Indy 500 — Rookie of the Year Award
The following is a list of drivers who have won the Rookie of the Year Award at the Indianapolis 500. The rookie of the year award was first conceived in 1952. No official award was given from 1911 to 1951, even though at least one “rookie” (first time) starter has been part of the starting grid in every edition of the Indianapolis 500. The award is voted on by a panel of judges, which is comprised of selected members of the media (newspaper, television, radio), historians, officials, and a handful of other experts. The voting takes place after the race, and does not necessarily go to the highest-finishing rookie. Currently there are four voting guidelines:
- Driving skill
- Accessibility and conduct during the month
- Finishing position
Each of the four criteria are to be supposed to be weighted equally by the voters. Noteworthy accomplishments during Time Trials have frequently been a factor in the voting. Likewise, a rookie who competitively runs near the front during the race, passes many cars, and/or leads laps (but ultimately drops out) can also garner consideration over another rookie who placed higher, but did so merely by surviving attrition. Other contributing attributes over the years that been factors include personal and mental attitude, professionalism, cooperation and attentiveness with driver coaches and officials, as well as interaction with media and fans. Adherence to the rules and actions on behalf of safety are taken into consideration.
Eligibility is confined to drivers making their first start in the Indianapolis 500. They are required to qualify and compete in the race (although extemporaneous circumstances can warrant exceptions at the discretion of the officials). Any driver that has previously competed in an Indianapolis 500 is permanently ineligible (even if that driver failed to complete a single lap in the race). Years in which two drivers are listed indicate co-winners, due to a tie in the final voting.
The balloting is conducted shortly after the completion of the race. In recent years it might takes place Sunday evening or Sunday night, a few hours after the checkered flag. Although in 2015, it was mentioned that votes were not due until “noon” on Monday. In earlier years, however, voting was typically done the next day. Prior to the early 1990s, before the days of reliable, sophisticated computerized scoring methods, official race results were not posted until 8 a.m. the next morning. Officials would spend the night auditing the timing and scoring serials, and it was not unusual for minor (or major) scoring revisions/corrections, and well as penalties, to be issued. It was necessary to wait until official results were posted before voting could occur, so any revisions or penalties could be factored into the decision. In any case, the rookie of the year voting would be finished in time for presentation at the Victory Banquet – traditionally held at night, the day after the race. A short reception was often held – just prior to the start of the banquet – at the venue to formally announce the top rookie. Sometimes the voting might be done right there at the venue, as the voting panel (which consisted of media members and officials) would typically all be in attendance anyway.
Over the years, the ballot has usually consisted of two or three lines, with voters instructed to cast their decisions by listing their top two or top three three choices (in order). The votes are tallied via a points system, and the driver with the highest total is declared Rookie of the Year. In a handful of cases, the voting ended in a tie, in which case co-winners were declared. Nowadays paper ballots have been discarded, and the voting is done electronically or via e-mail.
The Rookie of the Year award has been held in high prestige since its introduction in 1952. On a few rare occasions, the announcement of the award has been met with some (albeit mild) controversy. This has happened particularly after a high-profile, or “name” driver was selected, despite dropping out or crashing – instead of another perhaps lesser-known rookie who finished higher or even (arguably) outperformed the honoree.
Definition of a “Rookie”
The term “rookie” at the Indianapolis 500 can be misleading at times. According to race rules, a rookie is defined as any driver who has never previously qualified for the race, and likewise has never started the race. Several unique situations that have arisen over the years can create some confusion, but to put it in simple terms, a rookie at Indy is a driver competing in the Indy 500 for the first time, regardless of their age, or previous career accomplishments in Indy car racing and/or other forms of motorsports.
Since 1936, all drivers entering the race for the first time are required to pass an official Rookie Test prior to being allowed to compete. The test consists of a certain number of laps completed at a prescribed speed. Usually the test has been administered in multiple phases (the required speed increasing at each phase), with the driver under the observation and scrutiny of officials, drivers coaches, and veteran drivers. The driver must demonstrate the necessary speed, proper driving lines, and car control skills in order to pass the test. Once the rookie test is passed, the driver is permitted to participate in official practice sessions, and subsequently attempt to qualify. Since 1981, the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) has been held in April or early May. The program allows newcomers the opportunity to take their first laps at the Speedway and acclimate themselves to the circuit in a relaxed environment – without the pressure of veteran drivers crowding the track, without the distraction of spectators, and with significantly reduced media coverage. Once the drivers have sufficiently familiarized themselves with the circuit, they are permitted to take their driver’s test during ROP. In some years, all phases may be completed, while in other years, all but the final phase may be taken – in those cases, the final phase could taken on an official practice day, or during a reserved session. Drivers with exceptional driving experience at high levels of motorsports can occasionally receive waivers for participation in ROP, but they must still pass all phases of their rookie test before they can practice/qualify during official sessions.
After a rookie qualifies for the race during official Time Trials, he/she becomes eligible for the Rookie of the Year award. Gridding the car on race day, with the intent to compete in the race, generally constitutes a “start”, whether the car pulls away for the pace laps or not. If the driver suffers a mechanical failure on the grid, during the parade/pace laps, or crashes during the parade/pace laps, he/she is still credited with a “start” (and a finishing position), even through he/she never took the green flag to actually start the race. If that driver competed in a subsequent “500”, he/she would not be considered a rookie again, and would not eligible again for the Rookie of the Year Award.
If a rookie driver were to qualify for the race, but officially withdraw prior to race day, a “start” is typically not credited to that driver. For instance, if a rookie driver qualified, but crashed the car during a subsequent practice session, and had to withdraw and sit out the race due to injury, that driver would be considered a non-participant. If he/she returned in a subsequent year, he/she would be still be considered a rookie. He/she would be eligible for the Rookie of the Year Award in that second year.
If a rookie driver arrives at the track, passes his/her rookie test, but fails to qualify for that year’s race, he/she remains a rookie. If he/she were to return in a subsequent year(s) – at the discretion of the officials – he/she might not have to take another rookie test. He/she could instead take a “Refresher Test” (which typically consists of only the latter phase or phases of the full rookie test). If he/she qualifies for the race, the driver would still be eligible or the Rookie of the Year award that year.
- Bill Puterbaugh had a notable streak of failing to qualify for the race six times from 1968 to 1974. He finally qualified for the first time in 1975. He was still scored a rookie for the 1975 race, and his 7th-place finish earned him the Rookie of the Year award.
- “Uncle” Jacques Villeneuve qualified as a rookie for the 1984 race, but crashed in practice a few days later. He was not cleared to drive, and was forced to withdraw. He was not credited with a start for 1984. He returned in 1985, but a crash early in the month prevented him from making a qualifying attempt. In 1986, he returned for third time. He qualified 15th, and was considered a rookie, and was still eligible for the award (he did not win). Members of the media lightheartedly referred to him as “the veteran rookie”.
- Affonso Giaffone was a rookie when he first qualified for the race in 1997. On the final pace lap, the three cars of row 5 tangled and crashed going into turn four. Giaffone was out of the race having never taken the green flag to start the race. He placed 32nd (of 35 cars), and never returned to Indy. Had Giaffone returned in a subsequent year, despite never actually starting the race, he would not have been considered a rookie again.
The term “rookie” can also confuse spectators, as it suggests a young, inexperienced competitor. In reality, it can be a misnomer. Former champions from Formula One, NASCAR, IMSA, and other forms of motorsports have competed in the Indy 500. In addition, as a result of the CART/IRL “Split”, several drivers arrived at Indy in the 2000s after experience in CART/Champ Car. Despite their experience in top-level open wheel cars, there were still considered rookies during their first year at Indy.
Rookie of the Year Award winners
In 1952, Stark & Wetzel, a local meat packing company, sponsored the first Rookie of the Year award for the Indianapolis 500. They unveiled a 40-inch trophy constructed by Herff-Jones, featuring an onyx base with a walnut central column, and a pair of sterling goggles on the base. A gold “500” emblem adorned the top, with a race car driving through the middle “0”. The trophy was valued at $6,000, weighed 350 pounds, and winners would be presented with a small replica. In addition, the award came with a cash prize of $500, along with a “year’s supply” of meat (approximate value $500) from Stark & Wetzel meats.
1952 — Art Cross (started 20th, finished 5th; 200 laps)
A total of eight rookies qualified. Four rookies finished in the top 12, with Art Cross, Jimmy Bryan, and Jimmy Reece charging from 20th, 21st, and 23rd starting positions to finish 5th-6th-7th respectively. Cross was the highest finishing rookie, about 44 seconds ahead of Bryan. At the annual victory banquet, Cross was the first rookie presented and his name added to the newly-created Stark & Wetzel Trophy. The voting committee initially consisted of representatives from three Indianapolis-area newspapers (Star, News, Times), the five radio stations (WISH, WIRE, WFBM, WIBC, WXLW), three wire services, plus Speedway president Wilbur Shaw and chief steward Tommy Milton of the AAA Contest Board
1953 — Jimmy Daywalt (started 21st, finished 6th; 200 laps)
Six rookies drove in the 1953 race, known in racing lore as the “Hottest 500”. On a sweltering hot Saturday afternoon, Jimmy Daywalt drove the entire 500 miles without relief help, finishing 6th. He was the highest finishing rookie, about two minutes ahead of Ernie McCoy. A day later, Daywalt suffered a broken leg in a crash at Winchester, and missed the victory banquet. He was presented with his check in his hospital room.
1954 — Larry Crockett (started 25th, finished 9th; 200 laps)
Larry Crockett started 25th as the fastest rookie qualifier. He was the only rookie (out of six) to go the full 500 miles, doing so without relief help. It would be Crockett’s only Indy start; he was fatally injured in a crash at Langhorne the following March.
1957 — Don Edmunds (started 27th, finished 19th; 170 laps)
None of the five rookies were running at the finish. Don Edmunds was too slow to qualify his own car, the Braund Birch Special, but on Bump Day, hopped into the MacKay Special and put the car in the field with ease. Running about 11 laps down at the time, Edmunds spun out after completing 170 laps and placed 19th as the highest placed rookie. Eddie Sachs qualified for the middle of the front row, but dropped out with a fuel leak on lap 105 and placed 23rd. It would be Edmunds’ only Indy start; he suffered a serious crash during practice in 1958, and never qualified for the race again.
1958 — George Amick (started 25th, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
George Amick led three times for 18 laps, and became the highest finishing rookie since 1951. He was also the highest finishing rookie since the Rookie of the Year award was introduced. Amick was running one lap down in third place on lap 177 when second place Johnny Boyd was forced to the pits with a worn out right rear tire. Amick overtook Boyd for second, and charged to finish just 27 second behind race winner Jimmy Bryan. It was Amick’s second attempt at Indianapolis, a year earlier he hit the wall in practice and was later bumped from the field. It would be Amick’s only start at Indianapolis. He was fatally injured in the USAC Daytona 100 at Daytona International Speedway in April 1959.
