Four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Sr. has led the most laps all time (644), a distinction he has held since 1987.

Indianapolis 500 – All-Time Lap Leaders

The list of drivers who have led at least one lap in the Indianapolis 500 has reached 236 as of the 2021 race. The list of drivers who have topped that list, however, is very short. Currently, four-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Sr. holds the record for most career laps led (644). Unser has held that record since 1987, and last led laps in the 1993 race, which was also his final Indy start.

DePalma and his riding mechanic famously attempted to push his car in 1912 after it quit with two laps to go.

In the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911, race winner Ray Harroun led the most lap with 83. He topped the seven drivers who led laps in the race that day. The following year, in the 1912 race, Ralph DePalma led an astounding 196 laps. The only laps he failed to lead that day were laps 1-2 and laps 199-200. DePalma’s car broke down with less than two laps to go while leading. Heartbreakingly, DePalma placed 13th. He and his riding mechanic Rupert Jeffkins made a futile effort to push the car the rest of the way. Along with the 4 laps he had previously led during the 1911 race, DePalma moved to the top of the list of all-time lap leaders in the Indianapolis 500, a distinction he would hold for 75 years.

Ralph DePalma added to his total, leading 132 laps during his 1915 victory. He led subsequently led laps in 1919 (93), 1920 (79), and 1921 (108). By the end of his Indianapolis career, DePalma had led a record total of 612 laps led to go along with his lone 1915 victory. For years, a discrepancy existed in DePalma’s total. It appears to have stemmed from his total from the 1921 race. Some box scores, and subsequent articles, listed DePalma as leading 109 laps in 1921, while more recently, it has been corrected to 108 laps. The extra lap gave DePalma an incorrect total of 613 laps led. The error persisted well into the 1980s in media guides and newspapers articles. When Al Unser Sr. was approaching the record, DePalma was reported as having 613 laps. Unser led 61 laps during the 1983 race, bringing his career total to 595 laps, thought to be just 18 short of the record.

Al Unser’s 1987 winning car (Johnson Collection)

In 1987, Al Unser Sr. took the lead with 18 laps to go, and won his record-tying fourth Indianapolis 500. At the time, it was believed that when he led that all-important 200th lap, he tied Ralph DePalma at 613 career laps led. Twelve months later when Unser led a dozen laps in the 1988 race, he was celebrated for taking over the top spot on the all-time lap leaders list. But subsequent corrections to the record suggest that Unser actually took over the top spot in 1987 – upon leading the 200th lap of that race. Unser went on to add to his total, leading 4 more laps in 1992, and 15 laps in 1993, bringing his career total to 644. Unser entered the 1994 race, but mid-way through the month quit the team and decided to retire.

In the 2021 Indy 500, Scott Dixon led seven laps and reached a total of 570 career laps led. Dixon ranks third all-time, and first among active drivers. Dixon, the 2008 Indy 500 winner, four-time pole winner, and six time IndyCar champion, is within striking distance of DePalma and Unser. As of 2021, Ray Harroun, Ralph DePalma, and Al Unser Sr. are the only three drivers in Indy history to sit atop the list of all-time lap leaders. Michael Andretti (431), whose best finish was 2nd in 1991, has the most laps led by a non-winner. He took over that distinction from Rex Mays in 1992.

All-time lap leaders of the Indianapolis 500. Race winners denoted in bold. Drivers active as of 2021 are denoted with ►.

