992, when he passed his father to take the lead with three laps to go in the 2006 Indianapolis 500. But Andretti’s bid to become the youngest winner in Speedway history ended at the line, when Sam Hornish Junior roared by to steal the victory. It was the first pass for the lead on the last lap in “500” history .

#1  J.R. Hildebrand / 2011 - As heartbreaking a loss as it was for Marco Andretti in 2006, J.R. Hildebrand’s five years later was even more stunning. Hildebrand led on the last lap, when he swung wide to avoid a car running out of fuel. But Hildebrand crashed into the fourth turn wall instead, and while the rookie still rolled across the finish line, it was only after Dan Wheldon had crossed the yard of bricks first to take the victory away.


Photo credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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