1959 — Bobby Grim (started 5th, finished 26th; 85 laps)
Bobby Grim, the 1955–1958 IMCA sprint car champion, qualified 5th on pole day, setting a rookie speed record of 144.225 mph. On race day, Grim dropped out while running in the top ten with burned pistons and magneto failure on lap 85. As he was coasting back to the pits, he raised his arm to signal to the other drivers that he was slowing down, but was traveling too fast. The wind caught his arm and caused him to painfully dislocate his shoulder. Jack Turner was standing by to drive relief, and Grim, wincing in pain, was unable to relay the message that the car was finished. Turner tried to drive away, but the car would not restart. Grim was still voted the rookie of the year despite dropping out before the halfway point, and reportedly arrived at the victory banquet wearing an arm sling. Three other rookies finished ahead of him, with Chuck Arnold and Jim McWithey completing all 200 laps, finishing 15th-16th, respectively. Thus Grim became the first driver to win the rookie of the year award after dropping out of the race and having other rookies finish ahead of him.
1960 — Jim Hurtubise (started 23rd, finished 18th; 185 laps)
Jim Hurtubise was the fastest qualifier in the field. On Bump Day (May 22), he set a one-lap track record of 149.601 mph and a four-lap track record of 149.056 mph. On race day, Hurtubise worked his way up the standings, and ran most of the second half in the top ten. He dropped out on lap 185 with engine failure – a connecting rod blew threw the side of the engine block. Hurtubise was running about seventh place when it happened. He still garnered enough votes to win Rookie of the Year. Two rookies placed ahead of Hurtubise, with Lloyd Ruby finishing 7th.
1961 — Co-winners were declared
Bobby Marshman (started 33rd, finished 7th; 200 laps)
Parnelli Jones (started 5th, finished 12th; 192 laps)
A total of eight rookies made the starting field, considered a strong group, led by Midwestern sprint car champion Parnelli Jones and two-time defending World Driving Champion Jack Brabham. On pole day, Jones qualified 5th, the middle of row two. Brabham completed a solid qualifying effort also, putting his rear-engined Cooper-Climax in 13th starting position. Bobby Marshman passed his rookie test mid-month, and on the last day of time trials, bumped his way into the field. Four rookies finished the race in the top twelve. Jones led two times for a total of 27 laps. At one point during the race, a bolt flew through his goggles, and cut his left eye. Blood filled his goggles, but he refused to take relief. Eventually his engine soured, and he nursed the car to a 12th place finish (8 laps down). Brabham, though admittedly underpowered, finished a respectable 9th. Bobby Marshman, however, charged from last starting position (33rd) to finish 7th. After the race, the panel of 22 voters deadlocked in a tie between Marshman and Jones. As a result, co-winners were declared for the first time. Rather than split the prize money, the two drivers received duplicate awards.
1962 — Jim McElreath (started 7th, finished 6th; 200 laps)
Five rookies made the field, with Jim McElreath starting 7th and finishing 6th. Early in the month, as drivers were chasing the elusive 150 mph barrier, McElreath was among the top of the speed chart. He ran a practice lap of 147.5 mph, then followed it up with a lap of 148.2 mph on Friday (the day before Pole Day). During time trials, McElreath ran lap of 149.329 mph and a four-lap average of 149.025 mph. Fellow rookie Dan Gurney was right behind him, qualifying 8th at 147.886 mph. On race day, none of the other four rookies made it beyond the halfway point. Gurney dropped out with a broken rear end. McElreath became the second driver to win in a unanimous vote for rookie of the year.
1963 — Jim Clark (started 5th, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
A huge contingent of rookies arrived at the Speedway for 1963. At least 19 were on the initial entry list, while as many as 25 may have been on the grounds at some point during the month. Only five rookies, however, qualified for the race. Jim Clark qualified 5th, the only rookie to crack the top ten. On race day, Clark led 28 laps, and finished second. Clark got within 6 seconds of the lead with about 25 laps to go, but had to back off to conserve fuel, and Parnelli Jones won by 33.43 seconds. Jones survived a controversy late in the race, whereby his car was observed leaking oil from the external tank. USAC officials contemplated putting out the black flag, which would have required Jones to go to the pits for consultation – such action could have handed the lead (and the victory) to Clark. Ultimately, the officials elected not to penalize Jones, and the results were unchanged. At the victory banquet, Clark’s award of $500 cash and a year’s supply of meat (from Stark & Wetzel) was substituted with $1,000 cash since he lived in Scotland and his home was considered too far away for shipping. Future three-time winners Johnny Rutherford and Bobby Unser both dropped out early, placing 27th and 33rd, respectively, in their rookie appearances.
1964 — Johnny White (started 21st, finished 4th; 200 laps)
A total of seven rookies made the starting field. Four were running at the finish, with Johnny White finishing 4th, the only one to complete the full 500 miles. White, the winner of the 1963 Little 500, made only one pit stop, and stretched his fuel to the finish, despite the worries of his crew. Rookie Dave MacDonald was fatally injured in the fiery crash with Eddie Sachs on lap 2, and fellow rookie Ronnie Duman became caught up in the accident as well. About a week after the race, White was seriously injured in a sprint car crash at Terra Haute. He was paralyzed from the neck down, and never raced again. He died in 1977. As in previous years, the prize package included a trophy, $500 cash, and a year’s supply of meat (approximate $500 value).
1965 — Mario Andretti (started 4th, finished 3rd; 200 laps)
The 1965 rookie class is often cited as one of the best in Indy history. Eleven rookies made the race, including future “500” winners Mario Andretti, Al Unser Sr., and Gordon Johncock, along with notables such as Joe Leonard, George Snider, Jerry Grant, Bobby Johns, and Masten Gregory (who won that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans). Mario Andretti’s car was a little late to arrive, and mechanical problems prevented him from passing his rookie test until May 11, but he was quickly up to speed. On pole day, Andretti set an early one-lap track record of 159.405 mph, with a four-lap track record of 158.849 mph, to briefly sit on the pole. Andretti’s time was later bested, and he qualified 4th. On race day, five rookies finished in the top ten. Andretti finished third, just 6.40 seconds behind second place Parnelli Jones. Andretti very nearly came home second, as Jones was critically low on fuel (he ran out of fuel on his cool down lap). Andretti was named rookie of the year, the first of four members of the Andretti family to earn that honor. Andretti received the traditional $500 check, and a year’s supply of meat. In 2016, Andretti’s 1965 rookie car was restored by Ray Evernham. The car won Best in Class – Race Cars (1961–1967), and the Phil Hill Restorer’s Award, at the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. Andretti drove the car at Indy in 2016, and the car has made multiple subsequent appearances at Indy and elsewhere. The car was sold at auction for $2.2 million in 2022.
1966 — Jackie Stewart (started 11th, finished 6th; 190 laps)
At the 50th Indianapolis 500 in 1966, seven rookies made the starting field. Three, however, were eliminated in the crash at the start, and failed to complete a lap. Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill avoided the crash, while Mel Kenyon and Carl Williams were able make repairs and rejoin the race. Stewart led 40 laps during the race, and had a lap lead over the field late in the going. On the 191st lap, Stewart slowed due to low oil pressure, and parked the car near the exit of turn four. That handed the lead over to another rookie, Graham Hill, who led the final nine laps en route to victory. Hill won the race in his first start, while Kenyon finished 5th. With only seven cars running at the finish, Stewart was still credited with 6th place. Even though Hill won the race as a rookie starter, Stewart’s performance earned him enough votes to win the rookie of the year award. Stewart considered the $500 prize (and the year’s supply of meat) a pleasant surprise and a nice consolation.
1967 — Denis Hulme (started 24th, finished 4th; 197 laps)
Two rookies were running at the finish, with Denis Hulme charging from 24th starting position to finish 4th. Rookie Art Pollard started 13th, but managed only 8th on race day. Five rookies made the field, and no less than twenty were on the entry list. For the final time, Stark & Wetzel’s prize package consisted of $500 and a year’s supply of meat.
1968 — Bill Vukovich II (started 23rd, finished 7th; 198 laps)
Rookies Bill Vukovich II, Mike Mosley, and Sammy Sessions finished 7th–8th-9th, respectively. Vukovich, son of 1953–1954 winner Bill Vukovich, completed 198 laps. His day was not without incident, as he was black-flagged early on for a suspected oil leak, and tangled with Mel Kenyon and spun in turn four on the leader’s lap 127. He rejoined the race and finished a lap ahead of both Mosley and Sessions. Starting in 1968, the prize package no longer included the “year’s supply of meat”. Stark & Wetzel updated the award to a trophy or plaque and $1,000 cash (up from $500).
1969 — Mark Donohue (started 4th, finished 7th; 190 laps)
Mark Donohue (7th) won the rookie of the year award, despite finishing ten laps down, and seven laps behind fellow rookie Peter Revson (5th). Five rookies made the field, with Revson and future “500” winner Donohue the only two running at the finish. The voters took into account the fact that Donohue qualified 4th (setting a rookie speed record in the process), ran in the top ten all afternoon, and was as high as third at one point. With 25 laps to go, however, Donohue had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a failed magneto. The crew switched out the magneto, but he lost about 12 minutes in the pits. By the time he had returned to the track, he had slipped to 7th place. Revson, who qualified last (bumping his way into the field at the 6 o’clock gun), lost a cylinder, and in large part due to the heavy attrition rate, steadily worked his way up to a mostly uncontested 5th-place finish. Donohue’s 7th place finish represented Roger Penske and Penske Racing’s first-ever Indianapolis 500 participation and first of four rookie of the year awards.
1970 — Donnie Allison (started 23rd, finished 4th; 200 laps)
As many as 22 rookies were entered, but only four qualified for the race. Three of the four rookies were running at the finish, with Donnie Allison (a NASCAR regular) completing all 200 laps. Allison (driving a A.J. Foyt team car) suffered a crash on May 9, but was able to put his car in the field during the first weekend of time trials. He then departed for Charlotte, and won the World 600 (with some relief help from Lee Roy Yarbrough) on Sunday May 24. Allison returned to Indy, and charged from 23rd starting position to an impressive 4th place finish.
1971 — Denny Zimmerman (started 28th, finished 8th; 189 laps)
Denny Zimmerman was the only rookie (out of four) running at the finish. He won the $1,000 prize, along with a ring and a plaque. John Mahler was actually the fastest rookie qualifier. But at the conclusion of time trials, car owner Dick Simon announced (due to sponsorship commitments) that he was removing Mahler and replacing him in the cockpit for race day. By rule, the car was moved to the rear of the field. Mahler was presented with the Jigger Award, and since he was technically withdrawn as a driver, remained eligible for the rookie of the year award for 1972. Simon (not a rookie) drove the Mahler car from 33rd starting position to a 14th place finish.
