The Indianapolis 500 has been a fixture on the US sporting calendar for more than 100 years and forms part of motor racing’s triple crown, along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix.
The famous trophy features a 3D engraving of the face of every winning driver, and those who are able to master the Brickyard are guaranteed a lasting place in history.
Here we look at the five greatest Indy 500 legends.
1 – AJ Foyt
No single driver is more associated with the great race than AJ Foyt. The Texan racer competed in all 35 runnings of the race between 1958 and 1992 – almost half of the 76 Indy 500s that had been staged up to that point.
Foyt won the race four times, in 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1977 as well as earning nine top-three finishes and 12 top six. He finished ninth in his final appearance in 1992 at the age of 57.
2 – Rick Mears
Although he raced in only 15 Indy 500s, that was enough for Rick Mears to leave an indelible mark on the history books.
Mears qualified on the front row in his rookie year of 1978 and took the first of his four wins the following season. Those victories, in 1979, 1984, 1988 and 1991, came during a particularly strong era of competition in the race.
The Wichita-born barnstormer holds the record for most Brickyard pole positions with six, and there are some who argue that Mears’s achievements eclipse even those of Foyt.
3 – Al Unser
Another member of the four-victories club and one of several members of the Unser family to write their name in Indy 500 history, Al senior made 27 starts in the race and holds the record for most laps led, with 644.
His final win, in 1987, was a fairytale story. Called in to the Penske team when one of its drivers was injured in practice, and handed a year-old car that had been on display in a hotel in Pennsylvania, Unser managed to qualify 20th.
In a race of high attrition, Unser worked his way through the field to lead on the 183rd of the 200 laps, holding off the charge of Roberto Guerrero to claim a record-equalling fourth win at the age of 47.
4 – Helio Castroneves
The most recent driver to achieve a fourth Indy win, Brazilian ace Castroneves claimed three victories in his first ten starts at the Brickyard, including on his debut in 2001.
Nicknamed Spider Man for his celebratory climbing of the catch fencing after a victory, Castroneves claimed his fourth win in the 500 in 2021, and will bid to take sole possession of the record with a fifth success in 2023 at the age of 48.
5 – Graham Hill
Although he started the race only three times and finished just once, 1966 winner Graham Hill warrants his inclusion in this list as the sole driver to have won motorsport’s triple crown.
The charismatic Londoner won the Monaco Grand Prix five times and the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972. And while some argue that the Formula 1 World Championship rather than Monaco constitutes one leg of the feat, 1962 and 1968 F1 champ Hill is also the only driver to fulfil that criteria.