It is May once again. Since its inaugural running in 1911, the Indianapolis 500 has been one of the world’s most prestigious motorsports events. Despite the 500-mile race producing iconic moments throughout its history, the contest didn’t have particularly close finishes until the 1980s. Technical advances created increasingly faster cars year after year but also contributed to lower rates of attrition.
The introduction of paced caution periods also meant that the 500-mile race and the month of preparation could come down to a sprint of a dozen laps or less. The distance between first and second place at Indianapolis is the difference between immortality and obscurity. Winning “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is a career-defining achievement, and finishing second is a record-book footnote. Here are the 15 closest finishes in Indianapolis 500 history.