1972 — Mike Hiss (started 25th, finished 7th; 196 laps)
Out of eight rookies, three placed in the top ten. Sam Posey qualified 7th and finished 5th with 198 laps. But Mike Hiss charged from 26th to 7th, two spots behind Posey. Posey posted the fastest qualifying speed among the rookies, but admittedly ran a “cautious” race. Hiss received the $1,000 award over Posey in a close vote even though Hiss spun around in the south shortchute on lap 194. He did not hit the wall, and continued. After race winner Mark Donohue took the checkered flag, Posey ducked into the pits for a splash-and-go pit stop for fuel, as did Mario Andretti. Andretti had no more fuel in his pitside tank, but Posey did, and Posey got back on the track for the final few laps. Posey tentatively placed 6th, and Hiss 8th, but when official results were posted the next morning, Jerry Grant was disqualified for allegedly taking on fuel from teammate Bobby Unser’s pit. Grant was dropped from 2nd to 12th, effectively advancing Posey to 5th and Hiss to 7th.
1973 — Graham McRae (started 13th, finished 16th; 91 of 133 laps)
Only three rookies made the field in 1973, the fewest since World War II. NASCAR regular Bobby Allison qualified fastest (12th), but Graham McRae was only one position behind Allison (13th). Allison was attempting match his brother Donnie Allison, who won Rookie of the Year in 1970, to become the first pair of brothers to win the award. He won the Jim Clark Award, but failed to become the year’s top rookie. Allison dropped out early, completing only one lap with a broken connecting rod. Jerry Karl completed only 22 laps. He spent a considerable amount of time in the pits while the team worked on mechanical issues. He got back out on the track during the final yellow, and was officially running at the finish (he placed 26th). McRae was credited with 92 laps before dropping out with a broken header, but was by far the highest finishing rookie. McRae’s winning of the rookie of the year, however, came under a cloud of tragedy. One of McRae’s teammates Swede Savage suffered a terrible crash, and eventually died in the hospital on July 2. A crew member of McRae’s team, Armando Teran, was killed in the aftermath of Savage’s crash. He was struck by a fire truck heading northbound on pit road towards the scene of the accident. McRae returned to the Speedway in future years, but never managed to qualify for the “500” again. In his final attempt (1978) he was bumped with only two minutes left and wound up being the first alternate.
1974 — Pancho Carter (started 21st, finished 7th; 191 laps)
Only two rookies were running at the finish. Second-generation driver Duane “Pancho” Carter Jr. (son of Indy veteran Duane Carter Sr.) was 9 laps down in 7th place, while Tom Bigelow finished 12th completing 166 laps. On lap 141, Carter was being lapped on the inside by race leader Johnny Rutherford. The cars nearly clipped wheels. Carter appeared to get into dirty air and he broke into a spin in turn one. He almost collected Jim McElreath, but he did not hit anything, and spun harmlessly to the inside grass. He kept the engine running and was able to continue. Carter also may have brushed the wall (gently) at a different time of the race, but suffered no serious damage. The rookie of the year balloting was reported as close. Tom Sneva qualified eighth and ran as high as fourth until he dropped out on lap 95 with gearbox failure (finished 20th). Sneva was a close second in the voting. Carter would go on to also be named the USAC rookie of the year for the 1974 season.
1975 — Bill Puterbaugh (started 15th, finished 7th; 165 of 174 laps)
After six years failing to qualify, Bill Puterbaugh finally made the field in his seventh attempt. Puterbaugh was the fastest of four rookies, and won the inaugural Fastest Rookie Qualifier award (see below). On race day, Puterbaugh finished 7th, completing 165 of 174 laps. On the 174th lap, a heavy downpour pelted the Speedway, and the red and checkered flags came out, ending the race early. Coming out of turn four, several cars began to hydroplane and spin out. Puterbaugh became tangled up in a crash on the mainstrech. The only other rookie running at the finish was Sheldon Kinser, who was 12th (13 laps down).
1976 — Vern Schuppan (started 17th, finished 18th; 97 of 102 laps)
Out of four rookies, Vern Schuppan was the highest starting rookie (18th). He notably passed his rookie test in only one day, and was one of only two foreign drivers in the field. Driving for Dan Gurney, he was five laps down in 18th place when the race was stopped and eventually called for rain after the conclusion of lap 102. Schuppan suffered a blistered tire early on and had to make an unscheduled pit stop, then his crew had a fuel spill in the pits on lap 90. He returned to the track unaffected and unaware of the spill, and finished a lap ahead of the next best rookie, Billy Scott (who was the fastest rookie qualifier). During the month of May 1976, Janet Guthrie arrived at the track as a rookie, the first female driver to enter at Indianapolis. She passed her rookie test, and showed some speed in one of A.J. Foyt’s backup cars, but was not able to qualify. She would return with a successful effort in 1977.
1977 — Jerry Sneva (started 16th, finished 10th; 187 laps)
Of the seven rookies in the field, Jerry Sneva (brother of pole-sitter Tom Sneva) was the only one running at the finish. Driving in his first Championship Car race, Sneva was the only rookie to make it beyond the halfway point. Janet Guthrie, the first female driver to qualify for the “500” dropped out with mechanical problems after only 27 laps, and fastest rookie Danny Ongais dropped out on lap 90. Stark & Wetzel celebrated the 25th anniversary of sponsoring the Rookie of the Year award at their third annual “Bash”. The cash prize was also doubled to $2,000 plus a ring. The “Bash“, an informal gathering on the Tuesday before the race was attended by track president Tony Hulman, drivers, officials, Stark & Wetzel executives, as well as the “500” Festival Queen.
1978 — Co-winners were declared
Larry Rice (started 30th, finished 11th; 186 laps)
Rick Mears (started 3rd, finished 23rd; 103 laps)
Rick Mears was the fastest rookie, becoming the first rookie to qualify on the front row since Eddie Sachs in 1957. Mears had previously won the 1976 USAC rookie of the year award (for the 1976 season), and had entered at Indy in 1977 (failed to qualify). Mears had to make an early unscheduled pit stop to tighten his helmet strap, then dropped out with engine failure just past the halfway mark. Larry Rice, the former USAC Midget and Silver Crown Champion, charged from 30th starting position to finish 11th. Rice was running 10th about 12-13 laps down when his engine quit – just as race leader Al Unser Sr. was taking the white flag. As Unser crossed the finish line, Rice was parking his lifeless car down near turn one, just past the exit of the pits. Rice lost only one position as a result.
On Monday after the race, the initial voting ended in a tie. At the victory banquet, it was discovered that two of the voters had split their votes. They could not decide whom to vote for, and put both Rice and Mears first on their respective ballots. Officials requested that those two voters re-vote, and they both agreed. One voted for Rice, and the other voted for Mears, and a tie still prevailed. Officials at that point declared co-winners. The 1978 race would be the final time the award would carry the Stark & Wetzel name. Rath Packing (owners of Stark & Wetzel Foods), eliminated the division, and ceased sponsorship.
1979 — Howdy Holmes (started 13th, finished 7th; 195 laps)
The 1979 month of May saw the first USAC/CART “split” and a controversy during time trials. Despite a record number of entries, and an expanded field, only one rookie (Howdy Holmes) qualified for the race. The rookie class of at least seven drivers was arguably led by Hurley Haywood, former winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, 24 Hours of Daytona, and 12 Hours of Sebring and NASCAR regular Neil Bonnett. Haywood showed speed during the month, but blew an engine during qualifying. Bonnett withdrew after suffering mechanical problems, and scheduling conflicts with his NASCAR commitments. Dana Carter was bumped, while the qualifying attempts of Dick Ferguson and Bill Alsup were disallowed due to rules infractions. At the close of qualifying, Howdy Holmes was the only rookie in the field of 33 cars. On the day before the race, a special qualifying session was held – as a result of a turbocharger wastegate controversy that came up during time trials – in order to allow 11 bumped entries one additional opportunity to make the field. The 33 cars that had already qualified (including Holmes) were “locked-in”. If any of the 11 entries could qualify faster than the 33rd-fastest car, he would be added to the starting lineup. Only eight cars took to the track, and of them only only two were added to the field. Two rookies, Dana Carter and Bill Alsup, took part. Carter was too slow, and Alsup crashed. Despite the expanded field (35 cars) Holmes was still the only rookie to qualify, and clinched the Rookie of the Year Award by default. On race day, Holmes had to make an unscheduled pit stop after a few laps to tighten a loose clamp on the engine. He lost a few laps, and suffered brake problems, but raced up through the field. He finished 7th, five laps down. For 1979, the Rookie of the Year Award was now being sponsored by American Fletcher National Bank. The cash prize was increased from $2,000 to $5,000.
1980 — Tim Richmond (started 19th, finished 9th; 197 laps)
Ten rookies made the starting lineup in 1980, a sharp contrast from the previous year when there was only one. Young Tim Richmond led the large rookie class, which included such drivers as Hurley Haywood (back for his second year), Greg Leffler, Gordon Smiley, Dennis Firestone, brothers Don and Bill Whittington, Pete Halsmer, Rich Vogler, and several others. On Opening Day, Richmond breezed through his rookie/refresher test, turning in a fast lap of 185.491 mph. During the first week of practice, Richmond continued to show a considerable amount of speed. On Friday May 9, Richmond set the fastest lap of the month at 193.507 mph. However, on Pole Day morning (May 10), he suffered a crash during a practice run which sidelined him for several days. Without a good backup car ready, the team actually bought a new PC-7 tub from Penske, and went to work repairing his machine. He got back out on the track Thursday, and put the car safely in the field on Sunday (5th-fastest overall).
On race day, Richmond led one lap and finished 9th. On lap 10 though, he nearly crashed. When Dick Ferguson and Bill Whittington crashed in turn two, Richmond came upon the scene too fast and nearly crashed into them. He slammed on the brakes and got sideways, flat-spotting all four tires, and needed to make a pit stop. Late in the race, while running in the top ten, Richmond ran out of fuel with about one lap to go. His car stopped at the exit of turn four, and race winner Johnny Rutherford famously stopped by and picked him up. Richmond rode back to the pit area on the sidepod of Rutherford’s Pennzoil Chapparal, much to the delight of the crowd. With Richmond in 9th, three other rookies finished 10th, 11th, and 13th. Roger Rager also led two laps during an early yellow, but crashed out on lap 55. Richmond was a unanimous pick for Rookie of the Year, and the $5,000 cash prize.
