A.J. Foyt’s 1961 winning car on display at the IMS Museum in 2011 (Johnson Collection)

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 2021. Statistically, a “start” is generally defined as a driver qualifying for the race, and presenting himself or herself on the starting grid on race day. 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 2021, Foyt is the only driver with thirty or more starts.

As of 2021, four-time winner Hélio Castroneves has the most starts among active drivers.

Race winners denoted in bold. Drivers active as of 2021 are denoted with .

Driver (# of race wins) Total
Starts
A.J. Foyt (4) 35
Mario Andretti (1) 29
Al Unser Sr. (4) 27
Gordon Johncock (2) 24
Johnny Rutherford (3) 24
George Snider 22
Gary Bettenhausen 21
Hélio Castroneves (4) 21
Tony Kanaan (1) 20
Buddy Lazier (1) 20
Scott Dixon (1) 19
Bobby Unser (3) 19
Al Unser Jr. (2) 19
Ed Carpenter 18
Roger McCluskey 18
Lloyd Ruby 18
Tom Sneva (1) 18
Pancho Carter 17
Arie Luyendyk (2) 17
Dick Simon 17
Marco Andretti 16
Michael Andretti 16
Cliff Bergere 16
Chet Miller 16
Roberto Guerrero 15
Ralph Hepburn 15
Jim McElreath 15
Rick Mears (4) 15
Mike Mosley 15
Mauri Rose (3) 15
Russ Snowberger 15
Rodger Ward (2) 15
Tony Bettenhausen 14
Scott Brayton 14
Eddie Cheever (1) 14
George Connor 14
Ryan Hunter-Reay (1) 14
Will Power (1) 14
Graham Rahal 14
Jim Rathmann (1) 14
Paul Russo 14
Scott Sharp 14
Raul Boesel 13
Wally Dallenbach 13
Tony Gulotta 13
Sam Hanks (1) 13
Eddie Johnson 13
Bobby Rahal (1) 13
Wilbur Shaw (3) 13
John Andretti 12
Johnny Boyd 12
Frank Brisko 12
Kevin Cogan 12
Deacon Litz 12
Rex Mays 12
Louis Meyer (3) 12
Johnny Parsons (Jr.) 12
Troy Ruttman (1) 12
Takuma Sato (2) 12
Babe Stapp 12
Danny Sullivan (1) 12
Bill Vukovich II 12
Fred Agabashian 11
Tony Bettenhausen Jr. 11
Shorty Cantlon 11
Duane Carter 11
Emerson Fittipaldi (2) 11
Scott Goodyear 11
Davey Hamilton 11
J.R. Hildebrand 11
Steve Krisiloff 11
Al Miller 11
Danny Ongais 11
Oriol Servia 11
Bob Veith 11
Howdy Wilcox (1) 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 2021, 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
Starts
Years
A.J. Foyt (4) 35 1958–1992
Al Unser Sr. (4) 21 1970–1990
Hélio Castroneves (4) 21 2001–2021
Gordon Johncock (2) 20 1965–1984
Tony Kanaan (1) 20 2002–2021
Bobby Unser (3) 19 1963–1981
Scott Dixon (1) 19 2003–2021
Lloyd Ruby 18 1960–1977
Ed Carpenter 18 2004–2021
Tom Sneva (1) 17 1974–1990
Johnny Rutherford (3) 16 1967–1982
George Snider 16 1965–1980
Marco Andretti 16 2006–2021
Mauri Rose (3) 15 1933–1941, 1946–1951
Roger McCluskey 15 1965–1979
Rick Mears (4) 15 1978–1992
Mario Andretti (1) 15 1980–1994
Arie Luyendyk (2) 15 1985–1999

Most Starts – Female Drivers

Driver Total
Starts
Years
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
Janet Guthrie 3 1977–1979
Milka Duno 3 2007–2009
Katherine Legge 2 2012–2013

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.


Notes

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).


Additional References and Works Cited