Rank Driver (# of race wins) Total
Laps led
1 Al Unser Sr. (4) 644
2 Ralph DePalma (1) 612
3 Scott Dixon (1) 570
4 Mario Andretti (1) 556
5 A.J. Foyt (4) 555
6 Wilbur Shaw (3) 508
7 Emerson Fittipaldi (2) 505
8 Parnelli Jones (1) 492
9 Bill Vukovich (2) 485
10 Bobby Unser (3) 440
11 Michael Andretti 431
12 Rick Mears (4) 429
13 Billy Arnold (1) 410
14 Tony Kanaan (1) 346
15 Gordon Johncock (2) 339
16 Louis Meyer (3) 332
17 Dario Franchitti (3) 329
18 Hélio Castroneves (4) 325
19 Jim Clark (1) 298
20 Bill Holland (1) 297
21 Johnny Rutherford (3) 296
22 Rex Mays 266
23 Rodger Ward (2) 261
24 Mauri Rose (3) 256
25 Dan Wheldon (2) 235
26 Jimmy Murphy (1) 220
27 Tommy Milton (2) 218
28 Jimmy Bryan (1) 216
29 Tom Sneva (1) 208
30 Frank Lockhart (1) 205
31 Juan Pablo Montoya (2) 193
32 Arie Luyendyk (2) 186
33 Jimmy Snyder 181
34 Lee Wallard (1) 178
35 Simon Pagenaud (1) 169
36 Ryan Hunter-Reay (1) 163
37 Danny Sullivan (1) 162
38 Howdy Wilcox (1) 155
39 Tomas Scheckter 153
40 Jim Rathmann (1) 150
Peter DePaolo (1) 148
► Ed Carpenter 146
Will Power (1) 144
► Marco Andretti 141
Dario Resta (1) 140
Sam Hanks (1) 140
Jules Goux (1) 139
George Robson (1) 138
Pat Flaherty (1) 138
Gary Bettenhausen 138
Johnnie Parsons (1) 131
Lloyd Ruby 126
Bobby Rahal (1) 126
Earl Cooper 123
Tony Stewart 122
Joe Boyer (1) 119
Greg Ray 116
René Thomas (1) 114
Al Unser Jr. (2) 110
Kelly Petillo (1) 108
Wally Dallenbach 108
Sam Hornish Jr. (1) 107
Babe Stapp 106
Fred Frame (1) 106
Buddy Rice (1) 99
Ted Horn 94
Dave Lewis 93
Bill Cummings (1) 93
Floyd Roberts (1) 92
Kenny Bräck (1) 89
Eddie Cheever (1) 89
Ray Harroun (1) 88
Bob Sweikert 86
Takuma Sato (2) 85
David Bruce-Brown 81
Danny Ongais 79
Arthur Duray 77
Alexander Rossi (1) 77
Troy Ruttman (1) 72
Gil de Ferran (1) 71
Jack McGrath 70
Mark Donohue (1) 70
Buddy Lazier (1) 70
Frank Brisko 69
Leon Duray 68
Ralph Hepburn 68
George Souders (1) 67
Eddie Sachs 66
Maurcio Gugelmin 59
Harry Hartz 57
Roberto Guerrero 56
Johnny Thomson 55
► James Hinchcliffe 54
Robby Gordon 53
Joe Leonard 52
Jeff Ward 52
Bruno Junqueira 52
Max Chilton 50
Deacon Litz 49
Scott Goodyear 49
Ray Keech (1) 46
Pat O’Connor 46
Davy Jones 46
Gil Anderson 44
Jimmy Gleason 43
Bob Burman 41
Jackie Stewart 40
► Connor Daly 40
Louis Schneider (1) 39
John Paul Jr. 39
Alex Tagliani 39
► Josef Newgarden 38
Teo Fabi 37
Bob Carey 36
Jim Hurtubise 36
Cliff Bergere 35
Paul Russo 35
► Álex Palou 35
Bob Swanson 34
Nigel Mansell 34
Oriol Servia 34
Bobby Marshman 33
Tony Gulotta 33
Art Cross 32
Duke Nalon 32
► Rinus VeeKay 32
Ryan Briscoe 31
Phil Shafer 29
Mark Dismore 29
Danica Patrick 29
Carlos Muñoz 29
► Felix Rosenqvist 28
► Graham Rahal 28
Fernando Alonso 27
Jimmy Vasser 26
Jimmy Davies 25
Tony Bettenhausen 24
Lou Moore 23
A. J. Allmendinger 23
Jacques Villeneuve (1) 22
Raul Boesel 21
Alessandro Zampedri 20
George Amick 18
Johnny Boyd 18
► Charlie Kimball 18
Kevin Cogan 17
► Pato O’Ward 17
Johnny Aitken 16
Jerry Grant 16
Robbie Buhl 16
Vitor Meira 15
Mike Conway 15
Gaston Chevrolet (1) 14
Ernie Triplett 14
► Zach Veach 14
► Colton Herta 14
Russ Snowberger 13
Josele Garza 13
Billy Boat 13
Justin Wilson 13
Townsend Bell 13
► J.R. Hildebrand 13
Swede Savage 12
Felipe Giaffone 12
Bertrand Baguette 11
Ralph Mulford 10
Graham Hill (1) 10
Alex Barron 10
Eddie Rickenbacker 9
Albert Guyot 9
Josef Christiaens 9
Louis Chevrolet 9
Dutch Bauman 9
Len Sutton 9
Jimmy Daywalt 8
Pancho Carter 8
Jim Crawford 8
Scott Pruett 8
Don Freeland 7
Roger McCluskey 7
Zachary Claman DeMelo 7
Spencer Pigot 7
Ira Hall 6
Cecil Green 5
Jimmy Jackson 5
Spencer Wishart 5
Steve Krisiloff 5
E.J. Viso 5
James Jakes 5
Fred Belcher 4
Cliff Durant 4
Mike Mosley 4
Buzz Calkins 4
Sam Schmidt 4
► Sebastien Bourdais 4
► Oliver Askew 4
► Sage Karam 4
► Santino Ferrucci 4
George Snider 3
Davey Hamilton 3
Scott Sharp 3
Bryan Herta 3
Adrian Fernández 3
Mario Moraes 3
Bryan Clauson 3
► Stefan Wilson 3
Caleb Bragg 2
Teddy Tetzlaff 2
Joe Dawson (1) 2
Robert Evans 2
Paul Bost 2
Herb Ardinger 2
Dan Gurney 2
Roger Rager 2
Don Whittington 2
John Andretti 2
Robby McGehee 2
Tora Takagi 2
Jaques Lazier 2
Rubens Barrichello 2
► James Davison 2
Robert Wickens 2
Jean Chassagne 1
Art Klein 1
Roscoe Sarles 1
Howdy Wilcox II 1
Fred Agabashian 1
Jack Brabham 1
Bobby Allison 1
Bill Vukovich II 1
Tim Richmond 1
Gordon Smiley 1
Scott Brayton 1
Stephan Gregoire 1
Jeff Simmons 1
Mikhail Aleshin 1
L.L. Corum (1) 0
Floyd Davis (1) 0