1981 — Josele Garza (started 6th, finished 23rd; 138 laps)
In 1981, USAC introduced the Rookie Orientation Program (ROP). For the first time, newcomers to the Speedway were able to take part in a special private test/practice session. Rookies were given the opportunity to take their first laps at the Speedway and acclimate themselves to the circuit in a more relaxed environment. ROP would be held without the pressure of veteran drivers crowding the track, without the distraction of spectators, and with minimal media coverage. The drivers were allowed to take the first phases of their rookie test during the ROP. They would then return to complete the final phase of the test during official practice in May. For 1981, ROP was held April 4-7, and a dozen drivers took part. A total of 17 drivers passed rookie tests in April-May, and the 1981 rookie class was led by such drivers as Bob Lazier, Geoff Brabham, Josele Garza, Scott Brayton, and Kevin Cogan. Rookies with previous appearances (but had previously failed to qualify) included Bill Alsup, Tony Bettenhausen Jr., Pete Halsmer, Herm Johnson, Roger Mears, and others. Other familiar name included Steve Kinser, Steve Chassey, and Phil Krueger. The expanded amount of track time helped focus some extra attention on the sizeable rookie class.
A total of ten rookies made the starting field, and rookie Herm Johnson was the first alternate. At least 12 more rookies made qualifying attempts (bumped, too slow, or incomplete attempts). Rain stretched Pole qualifying out over three days. Josele Garza qualified 6th (195.101 mph), with Bill Alsup 7th (193.154 mph). Garza immediately became a favorite for rookie of the year, despite his young age – reported to be 21 or 22, but he was actually 19. On race day, Garza led two times for a total of 13 laps, before crashing out in turn three on lap 138. Kevin Cogan finished 4th, and Geoff Brabham (a teammate to Garza) finished 5th. At Monday night’s Victory Banquet – while most of the attention focused on the controversy between Bobby Unser and Mario Andretti, Garza was named rookie of the year and received the $5,000 prize from American Fletcher National Bank (AFNB).
1982 — Jim Hickman (started 24th, finished 7th; 189 laps)
For the third year in a row, a long list of rookies qualified for the race. Future winners Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal, and future winning owner Chip Ganassi started in the first six rows. Roger Mears was the brother of Rick Mears, and Dale Whittington (along with his brothers Bill and Don) made for the first trio of brothers in the same race. Mears and Whittington were eliminated in the crash at the start. In a race with high attrition, most of the other rookies dropped out, leaving only Jim Hickman and Herm Johnson running at the finish. Hickman finished 7th, improving from 24th starting position. Hickman’s day was not without its problems. He had a lingering pushing condition, occasional overheating, and his rear view mirrors came loose. About two months later, Hickman was fatally injured in a practice crash at Milwaukee.
1983 — Teo Fabi (won pole position, finished 26th; 47 laps)
Teo Fabi, who came to the Speedway and to Indy car racing with experience in Can-Am, Formula One, and sports cars, was fast at Indy from moment he arrived. During a private test in March, he reportedly ran laps of 198.6 mph and 202 mph – quite a bit faster that he would be permitted to run during ROP. By the end of the first week of practice, Fabi was among the top ten in practice speeds with a lap of 203 mph. The first weekend of time trials was rained out, and pole day moved to the third day (May 21). Fabi set new one-lap and four-lap track records to win the pole position. He became the first rookie pole winner since 1950 (Walt Faulkner), the first rookie fastest qualifier since 1960 (Jim Hurtubise), and first rookie to set a track record during qualifying since Mario Andretti in 1965.
On race day, Fabi took the lead at the start and led the first 23 laps. He dropped out due to a faulty fuel gasket. During an early pit stop, the team suffered a fuel spill when the fueling mechanism failed, and he was out of the race after only 47 laps. Four rookies placed ahead of Fabi, lead by Al Unser Jr., who placed 10th. Unser’s run, however, was largely overshadowed by a “blocking” controversy in the closing laps. Fabi became the first rookie to win the pole position since the Rookie of the Year award had been established, and took home the $5,000 cash prize from AFNB. Fabi later in the year won the CART rookie of the year award, the first driver to sweep both the “500” and CART top rookie honors.
1984 — Co-winners were awarded
Roberto Guerrero (started 7th, finished 2nd; 198 laps)
Michael Andretti (started 4th, finished 5th; 198 laps)
Three rookies – Roberto Guerrero, Al Holbert, and Michael Andretti finished in top five. Second place Guerrero was the highest finishing rookie since Graham Hill won the race in 1966. On pole day, Michael Andretti qualified 4th with a four-lap average of 207.805 mph. Michael notably out-qualified his father Mario, who set a 1-lap track record (and was poised for a front-row starting position) before his car quit on the final lap. Guerrero qualified 7th, Tom Gloy 12th, Holbert 16th, and two-time Formula One World driving champion Emerson Fittipaldi 23rd. On race day, the rookies each had ups and downs. Future two-time Indy 500 winner Fittipaldi had a quiet debut, dropping out early with engine failure. Gloy placed 14th, falling out late with engine trouble.
Roberto Guerrero had an eventful ride to second place. It was his third career Indy car race, but since he had dropped out early at both Long Beach and Phoenix, Guerrero was going to be making his first pit stop in competition. He wound up overshooting his pit stall, and had to circulate an extra lap. Later on lap 59, Guerrero was almost caught up in the Patrick Bedard wreck. Approaching the crash scene, Teo Fabi locked up the brakes, just avoiding a collision with another car. Guerrero was right in the mix, and in a chain reaction, Danny Sullivan ran over the back wheel of Guerrero’s car. Sullivan’s car jumped in the air, and suffered a damaged suspension. Guerrero was able to continue. Later on lap 154, Guerrero spun in turn two, suffering a flat tire. By the end of the race, a timing & scoring problem had caused confusion in the standings. Guerrero himself was unaware he was running second – a result not confirmed until official results were posted the following day. At the checkered flag, Guerrero was positioned right behind race winner Rick Mears, charging and seemingly attempting to get one of his laps back. He crossed the finish line two laps down plus a fraction of a second behind Mears.
Al Holbert, the IMSA and 24 Hours of Le Mans champion, cracked the top ten by lap 50. However, on his last pit stop, he took on a bad set of tires, and lost the handling of the car. He wound up 4th. Michael Andretti had a great start, running as high as 3rd. He battled some handling problems after his first pit stop, but came home 5th.
At the Victory banquet on Monday night, Roberto Guerrero and Michael Andretti were voted co-Rookies of the Year. American Fletcher National Bank had initially posted a $7,500 cash prize, but since there were co-winners, Guerrero and Andretti split the money, earning $3,750 each (plus a plaque). Guerrero went on to win the 1984 CART rookie of the year award, the second driver in a row to sweep both rookie awards.
1985 — Arie Luyendyk (started 20th, finished 7th; 198 laps)
Two rookies (Arie Luyendyk and Ed Pimm) finished in the top ten. Luyendyk, the reigning Super Vee champion and future two-time Indy 500 winner, breezed through his rookie test and became the first Dutch driver to qualify at Indianapolis. He was an early favorite for rookie of the year, along with Pimm (who was the fastest rookie qualifier). On race day, Luyendyk climbed from 20th starting position to run in the top ten as early as lap 30. Luyendyk had two close calls. He got into oil after Scott Brayton blew his engine, and nearly got sideways. Later in the race, he had to take evasive action to avoid the crashing car of John Paul Jr. With his helmet visor stuck closed, he also was unable to take on any liquids during the race – although he claimed he did not want anything to drink. Luyendyk won Rookie of the Year, then went on to win the CART rookie of the year award, the third year in a row a driver swept both rookie honors.
1986 — Randy Lanier (started 13th, finished 10th; 195 laps)
In 1986, the rookie class included multiple drivers who had been to the Speedway in previous year(s), but had yet to successfully qualify for the race. In a year in which the entry list was noticeably small, nine rookies were at the track, but only four made the race. Jacques Villeneuve (uncle of the 1995 winner) had previously qualified for the race in 1984. However, he crashed during a practice run and was forced to withdraw. He returned in 1985, but suffered another crash and again missed the race. He finally made the race in 1986, and but dropped out with mechanical problems. Randy Lanier, the 1984 IMSA GTP champion, first arrived at Indy in 1985, and took his rookie test. However, during the first week of practice, USAC officials sent him away to get more experience. According to Lanier, it was the result of him not slowing down for a yellow light, then getting into a heated verbal exchange with the chief steward.
Lanier returned for 1986, and qualified 13th, as the fastest rookie qualifier. Lanier finished 10th, five laps down. He was the only rookie still running at the finish. With 13 laps to go, Lanier became entangled in the battle for the race lead. Race leader Rick Mears came up on him in traffic, and Lanier briefly help him up going through turn two. Bobby Rahal and Kevin Cogan were able to pass Mears, who dropped to third in the exchange. Rahal went on to win, Cogan finished second, and Mears wound up third. Lanier was named Rookie of the Year, and in the the final year sponsored by AFNB, the award increased substantially from $2,500 to $10,000.
The 1986 race would be Randy Lanier’s only start at Indy. Just weeks prior to the 1986 race, Bill and Don Whittington pled guilty to drug smuggling and tax evasion charges, stemming from their marijuana smuggling operation. Fellow IMSA drivers John Paul Sr. and John Paul Jr. had also separately been arrested for drug trafficking and various other crimes in 1985. Lanier had been a teammate with the Whittingtons in sports car racing. And while he was not involved with the Whittington’s drug ring, (and denied any involvement with them) Lanier in fact operated one of his own. His name was already being mentioned with some suspicion. Lanier suffered a fractured leg in a crash at the 1986 Michigan 500 in August, and was forced to sit out a few races. Before he could get back behind the wheel, he was arrested and brought up on drug trafficking charges. Lanier subsequently fled the county, becoming a fugitive for a year. He was found and caught in October 1987, and spent 27 years in prison. He was released in 2014.
1987 — Fabrizio Barbazza (started 17th, finished 3rd; 198 laps)
Out of six rookies, three finished in the top ten. The 1987 rookie class was arguably led by Davy Jones, a 22-year old who had been racing for 17 of those 22 years. Driving for A.J. Foyt, Jones started 28th, but he was the fastest rookie qualifier, and the 10th-fastest car overall in the field. On race day, however, Jones dropped out early with a blown engine. Jones’ teammate and fellow rookie Stan Fox was the only Foyt team car running at the finish.
Fabrizio Barbazza (3rd), Stan Fox (7th), and Jeff MacPherson (8th) all placed in the top ten. Barbazza, the 1986 ARS champion, was two laps down at the end. Barbazza survived a 360° spin in turn four, and a minor late-race “blocking” situation, to score his only top three finish in Indy cars. Barbazza was named Rookie of the Year, the first time since 1954-1955 that a car owner/team won the rookie of the year award in consecutive years. Frank Arciero (Arciero Racing), captured the award also in 1986 with Randy Lanier.
