Indianapolis 500 – All-Time Starts
The list of drivers who have the most career starts in Indianapolis 500 race competition. The list includes drivers with more than ten starts as of 2022. Statistically, a “start” is generally defined as a driver qualifying for the race, and presenting himself/herself on the starting grid on race day, then pulling away on the pace laps with the intent to take the green flag to begin the race. However, there have been some exceptions to that rule.
Four-time winner A.J. Foyt, who also holds the record for most career laps/miles completed in Indy 500 competition, has the record for the most starts with 35. Foyt’s 35 career starts were also consecutive (1958-1992), which is also a record. Foyt has topped the list since 1974. In that year, he broke a tie with Cliff Bergere and Chet Miller, who finished their career with a then-record 16 career starts. As of 2022, Foyt is the only driver with thirty or more starts.
As of 2022, four-time winner Hélio Castroneves (22) has the most starts among active drivers.
Race winners denoted in bold. Drivers active as of 2022 are denoted with ►.
|Driver (# of race wins)||Total
|A.J. Foyt (4)||35|
|Mario Andretti (1)||29|
|Al Unser Sr. (4)||27|
|Gordon Johncock (2)||24|
|Johnny Rutherford (3)||24|
|► Hélio Castroneves (4)||22|
|► Tony Kanaan (1)||21|
|Buddy Lazier (1)||20|
|► Scott Dixon (1)||20|
|Bobby Unser (3)||19|
|Al Unser Jr. (2)||19|
|► Ed Carpenter||19|
|Tom Sneva (1)||18|
|Arie Luyendyk (2)||17|
|► Marco Andretti||17|
|Rick Mears (4)||15|
|Mauri Rose (3)||15|
|Rodger Ward (2)||15|
|► Will Power (1)||15|
|► Graham Rahal||15|
|Eddie Cheever (1)||14|
|► Ryan Hunter-Reay (1)||14|
|Jim Rathmann (1)||14|
|Sam Hanks (1)||13|
|Bobby Rahal (1)||13|
|Wilbur Shaw (3)||13|
|► Takuma Sato (2)||13|
|Louis Meyer (3)||12|
|Johnny Parsons (Jr.)||12|
|Troy Ruttman (1)||12|
|Danny Sullivan (1)||12|
|Bill Vukovich II||12|
|► J.R. Hildebrand||12|
|Tony Bettenhausen Jr.||11|
|Emerson Fittipaldi (2)||11|
|Howdy Wilcox (1)||11|
|► Simon Pagenaud (1)||11|
|► Josef Newgarden||11|
Most Consecutive Starts
Below are the drivers with the most consecutive starts at the Indianapolis 500. Note that it may or may not represent all of that driver’s total career starts. Some drivers with longer careers may have missed a race at some point (i.e., failed to qualify, injured in a practice crash, sabbaticals, or simply skipped the event due to other commitments).
A. J. Foyt’s record 35 total career starts were all accomplished in consecutive fashion. Mario Andretti, who retired with 29 total career starts, however, did not accomplish them all consecutively. Andretti arrived as a rookie in 1965, and retired after the 1994 season. He missed the 1979 race due to a conflict with his Formula One commitments. His 29 starts came in two notable streaks: 14 straight (1965-1978); followed by 15 straight (1980-1994).
This list includes consecutive start streaks of 15 years or greater. As of 2022, four-time winner Hélio Castroneves has the most consecutive starts among active drivers. For many years, Mauri Rose held the record for most consecutive starts. There was no race from 1942 to 1945 (due to World War II), thus his participation in every race from 1933 through 1951 was technically consecutive.