Note: L.L. Corum (1924) and Floyd Davis (1941) are in the record books as co-winners of the Indianapolis 500. But neither driver led a lap in their respective careers.


The Indiana National Bank Leader Circle Award celebrated lap leaders from each year of the race. The former trophy was on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum in 2008
(Johnson Collection)

Lap Leader Records & Statistics

Most Laps Led – Single Race (All-time)

  • 198 — Billy Arnold (1930) winner
  • 196 — Ralph DePalma (1912) finished 11th
  • 195 — Bill Vukovich (1953) winner
  • 190 — Jim Clark (1965) winner
  • 190 — Al Unser Sr. (1970) winner

Most Laps Led – Single Race (Non-winner)

  • 196 — Ralph DePalma (1912) finished 11th
  • 171 — Parnelli Jones (1967) finished 6th
  • 170 — Mario Andretti (1987) finished 9th
  • 160 — Michael Andretti (1970) finished 13th

Most Laps Led – Single Race (Rookie)

  • 167 — Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) winner
  • 143 — Bill Holland (1947) finished 2nd
  • 138 — Jules Goux (1913) winner

Most consecutive laps led

  • 198 — Bill Arnold (1930) laps 3-200
  • 196 — Ralph DePalma (1912) laps 3-198

Most consecutive laps led from the start

  • 92 — Emerson Fittipaldi (1990) laps 1-92
  • 81 — Frank Lockhart (1927) laps 1-81

Fewest laps led by the race winner

  • 1 — Dan Wheldon (2011)
  • 2 — Joe Dawson (1912)
  • 9 — Juan Pablo Montoya (2015)

Most races led, career

  • 14 — Tony Kanaan (2002-2008, 2012-2018)