1988 — Billy Vukovich III (started 23rd, finished 14th; 179 laps)
Billy Vukovich III became the first third-generation driver to start at the Indy 500. He was the son of Bill Vukovich II (the 1973 runner-up), and the grandson of 1953–1954 Indy 500 winner Bill Vukovich. Bill II had won the Rookie of the Year award (1968), thus he and his son Billy III became the second father/son duo to win the Rookie of the Year award at Indy (after Mario & Michael Andretti). Billy III was the only rookie running at the finish, albeit 21 laps down. Dominic Dobson was the fastest rookie qualifier, but he dropped out with a coolant leak. John Andretti, nephew of Mario and cousin of Michael, was attempting to become third member of the Andretti family to win rookie of the year. Andretti started 27th, and ran as high as 10th. But he too dropped out with engine problems on lap 114. The balloting was described as close, with Vukovich narrowly edging out Andretti. The award, sponsored by Bank One, was worth $10,000. Billy III’s 14th-place prize money totaled $125,603 – more that his grandfather earned for either of his two victories.
1989 — Co-winners were declared
Bernard Jourdain (started 20th, finished 9th; 191 laps)
Scott Pruett (started 17th, finished 10th; 190 laps)
Three rookies were running at the end, finishing 9th, 10th, 11th. John Jones was fastest rookie qualifier, and came home 11th. Bernard Jourdain was the slowest qualifier in the field (“on the bubble”), surviving a last minute bump attempt by Johnny Rutherford. At the 6 o’clock gun, just after taking the green flag, Rutherford blew his engine and Jourdain held on to make the race. Scott Pruett (the 1987 SCCA Trans Am champion), driving for Truesports, had some early difficulties acclimating to the track. With no previous high speed oval experience, Pruett was mentored by Rick Mears during practice, and was able to make considerable strides.
On race day, both Jourdain and Pruett drove relatively clean races and worked their way into the top ten. Both drivers had minor hiccups during the race. Jourdain stalled on the grid, and almost got left behind. Pruett ran over an air hose during a pit stop and was issued a stop-and-go penalty. After running as high as 6th, Pruett had to pit on lap 187 to change the battery, which likely cost him the position over Jourdain. With both drivers having vastly similar performances, a tie in the final voting seemed almost inevitable. Each driver was presented with a plaque, and despite the tie, both received the $10,000 cash prize.
1990 — Eddie Cheever (started 14th, finished 8th; 193 laps)
Only three rookies made the race, with two running at the finish – both placed in the top ten. During the offseason, Chip Ganassi bought out the old Patrick Racing Team, and rebranded it as Chip Ganassi Racing. He hired Formula One veteran, and future “500” winner Eddie Cheever as driver. Cheever qualified 14th, ahead of Scott Goodyear and Dean Hall. Cheever was driving the same car Emerson Fittipaldi drove to victory in 1989, but due to rule changes for 1990, the year-old cars were required to affix a diffuser to the underbody grounds effects tunnels. The diffusers were highly criticized and blamed for crashes involving the older cars. Cheever for the most part avoided the problems with the diffusers, but felt they were 2-3 mph off the pace because of it; he was quoted as saying that the device was like an “iron ball around our neck“.
Rookie Jeff Andretti (son of Mario and brother of Michael) was entered in 1990 but was bumped with 17 minutes left on the final day of qualifying.
On race day Cheever finished 6th, the highest placed rookie, and highest finishing of the year-old cars in the field. Goodyear (the future two-time runner up) placed 10th, while Dean Hall (in his only “500” start) was knocked out with damage from hitting a tire during a pit stop on lap 164. Cheever swept both the fastest rookie qualifier award and the Rookie of the Year. He was presented with the $10,000 prize from Bank One, along with a trophy. In 1990, Bank One unveiled a brand new trophy replica to be presented to each year’s recipient. At year’s end, Cheever was also named the 1990 CART Rookie of the Year, achieving nine top-ten finishes.
1991 — Jeff Andretti (started 11th, finished 15th; 150 laps)
The 1991 Indy 500 rookie class was a notable one. Willy T. Ribbs became the first African-American driver to qualify for the “500”, and Hiro Matsushita the first Japanese driver. After being bumped and failing to qualify in 1990, future “500” winner Buddy Lazier made the field, same for Mike Groff. Among the rookies that were entered but did not make the race – but would do so in future years – were Paul Tracy (who withdrew and did not practice), Mark Dismore (who was seriously injured in a crash during practice), Ted Prappas, and Davey Hamilton.
Jeff Andretti, son of Mario Andretti and younger brother to Michael Andretti, was bumped in 1990. He returned to Indy in 1991, and qualified for the middle of row four (11th). It marked the first time that four members of the same family qualified for the same race. Mario, Michael, Jeff, and John Andretti were in the 1991 race (all four would also be in the 1992 race). Jeff had come up through the open-wheel ladder, racing Formula Fords, Super Vees, ARS, and Atlantics.
On race day, some level of misfortune befell all five rookies. Lazier, Ribbs, and Groff all fell out early. Jeff Andretti (who ran as high as 8th) completed 150 laps before dropping out himself with a blown engine. Only one rookie was running at the checkered flag, Hiro Matsushita. However, after lengthy repairs, Matsushita was running 51 laps down, and was actually one lap and one position behind Andretti. Jeff Andretti became the third member of the Andretti family to take home rookie of the year honors.
1992 — Lyn St. James (started 27th, finished 11th; 193 laps)
Lyn St. James became the first female rookie of the year, and at the time, the oldest rookie of the year (45 years, 2 months). The 1992 rookie class (7 drivers) included future CART champion Jimmy Vasser, and 2002 Indy 500 runner-up Paul Tracy. Brian Bonner, Ted Prappas, and Philippe Gache would never make another start at Indy, while Eric Bachelart would qualify only one additional time. On a cold, crash-filled day, Vasser, Bonner, and Gache would all be elmiated in wrecks. Tracy and Prappas dropped out with car problems, leaving Lyn St. James the only rookie running at the finish. Former Formula One World Champion Nelson Piquet also made his Indy debut in 1992. He was near the top of the speed charts during the first week of practice, but suffered serious leg injures in a terrible crash, and was sidelined prior to time trials. Another rookie, Jovy Marcello, would be fatally injured in another practice crash on May 15.
Lyn St. James, a veteran of IMSA and Trans Am sports car racing, had class victories (GTO) at the 24 Hours of Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. She also once set a female closed-course speed record at Talladega Superspeedway. Her first visit to the Speedway came in November 1990. St. James took her first laps at the track during a private test arranged by Dick Simon. She became the third woman (after Janet Guthrie and Desiré Wilson) to test or practice at Indy. Nothing materialized for 1991, but a year later, St. James finally secured the necessary sponsorship. In April 1992 she was announced as an entry with Dick Simon Racing.
St. James did a private test at Texas World Speedway in April, then took part in Rookie Orientation at Indy. She had little difficulty passing her rookie test, but once practice began in May, it was evident her car lacked speed. Driving a Lola powered by an older Cosworth DFX, she waved off on her first qualifying attempt. During the second week of practice, she received permission from Ford Motor Company (she had a long-time personal service contract with Ford) to switch engines. St. James took over a team back-up car, a 1991 Lola with an Ilmor-Chevrolet 265-A engine, and she was quickly up to speed. On Saturday May 16, she qualified 27th – the second female ever to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. Her fourth and final lap (221.119 mph) set a new official female closed-course speed record.
On race day, St. James drove a cautious race, and avoided the numerous crashes that eliminated over one-third of the field. St. James was named rookie of the year, taking home the $10,000 award from Bank One.
1993 — Nigel Mansell (started 8th, finished 3rd; 200 laps)
Nigel Mansell arrived at the 77th Indianapolis 500 as perhaps one of the most high-profile and celebrated “rookies” in Indy history. Mansell won the 1992 Formula One World Championship and subsequently signed with Newman-Haas Racing to drive in the CART PPG Indy Car World Series for 1993. Mansell won in his Indy car debut Surfer’s Paradise, but experienced a hard crash during practice at Phoenix. Mansell suffered a back injury, requiring surgery, and he was forced to miss the Rookie Orientation Program. Due to his extensive racing experience, USAC granted Mansell a waiver from ROP and allowed him time for recuperation. They arranged for him to instead take his mandatory rookie test upon his arrival at the track in May.
With much fanfare building, Mansell took to the track for the first time on Wednesday May 12. He breezed through his rookie test then returned to the track later in the afternoon to post a lap of 222.855 mph. By the end of the week, despite a lack of track time compared to the other drivers, Mansell had turned a lap of 224.949 mph, the 4th-fastest of the month.
So-called “Mansell mania” starting taking over the Speedway, as throngs of media, photographers, as well as fans, congregated around every place he went. Speedway officials had to make some special accommodations for the media, particularly the increased number of international media members. The requests for credentials, interviews, and media kits were considerably higher than previous years, and the Newman-Haas pit and garage area had to be cordoned off to maintain order. Some fellow competitors and observers took a somewhat dim view of the attention focused on Mansell, while others looked at it as an opportunity to avoid the limelight on themselves.
On Pole Day (May 15), Mansell was an early favorite for the front row. He waved off his first qualifying attempt (12:47 p.m.), and waited until later the day to go out again. At 5:06 p.m., with cooler conditions, Mansell made his second qualifying attempt. His four-lap average of 220.255 mph was considered a disappointment, but was good enough for 8th starting position. On his third lap, he veered sharply out of turn four, having nearly clipped the outside wall. Mansell was neither the fastest rookie, nor the highest starting rookie. Stephan Johansson the 1992 CART rookie of the year, qualified 6th (220.824 mph), while Stephan Gregorie (220.851 mph) qualified 15th and was the fastest rookie qualifier. Other notable rookies entered in 1993 included Robby Gordon, Robbie Buhl, Mark Smith, and Nelson Piquet – who returned to Indy after his devastating crash during practice in 1992. Buhl crashed in practice, and Gordon suffered a crash on the morning of pole day. Gordon’s crash led to the retirement of car owner A.J. Foyt, and earned him the dubious “Jigger Award“. Smith was bumped with less than 5 minutes left on Bump day, adding to the history and lore of the so-called “Curse of the Smiths” at Indianapolis.
As race day approached, Mansell’s goals were high. He was second fastest on Carburetion Day, which further bolstered his expectations for race day. With numerous sidebar stories during the month of May 1993, the attention focused on Mansell still outweighed most.
On race day, Mansell did not disappoint. He led three times for a total of 34 laps, and led as late as lap 184. With 16 laps to go, Mansell was leading Emerson Fittipaldi and polesitter Arie Luyendyk. The field was coming back for a restart, and Mansell’s inexperience on ovals caused him to misjudge the restart speed. Fittipaldi got the jump and passed Mansell along the outside down the frontstretch. Luyendyk also pounced, passing Mansell on the outside of turn one. Mansell quickly dropped from first to third, and Fittipaldi ultimately drove to victory. Desperately trying to keep up with the two leaders, Mansell brushed the wall in turn two on lap 192, bringing out a brief yellow. His steering was slightly damaged, and he banged his wrists, but Mansell stayed out and held on to finish third.
