Scott Dixon is the pole-sitter at Indy on Sunday and the clear favorite, though Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward would like a word, too. Sometimes the Indy 500 is good, sometimes it is tedious, some other times it is unforgettable.
I’m not really sure what my favorite Indy moment is, though I’m pretty sure I know what the most memorable one is, which is when Danica Patrick led the Indy 500 for 19 laps during her rookie IndyCar season in 2005. Patrick wasn’t a complete unknown back then, as most of the month of May was spent abuzz about her first run at Indy. But, still, no one was quite sure how she was going to race.
It’s fair to say that she exceeded most people’s expectations, becoming the first woman to ever lead a lap at Indy and the highest female finisher ever. At the time, in real time, it was almost impossible not to root for her, even if you also had a sinking feeling that she probably didn’t have enough fuel to finish the race.
The main drama while Patrick was leading was whether there would be another yellow flag, which would help her conserve fuel and maybe, just maybe, she would have enough to win. She got a yellow on lap 187, moments after Dan Wheldon pulled ahead of her. She retook the lead again on the restart with ten laps to go, but with seven laps to go, Wheldon retook the lead for good.
The end result — fourth for Patrick, in part thanks to another late yellow — felt like a moral victory and the bright start to the racing career of a budding superstar. It didn’t quite turn out that way, but her career in IndyCar was solid enough, as she notched a win in Japan in 2008 and finished the season a career-high fifth a year later. That 2005 Indy 500, though, was some way to start.
What is your favorite moment? It can be anything big or small, dumb or important, but, above all, try for interesting. And, yeah, I know spin and win is easily the coolest moment in Indy 500 history, we don’t have to relitigate it.