Most consecutive races led, career

  • 8 — Will Power (2013-2020)

Most lead changes (single race)

  • 68 — 2013
  • 54 — 2016
  • 37 — 2016

Most different leaders (single race)

  • 15 — 2017
  • 15 — 2018
  • 14 — 2013

Fewest lead changes (single race)

  • 1 — 1930
  • 2 — 1912
  • 2 — 1916

Fewest different leaders (single race)

  • 2 — 1930
  • 2 — 1965

Drivers who led late but failed to win

Led Lap 199 (1 lap to go)

  • Marco Andretti (2006) — finished 2nd (passed by Sam Hornish Jr.)
  • J.R. Hildebrand (2011) — finished 2nd (hit wall in turn 4, passed by Dan Wheldon

Led Lap 198 (2 laps to go)

  • Ralph DePalma (1912) — finished 11th (connecting rod failure)
  • Al Unser Jr. (1989) — finished 2nd (crashed in turn 3)
  • Robby Gordon (1999) — finished 4th (pitted for fuel)
  • Scott Dixon (2012) — finished 2nd (passed by Dario Franchitti)
  • Alexander Rossi (2019) — finished 2nd (passed by Simon Pagenaud)
  • Álex Palou (2021) — finished 2nd (passed by Hélio Castroneves)

Latest pass for the win

Taking into account the actual distance (in feet or miles) to the finish line irrespective of laps, the latest passes for the lead to win the Indianapolis 500 are as follows. Distances indicated are approximate and unofficial.

450 feet to the finish line (2006)
Rookie Marco Andretti was leading the race and took the white flag to lead lap 199. Out of turn four on the final lap, on the front strech Sam Hornish Jr. passed Andretti and edged him out for the win. Hornish’s car nosed ahead approximately 450 feet before they reached finish line, and he won by 0.0635 seconds.

900 feet to the finish line (2011)
Rookie J.R. Hildebrand took the lead with 3 laps to go while other drivers pitted for fuel. Hidebrand was trying to stretch his fuel to the finish. He took the white flag and led lap 199. He held about a 4-second lead. In turn four on the final lap, he came up on the lapped car of Charlie Kimball. Kimball’s car ran out of fuel, and slowed. Hildebrand tried to pass Kimball on the outside in turn four, but got up into the “marbles” and smacked the outside wall. His car slid down the frontstretch along the wall towards the finish line. About 900 feet from the line, Dan Wheldon drove by Hildebrand’s wrecked car to take the lead and take the victory. Hildebrand continued to slide down the mainstrecth, and he slid across the finish line to place second.

2.8 miles to the finish line (1999)
Robby Gordon led lap 198, and ran out of fuel in turn four on the 199th lap. Kenny Bräck passed him for the lead near the entrance to the pit area, went on to officially lead the 199th lap, and completed the final lap for the victory.

3.4 miles to the finish line (1989)
Al Unser Jr. led lap 198, and led Emerson Fittipaldi on the backstrech on the 199th lap. In turn three, Fittipaldi passed Unser on the inside, the two cars touched wheels, and Unser crashed into the outside wall. Fittipaldi continued, taking the white and yellow flags, completed the final lap, and secured the victory.

3.5 miles to the finish line: (1912)
Ralph DePalma led the 198th lap at which point his car had begun to misfire. Holding a 5-lap lead over second place, DePalma tried to nurse his car around the final two laps. The car quit down the backstretch going into turn three. A broken connecting rod had blown a hole through the crankcase. The car coasted for a little way, and somewhere at the north end, DePalma and his riding mechanic Rupert Jeffkins began pushing the car around the track. They made their way down the frontstrech but the effort was ultimately futile. Second place Joe Dawson made up the margin, and passed DePalma to take the lead. Dawson officially led the 199th and 200th lap for the victory, the only two laps he ever led. DePalma wound up in 11th place.

3.7 miles to the finish line: (2019)
Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi battled for the lead in the closing laps. On lap 199, Pagenaud passed Rossi for the lead down the backstretch, near the entrance to turn three. Pagenaud then led at the white flag, and held on to win by 0.2086 seconds.