Mansell became the first Indy rookie to complete all 200 laps since Donnie Allison in 1970, and was the highest finishing rookie since Roberto Guerrero in 1984 (2nd). He won Rookie of the Year in what would be his first of two Indy appearances. Mansell went on to win the 1993 CART PPG Indy Car World Series championship, clinching CART rookie of the year honors as well.
1994 — Jacques Villeneuve (started 4th, 2nd; 200 laps)
Future “500” winner (1995) and future Formula One World Champion (1997) Jacques Villeneuve finished second and won Rookie of the Year honors. Villeneuve is son of the late Gilles Villeneueve and the nephew of “Uncle” Jacques Villeneuve who drove in the 1986 race. Driving for Forsythe-Green Racing, he also won the Pit Stop Contest on Carburetion Day, only the second rookie driver to win that event.
Villeneuve qualified 4th (inside of row two) as the fastest rookie qualifier. It was the highest starting position for a rookie since 1984. On race day, Villeneuve ran in the top ten most of the day. He led two times for 7 laps. He was running third (one lap down) in the closing stages. Emerson Fittipaldi was leading, with Al Unser Jr. in second, both fielding the Penske PC-23 Ilmor Mercedes-Benz 500I pushrod engines. Villeneuve was just a few seconds shy of being lapped for a second time. Shockingly, Fittipaldi tagged the wall in turn four on lap 185, handing the lead to Unser. Under the yellow, Villeneuve was able to circulate around and get his lap back. When the field bunched up behind the pace car, Unser Jr. was the leader with Villeneuve in second, now on the lead lap. When the race went back to green with ten laps to go, Villeneuve was mired deep in traffic, and was unable to mount any realistic challenge. The race ultimately finished under yellow with Unser winning, and Villeneuve second, the best finish for a rookie driver since 1984.
Bryan Herta, who survived the “bubble” spot on Bump Day finished 9th for A.J. Foyt Racing, the next best rookie. Of the nine rookies, five were running at the finish. Villeneuve took home the $10,000 rookie of the year prize from sponsor Bank One, as well as a separate $10,000 bonus from Valvoline for being the highest finishing rookie.
1995 — Christian Fittipaldi (started 27th, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
Three rookies finished in the top eleven. For the second year in a row, a rookie finished in second place. Christian Fittipaldi (nephew of two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi) charged from 27th starting position. He battled handling problems all afternoon, and a malfunctioning dashboard which flashed oil and water warning lights. Fittipaldi was sitting in fourth place when the field went back to green on lap 191. When race leader Scott Goodyear passed the pace car, the other cars in line checked up. Fittipldi slipped past Eliseo Salazar (another rookie), and very nearly passed Jacques Villeneuve as they approached turn one. Goodyear pulled away and was later displayed the black flag for passing the pace car. On lap 195, Goodyear was ceased from scoring, elevating Villeneuve to the lead and Fittipaldi to second. The race ended that way with Villeneuve (the 1994 rookie of the year) winning by 2.481 seconds over Fittipaldi.
Two of the six rookies were eliminated in the major crash on the first lap. Carlos Guerrero finished 33rd (last) in his only Indy appearance, and future “500” winner Gil de Ferran placed 29th. Christian Fittipaldi was named rookie of the year in what would be his lone Indy 500 appearance. During a brief stint racing in NASCAR, Fittipaldi was entered for the 2003 Brickyard 400, but failed to qualify.
1996 — Tony Stewart (qualified 2nd, started 1st; finished 24th; 82 laps)
The 1996 Indianapolis 500 was the first held as part of the new Indy Racing League (IRL). Due to the open-wheel “Split”, nearly all of the CART-based teams boycotted the event, but several familiar Indy car teams and owners such as A.J. Foyt, Dick Simon, Hemelgarn, and Menard were entered. Many new drivers and new teams arrived at Indy for 1996, some of which moved up from Indy Lights, AIS, or sports cars. A number of the drivers were inexperienced rookies from an obscure range of backgrounds, giving the impression of a field of so-called “replacement drivers”. No less than 22 rookies were entered, and 17 would make the race. The sizeable rookie class had some familiar names, including Mark Dismore, Robbie Buhl, and Davey Hamilton, each of whom had entered the “500” (but failed to qualify) in previous years. Formula One veteran Michele Alboreto, Buzz Calkins (who won the IRL season opener at Walt Disney World), and 1995 Toyota Atlantic champion Richie Hearn were considered contenders, but the bulk of attention focused on Tony Stewart. Stewart was the 1995 “Triple” USAC champion (Silver Crown, sprints, midgets), and signed with Team Menard. He finished second in his debut at Walt Disney World, and qualified 4th at Phoenix.
During the Rookie Orientation Program, Stewart set the fastest practice lap for a rookie driver. His best single lap of the month was 237.336 mph. On pole day, Stewart briefly sat on the pole. His second qualifying lap of 233.179 mph was a new one-lap track record, and stood as a one-lap rookie track record through 2021. Arie Luyendyk eventually bumped Stewart off the pole position, then Luyendyk was later knocked off by Scott Brayton. Luyendyk’s car failed post-qualifying inspection, and his run was ultimately disallowed. That moved Stewart up to second starting position (middle of the front row).
Six days later, Brayton was fatally injured in practice crash. Brayton was replaced by driver Danny Ongais, and the car was required to start at the rear of the field. Stewart, who was second on the grid, was elevated to start on the pole position on race day. Stewart took the lead at the start and led the first 31 laps. He led 44 laps overall before dropping out on lap 82 with a blown engine. A total of 13 of the 17 rookies dropped out. Two finished well out of contention (many laps down), and only two managed to crack the top ten. Richie Hearn completed all 200 laps to come home third, and Robbie Buhl was three laps down in 9th. Stewart was voted rookie of the year, taking home the $10,000 prize, plus $19,800 in lap prize money. Stewart led the most laps by a rookie since 1947, and at the Victory Banquet expressed some surprise to win the award over Hearn.
1997 — Jeff Ward (started 7th, finished 3rd; 200 laps)
In the second year for the IRL, a total of 13 rookies were in the race. Future “500” winner Kenny Bräck, future “500” pole winners Greg Ray and Billy Boat, and World of Outlaws legend Steve Kinser were among the rookies that made the field. On pole day, Vincenzo Sospiri qualified third (outside of the front row), only the second rookie to start on the front row since 1983. Jeff Ward, a former motorcross champion and part-time Indy Lights driver, qualified 7th. Greg Ray posted the second-fastest speed on Carburetion Day, while Kenny Bräck (Galles Racing) won the Pit Stop Contest.
Due to weather, the race stretched over three days. Rain washed out the race on Sunday May 25. On Monday May 26, the race was started but only 15 laps were completed before rain came again. The race was halted, and the resumption was postponed until Tuesday May 27. Of the 13 rookies, four were already eliminated on Monday. Five more rookies dropped out on Tuesday, with one (Sospiri) running many laps down. Of the three that finished in the top ten, Jeff Ward had the best day. Ward led two times for 49 laps, and led as late as lap 192. Driving for car owner Eddie Cheever, Ward was leading Scott Goodyear, Tony Stewart, and Arie Luyendyk by over 12 seconds when a caution came out with 11 laps to go. Running low on fuel, Ward was called into the pits on lap 192 for a splash-and-go. He slipped to 4th for the ensuing restart. Ward got by Tony Stewart for third place, and he finished third behind Treadway Racing teammates Luyendyk and Goodyear.
The next highest rookie was Billy Boat, a lap down in 7th. Ward was named rookie of the year, the best run at Indy by a former pro motorcycle racer since Joe Leonard – who finished third in both 1967 and 1972. Ward would follow up with a 2nd at Indy in 1999, a 4th in 2000, and won the IRL race at Texas in June 2002.
1998 — Steve Knapp (started 23rd, finished 3rd; 200 laps)
Eight rookies qualified for the 1998 race, and six finished in the top 12. Jimmy Kite crashed four times in testing and practice, but still wound up the fastest rookie J.J. Yeley (13th) had the best starting position, while Robby Unser became the sixth member of the Unser family to race in the “500”. Steve Knapp, making his first Indy car start, finished third, the only rookie on the lead lap. Knapp was the 1986 SCCA National Pro Sports 2000 champion, the 1996 U.S. F2000 champion, and also once coordinated the Newman-Haas test team for Mario and Michael Andretti.
Knapp charged from the middle of row eight to run 7th by lap 40. By lap 120, he was running third, and stayed close to the leaders for the remainder of the race. On his last pit stop, Knapp’s crew trimmed some downforce out of the car, but it adversely affected his handling. He found himself unable to go flat-out through turn one, and he was unable to keep up with leaders Eddie Cheever and Buddy Lazier. Knapp finished third, and was voted rookie of the year.
1999 — Robby McGehee (started 27th, finished 5th; 199 laps)
Only four rookies qualified for the race in 1999, the lowest thus far in the IRL era. For Wim Eyckmans and John Hollansworth Jr., it would be their lone Indy 500 appearance. Hollansworth qualified 12th and finished 13th. Eyckmans survived the “bubble” spot and held on to make the field after rain shut the track down at 2 p.m. on Bump Day. On race day, Eyckmans dropped out with mechanical problems, as did Jeret Schroeder who had an engine failure.
Robby McGehee secured the rookie of the year award with a strong 5th place finish. Through pit strategy he charged quickly from the 27th starting position to run 6th by lap 40. His race, however, was overshadowed by near-tragedy. During an early caution on lap 12, McGehee and several other cars headed to the pits. With McGehee in his pit receiving routine service, Jeret Schroeder was coming down pit lane. Jimmy Kite was dispatched out of his pit stall, and collided with Schroeder. Kite’s car careened into McGehee, and toppled chief mechanic Steve Fried, a crew member for McGehee’s team. Fried suffered serious head and chest injuries and was transported to Methodist Hospital in critical condition. He suffered a fractured skull, a broken jaw, broken nose, and other injuries. He reportedly stopped breathing, and was resuscitated on pit lane. Fried experienced memory loss, but recovered and returned to the track later that summer.
McGehee pressed on, and finished one lap down in 5th, while Hollansworth was eight laps down in 13th. McGehee was presented with the $25,000 prize from Bank One (up from $10,000 the previous year), and afterwards delivered the trophy to Fried in his hospital room. After Fried’s accident (and a succession of similar incidents), many pit crews began wearing helmets and other protective gear. Within a few years, all major forms of racing (including IRL, CART, NASCAR, etc.) implemented rules to make helmets mandatory for all crew members going over the wall.