Race winners denoted in bold. Drivers active as of 2021 are denoted with ►.
|Driver (# of race wins)||Consecutive
|A.J. Foyt (4)||35||1958–1992|
|► Hélio Castroneves (4)||22||2001–2022|
|Al Unser Sr. (4)||21||1970–1990|
|► Tony Kanaan (1)||21||2002–2022|
|Gordon Johncock (2)||20||1965–1984|
|► Scott Dixon (1)||20||2003–2022|
|Bobby Unser (3)||19||1963–1981|
|► Ed Carpenter||19||2004–2022|
|Tom Sneva (1)||17||1974–1990|
|► Marco Andretti||17||2006–2022|
|Johnny Rutherford (3)||16||1967–1982|
|Mauri Rose (3)||15||1933–1941, 1946–1951|
|Rick Mears (4)||15||1978–1992|
|Mario Andretti (1)||15||1980–1994|
|Arie Luyendyk (2)||15||1985–1999|
Most Starts – Female Drivers
|Sarah Fisher||9||2000–2004, 2007–2010|
|Danica Patrick||8||2005–2011, 2018|
|Lyn St. James||7||1992–1997, 2000|
|Pippa Mann||7||2011, 2013–2017, 2019|
|Simona de Silvestro||6||2010–2013, 2015, 2021|
|Ana Beatriz “Bia” Figuereido||4||2010–2013|
Note: The most consecutive starts by a female driver is 7, set by Danica Patrick from 2005 to 2011. Patrick’s 8th and final career start came later on in 2018.
1941: Sam Hanks is sometimes credited with either 12 starts or 13 starts. In 1941, Hanks qualified for the race in 27th position (outside of Row 9), but he was injured in a practice crash the day before the race. His car was withdrawn, and rather than elevate an alternate to the starting lineup, officials decided to simply credit Hanks with 33rd finishing position. Thus Hanks qualified for the race 13 times, was credited with an official finishing position 13 times, but physically started the race only 12 times.
1981: George Snider qualified 29th (middle of Row 10), successfully bumping his way into the field with approximately one hour left in the day. Snider, driving a Foyt backup car, had not taken any practice laps in the car before presenting it in line. He was poised to make his 17th consecutive Indy 500 start. Meanwhile, 1980 rookie of the year Tim Richmond was bumped and failed to qualify.
On Wednesday, the day before Carburetion Day, Snider sold his ride to Richmond. Snider stepped out, the car was moved to the rear of the field, and Richmond drove it to a 14th place finish on race day.
Thus, George Snider qualified for the race 23 times, but only made 22 starts. Had he not sold his 1981 ride to Richmond, Snider would have had 23 total starts (all consecutive). Those 23 consecutive starts would have stood as the second-most ever, second only to his friend and frequent car owner A.J. Foyt (35). Years after, Snider reflected upon the decision with regret. Though he was compensated for the move, he feels he would have rather been in the car on race day.
1992: Scott Goodyear and Mike Groff were teammates at Walker Racing. Goodyear was the full-time primary driver (originally entered in a 1992 Lola/Chevy), and Groff was the team’s second driver (assigned to a back-up car, a 1991 Lola/Chevy). During the first week of practice, the ’92 Lola was suffering a nagging oil pressure problem, and the team blew the engine more than once. As the team worked to find out the nature of the problem, they had Goodyear and Groff temporarily swap cars. On pole day, rain delayed the start of qualifying until 4 p.m. The team elected to have Goodyear go out and qualify the ’91 Lola to take advantage of a favorable draw, and to ensure at least one team car was in the field during the hectic, and abbreviated, first weekend of time trials.
Goodyear completed his run at a rather slow 219.054 mph, the slowest car on the first day, but not yet the slowest car overall in the field. During the second week of practice, the team discovered that the problem with the ’92 Lola was a faulty oil scavenging tube, and they were able to make repairs. The plan was to have Groff qualify the ’92 Lola on the second weekend of time trials, then the two drivers would swap rides for race day. Such a move was permitted, but it would require the two cars to be moved to the rear of the starting grid.
At the close of time trials, Groff had qualified the ’92 Lola 26th, but Goodyear in the ’91 Lola was bumped. As planned, the two drivers still swapped seats. Goodyear took over the ’92 Lola and started 33rd on race day. Groff was out of the race. Goodyear charged to finish second to Al Unser Jr. in the closest finish in Indy history (0.043 seconds).