2000 — Juan Pablo Montoya (started 2nd, finished 1st; 200 laps)
Juan Pablo Montoya became the first “rookie” winner of the Indianapolis 500 since Graham Hill in 1966. Montoya also became the first rookie to win the race and be named Rookie of the Year. Six other rookies qualified for the race, but none of them finished in the top ten. Montoya scored the first Indy 500 victory for Chip Ganassi Racing, and snapped the Second Starting Position Jinx (no driver had won the race from the middle of the front row since Mario Andretti in 1969). It was the first of two Indy 500 victories for Montoya (2000, 2015).
After four years of the CART/IRL open-wheel “Split”, Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced they were going to “cross the picket lines” and compete in the 2000 Indy 500 as a one-off entry. Ganassi teammates Jimmy Vasser (the 1996 CART champion) and Juan Pablo Montoya (the 1999 CART champion) would drive G-Force/Oldsmobile Aurora machines, with the familiar Target sponsorship (and associate sponsorship from Budweiser). Vasser had made four previous starts at Indy with a best finish of 4th in 1994. Montoya received a waiver from formal participation in Rookie Orientation (due to his experience on high speed ovals, as well as for scheduling conflicts). Despite their unfamiliarity with the IRL machines, both drivers were up to speed quickly with the IRL regulars.
IRL regular Greg Ray (the 1999 IRL champion) won the pole position and Montoya qualified second. Thus the reigning IRL and CART champions would line up on the grid 1st-2nd, respectively. Montoya and Vasser had to balance their time with the full-time CART schedule. On the day before the Indy 500, both Vasser and Montoya took part in the Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth. Montoya started on the pole for that race and finished 4th; Vasser finished 7th.
On race day, rain delayed the start until just after 2 p.m. Greg Ray took the lead at the start, and led the first 26 laps. Montoya was running a close second in the early stages. On lap 25, Ray and Montoya encountered heavy lap traffic coming out of turn four. As they came down the frontstretch to start lap 26, the cars went four-wide. Montoya got by Ray (and two lap cars) on the inside to take the lead going into turn one. The two cars would trade the lead once again (a lap later), but Montoya still held the lead at the stripe. Montoya would go on to dominate the race leading 167 of the final 174 laps.
Driving a nearly flawless race, with lightning-fast pit stops, Montoya stretched out to a lead of almost 30 seconds at one point in the first half. A series of cautions in the second half bunched up the field, and Montoya’s lead mostly evaporated. On a restart on lap 162, Buddy Lazier was less than a second behind Montoya, and was able to stay within striking distance for several laps. The final caution came out on lap 174, and both Montoya and Lazier ducked into the pits for their final stops. Montoya’s team had the quicker pit stop and he came out ahead. However, Jimmy Vasser was off-sequence with the leaders and he stayed out and took over the lead.
The green came out for the final time with 23 laps to go. Vasser led with Montoya second, Eliseo Salazar third, Jeff Ward fourth, and Lazier back to fifth. Vasser’s lead did not last long as Montoya got by him on lap 180. Montoya pulled out to a comfortable lead while the other cars battled one another for position. Lazier, mired in traffic, eventually picked off both Ward and Salazar, the passed Vasser for second. By the time Lazier was able to set his sights on Montoya, it was too late. Montoya held about a straightaway lead, and cruised over the final few laps to take the checkered flag. Montoya set a record for the most laps led by a rookie (167), and drove the fastest race (167.607 mph) since 1991. Montoya won the “500” in his first start by 7.1839 seconds over Lazier. The Ganassi team’s hopes for a 1-2 finish, however, were dashed when Vasser ran low on fuel. His crew gambled on fuel mileage, hoping for another yellow which didnot come. He had to pit for fuel with four laps to go, and finished a lap down in 7th.
Jaques Lazier (brother of Buddy) finished two laps down in 13th, the next-highest rookie, with Jason Leffler (17th) the only other rookie running at the finish. Future “500” winner Sam Hornish Jr. crashed, and Sarah Fisher (the third female driver in Indy history) crashed and wound up 31st. Montoya would not return to defend his Indy title in 2001. He moved to Formula One in 2001, then to NASCAR in 2006. He notched a second place finish at the Brickyard 400 in 2007, then had two near-misses at the “400” in 2009 and 2010. He finally returned to the IndyCar racing and the Indianapolis 500 in 2014, and won his second “500” in 2015.
2001 — Hélio Castroneves (started 11th, finished 1st; 200 laps)
A year after the Chip Ganassi Racing returned to Indy, more CART-based teams raced at the “500” in 2001. Team Penske entered, their first appearance since failing to qualify in 1995. Gil de Ferran (who himself completed 1 lap in the 1995 race), and Hélio Castroneves, were the drivers for Penske. Castroneves, a graduate of Indy Lights, and a three-year veteran of the CART series, was making his rookie start at the “500”.
During practice, Castroneves was among the top ten in speeds all week. On Thursday May 10 (incidentally his 26th birthday), Castroneves brushed the wall at the exit of turn one. The car did not suffer much damage, and Castroneves referred to it as merely a “kiss”. Team manager Tim Cindic, said to be joking with the young driver, told him that ‘rookies who brush the wall have to go out and help re-paint it’. Later in the evening, Castroneves rode out to the south short chute, and joyfully helped the track maintenance crew paint over the scuff marks.
Hélio Castroneves qualified 11th, but Bruno Junqueira (started 20th) would be the fastest rookie. On race day, Castroneves ran near the front all afternoon. He took the lead on lap 149, and led the final 52 laps to victory. His Penske teammate Gil de Ferran finished second, the first-ever 1st-2nd finish for Penske Racing at Indianapolis. After taking the checkered flag, Castroneves famously stopped along the mainstretch and climbed the catchfence. It was the first of his record-tying four Indy 500 victories. Castroneves was the second rookie in a row to win the race and the Rookie of the Year award together.
2002 — Co-winners were declared
Alex Barron (started 26th, finished 4th; 200 laps)
Tomas Scheckter (started 10th, finished 26th, 173 laps)
Future “500” winners Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan, along with CART race winner Max Papis, were part of the 2002 rookie class. But none of those three drivers were factors at the end. Kanaan led 23 laps but spun in an oil slick while leading, and crashed out on lap 90.
Tomas Scheckter led the most laps (85 total), and turned the fastest lap of the race. It was shaping up to be a dominating performance for Cheever Racing and car owner Eddie Cheever (the 1998 winner and 1990 rookie of the year). It would have also been the first Indy victory for the Nissan/Infiniti VHR engine. On lap 173, however, Scheckter pushed high at the exit of turn four. He crashed against the outside wall while leading with only 27 laps to go. His chances of becoming the third consecutive rookie winner were gone.
Alex Barron placed 4th, the only rookie out of nine to finish on the lead lap. Barron made his final scheduled pit stop on lap 165, about 4-7 laps later than most of the other leaders. Barron’s team felt they were in position to go the distance (while the other leaders would need to pit). He could have “stolen” a win on fuel mileage if the race stayed green the rest of the way. But the caution that came out for Scheckter’s crash foiled that strategy.
The day after the race, much of the media attention was focused on the controversial finish between Hélio Castroneves and Paul Tracy. Meanwhile, Scheckter and Barron were voted co-rookies of the year. Later in the season, Scheckter would win the 400-mile race at Michigan. A few weeks later, however, Scheckter was gone from the team. He missed the last three races of the season, and lost a chance to also win the 2002 IRL rookie of the year honors.
2003 — Tora Takagi (started 7th, finished 5th; 200 laps)
Some very recognizable names were part of the 2003 rookie class. It included future “500” winners Buddy Rice, Dan Wheldon, and Scott Dixon, plus future two-time runner-up Vitor Meira. Defending (2002) Indy Pro Series champion A.J. Foyt IV, Tony Renna, and Roger Yasukawa also were in the field. In a year where filling the field to 33 cars was somewhat in question, only 33 cars ended up making qualifying attempts. All nine rookies made the field without much adversity
The top rookie for 2003 wound up being Toranosuke “Tora” Takagi, a veteran of Formula One and CART. Driving for Mo Nunn Racing, Takagi qualified 7th, and finished 5th. During the final sequence of pit stops, he shuffled from 5th up to 1st and led two laps (168-169). However, on his final pit stop, Takagi locked up the brakes and slid a few feet past his marks. He lost several seconds as the crew had to wheel the car back to refuel. He re-joined the race and recovered to finish 5th.
2004 — Kosuke Matsuura (started 9th, finished 11th; 180 laps of 180)
Nine rookies were initially entered and eight qualified for the race. The rookie class included such drivers as Ed Carpenter, Darren Manning, and Jeff Simmons. Larry Foyt (grandson/adopted son of A.J. Foyt) and P.J. Jones (son of Parnelli Jones) were also in the field. Kosuke Matsuura led the speed chart on two of the practice days, and qualified 9th as the fastest rookie qualifier.
On race day, six of the eight rookies dropped out with crashes. When the race was officially called for rain after 180 laps (450 miles), Kosuke Matsuura was the only rookie running on the lead lap. He finished 11th, while Simmons was a lap down in 16th. Matsuura, driving for Super Aguri Fernandez Racing, stated afterward that bad pit stops took him out of contention for victory.
2005 — Danica Patrick (started 4th, finished 4th; 200 laps)
“Danica-mania” took over the Speedway during the month of May 2005. Danica Patrick, a former Toyota Atlantic competitor, moved up to the IRL IndyCar Series in 2005, driving for Rahal Letterman Racing. The team had won the 2004 race with Buddy Rice, but Rice suffered a concussion in a practice crash, and was forced to sit out the race. Patrick arrived at Indy with considerable pre-race attention, but mixed expectations.
On Opening Day, Patrick passed all four phases of the rookie test, and set the fastest lap of the day. On day two, she was again on top of the speed chart, and was starting to attract media attention.
By the end of the week, Patrick was the second-fastest speed chart, making her a favorite for the front row. On Saturday May 14, morning rain prompted officials to postpone Pole Day qualifying until the following day.
On Sunday May 15, Patrick turned a practice lap of 229.880 mph during the morning practice session. It was the fastest-single lap of the month, and immediately many eyes were on Patrick to possibly win the pole position. At 12:46 p.m., Patrick took to the track for her first qualifying attempt. Facing fairly cool conditions, Patrick’s car bobbled going into turn one on her first lap. Her first lap came in at only 224.920 mph. However, she made up the time on the next three laps, completing the run at 227.004 mph. The outstanding run was good enough for fourth starting position. It was noted that without the bobble on the first lap, she likely would have won the pole position. Her fourth lap (227.860 mph) was the fastest qualifying lap of all drivers for the day. Under the rules for the first time (“11/11/11”), drivers were permitted to withdraw their qualifying speeds and re-qualify in an attempt to improve their speed. After practicing further, and contemplating a second run, the team decided it was too risky, and elected to keep her speed.
Over the next two weeks, Patrick received a significant amount of attention. A media blitz saw her appear in 27 interviews, including Late Show with David Letterman (incidentally her car co-owner). She was also becoming a fan favorite, drawing large crowds.
Not to be ignored, the other rookies who qualified were Champ Car World Series champion Sébastien Bourdais, future “500” polesitter Ryan Briscoe, Patrick Carpentier, Tomáš Enge, and Jeff Bucknum. Despite Patrick’s speeds during practice and time trials, Bourdais – driving for Newman-Haas Racing – was the prohibitive favorite to finish the highest. All of the rookies made it to at least lap 150, but Patrick was the only rookie to finish on the lead lap.
The increased pre-race attention resulted in a sizeable increase in television ratings on race day. Patrick would lead three times for 19 laps. She became the first female driver to lead laps at the Indy 500, and led as late as lap 194. Patrick had an exciting, roller coaster day, leading to a 4th place finish, the highest finish for a female driver at the time. During a cycle of pit stops, Patrick came to the lead for the first time on lap 56. She stalled in the pits on lap 79, but stayed within striking distance of the leaders.
While running 8th on a restart on lap 155, Patrick did a quarter-spin in turn four. She clipped Tomáš Enge damaging her nosecone. Tomas Scheckter spun to avoid the incident, and crashed into the inside wall, while Jeff Bucknum, Patrick Carpentier, and Jaques Lazier were also caught up in the accident. Patrick ducked into the pits, and conducted permitted “emergency service” to replace the nosecone. Before the race went back to green, the team brought her in (lap 159) to change tires and top off the fuel. Patrick dropped to 11th, the last car on the lead lap. The team intended to go the rest of the way without another pit stop.
Roger Yasukawa nlew an engine, brining out the yellow on lap 171. Most of the leaders pitted, which shuffled Patrick to the lead. On lap 173, the green came out with Patrick leading, and the crowd roaring. In an effort to make it to the finish, she was instructed by her crew to dial down the fuel mixture. Dan Wheldon passed her for the lead on lap 186, but seconds later Kosuke Matsuura crashed in turn four.
With ten laps to go, Patrick got the jump on the restart, and took the lead going into turn one. She led the next three laps, but Wheldon again caught up to her. He took the lead for good with 7 laps to go, and would drive to victory. Patrick slipped to 4th. With less than two laps to go, Sébastien Bourdais crashed in turn three. The race finished under yellow with Patrick coming home 4th.
2006 — Marco Andretti (started 9th, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
Marco Andretti, son of Michael Andretti, and grandson of Mario Andretti, became the first third-generation driver to win the Rookie of the Year award. He also became the fourth member of the Andretti family to capture the rookie honors (Mario, Michael, Jeff). Driving for Andretti-Green Racing, his father Michael came out of retirement to race alongside his son. Father and son were running 1st-2nd with three laps to go before one of the most shocking finishes in Indy 500 history. Michael, back for what was his 15th “500”, was still searching for his first Indy victory.
Five rookies were on the 2006 entry list. Andretti qualified 9th, as the fastest rookiee and Townsend Bell was 15th. P.J. Chesson, Arie Luyendyk Jr., and Thiago Medeiros, rounded out the class. Medeiros was the 33rd qualifier, and filled the field with less than an hour left on Bump Day. All five rookies entered made the field. Medeiros’ spot was secured after Marty Roth crashed during a late practice run (and could not make a qualifying attempt).
On race day, Chesson was eliminated in a crash on lap 2. Medeiros, Luyendyk, and Bell also dropped out. On lap 190, Marco Andretti was making his final pit stop when a caution came out for a crash in turn two involving Felipe Giaffone. The yellow came as the other leaders were cycling through pit stops. Andretti narrowly escaped going a lap down, and was fortunate to have made his stop before the pits had closed. Others, including Tony Kanaan, were trapped out on the track, and had to wait to make their pit stop (under yellow) the next time around. After all of the leaders cycled through their stops, Michael Andretti (on a different pit strategy) shuffled to the front, with Marco Andretti now second. Scott Dixon was now third, with Sam Hornish Jr. (also on a different fuel strategy) was fourth.
The green came out with four laps to go. Michael led the field, with Marco in second. Hornish emerged in third place. With three laps to go, Marco pulled outside of his father down the frontstretch, and passed him for the lead in turn one. Marco began to pull away as Michael now assumed a blocking role to protect his son’s lead. Down the backstretch, Michael tried but failed to hold back Hornish.
With two laps to go, Marco led Hornish by half a second, with Michael now in third. Going into turn three, Hornish tried to dive under Marco, but found himself pinched to the grass and backed off. Hornish lost momentum, and Marco pulled out to a 1-second lead at the start/finish line. The white flag came out with Marco seemingly on his way to victory. Down the backstretch, he still led, but Hornish was beginning to close the gap. As they came out of turn four, Hornish drafted and slingshot past Marco to take the victory about 400 feet from the finish line. Hornish beat Marco Andretti by 0.0635 seconds, just over a car length (or about 15 feet), the second-closest finish in Indy 500 history at the time. It was also the first time in Indy history that a driver made a pass for the lead to win the “500” on the final lap.
Marco Andretti was a unanimous pick for Rookie of the Year, but the bitter defeat reflected upon the perceived “Andretti Curse“. Immediately after the race, a disappointed and somewhat befuddled Marco climbed from his cockpit and proclaimed “second’s nothing”.
2007 — Phil Giebler (started 33rd, finished 29th; 106 of 166 laps)
Only two rookies qualified in 2007, the fewest since 1979. Giebler was chosen as the rookie of the year, based on being the fastest rookie qualifier and the highest-finishing rookie. Giebler crashed during his first qualifying attempt, necessitating late-night repairs by the crew. He then crashed again during the race on lap 106 while running 19th. The only other rookie, Milka Duno, wrecked earlier in the race and finished 31st. Giebler’s 29th-place finishing position is the lowest ever for a rookie of the year selection. He was also the first rookie of the year to start 33rd (last) since Bobby Marshman in 1961.
2008 — Ryan Hunter-Reay (started 20th, finished 6th; 200 laps)
The first Indianapolis 500 held after the open-wheel Unification resulted in a field of many new faces. The IndyCar regulars were joined by numerous former Champ Car competitors. A total of 12 newcomers took part in Rookie Orientation. The rookie class of 2008 included future “500” winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Will Power, as well as Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson, and Oriol Servià.
In 2008, the 11/11/11 qualifying format was still being used. On Pole Day, Hideki Mutoh was the only rookie to make the top 11, and secured a starting position on the first day. Mutoh wound up the fastest rookie, lining up 9th. Only one rookie (Mario Domínguez) failed to qualify. The eleven rookies in the starting field were the most overall since 1997, and the most in a 33-car field since 1996.
On race day, five of the rookies dropped out. Ryan Hunter-Reay, a veteran of both the Champ Car World Series and IRL/IndyCar was the highest finishing rookie. Hunter-Reay had raced three seasons in Champ Car (two wins) and a partial season in IRL (2007). Despite only six starts, he clinched the 2007 IRL rookie of the year award. Hunter-Reay spent much of the race near the top ten and his 6th place finish was one spot higher than Mutoh (7th).
2009 — Alex Tagliani (started 33rd, finished 11th; 200 laps)
Four rookies qualified, and five actually started the race. Raphael Matos was the fastest rookie qualifier (started 12th). He was joined by Mike Conway, and former Champ Car World Series veterans Robert Doornbos and Nelson Philippe. On Bump Day, Alex Tagliani (another CART/Champ Car veteran) was sitting on the bubble with less than five minutes left in the day. Ryan Hunter-Reay got out on the track just before the 6 o’clock gun, and bumped out Tagliani by a mere 0.0324 seconds.
Later that same night, Conquest Racing announced that teammates Bruno Junqueira and Alex Tagliani was swap rides. Junqueira had put a second team car in the field (30th starting position). The driver swap put Tagliani behind the wheel of the #36 car, and according to the rules the car was required to be moved to the rear of the field (33rd starting position). The move was made due to contractual and sponsorship reasons, as Tagliani was the team’s full-time driver and Junqueira was to be an Indy-only entry.
On race day, Doornbos, Phillippe, and Matos were all involved in crashes. Tagliani steadily moved up from 33rd to finish 11th. He ran as high as tenth at one point in the race. Mike Conway, the only other rookie, was also running at the finish. But a late pit stop for fuel saw him slip to a disappointing 18th at the checkered flag.
Tagliani gained 22 positions – the most of any driver in the field – and was named the Chase bank Rookie of the Year ($25,000). The decision was met with some mild controversy, due to the fact that Tagliani had been been bumped. He became the first driver to win the award despite not having qualified for the race.
2010 — Simona de Silvestro (started 22nd, finished 14th: 200 laps)
Six out of the seven rookies entered qualified for the race, and four were running at the finish. On Pole day (Saturday May 22), Ana Beatriz qualified 21st, with Simona de Silvestro 22nd, and Bertrand Baguette 24th. All three managed to be “locked-in” qualifiers, having made the top 24. On Bump Day (Sunday May 23), Mario Romancini made the field as the fastest rookie, while future two-time “500” winner Takuma Sato (after initially being bumped), also posted a safe speed. Late in the day, the attention focused on Sebastián Saavedra and Jay Howard. Saavedra, driving for Bryan Herta Autosports – a team on a shoestring budget – crashed during a practice run on Sunday, and was sent to Methodist Hospital. He would be unable to re-qualify if he were to be bumped. In a rather dramatic final thirty minutes, Howard ended up too slow to make the field. Saavedra was bumped, but ultimately re-instated after Paul Tracy withdrew his already-qualified car. Tracy’s strategy was to re-qualify faster and in the process keep Howard off the track in the closing minutes. Tracy’s move backfired as he was too slow. Saavedra’s “bump day miracle” saw him make the field while laying in a hospital bed.
On race day, none of the rookies were in contention for the top ten. Romancini and Simona de Silvestro finished on the lead lap, placing 13th and 14th, respectively. There was some initial confusion as the the final positions, based on the yellow that came out for Mike Conway’s crash at the end. It was reported that de Silvestro was in full fuel saving mode during the final segment, and may have finished higher if not for the caution. She battled a loose machine, a broken water bottle (it was a very hot day), and narrowly missed being collected in at least two crashes. Voters selected de Silvestro as the Rookie of the Year, and she became the third female to win the award.
2011 — J.R. Hildebrand (started 12th, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
J.R. Hildebrand, the 2009 Indy Lights champion, took the lead with three laps to go. He appeared to be on his way to victory before he crashed on the last turn of the last lap. Dan Wheldon slipped by and took the checkered flag. Hildebrand’s wrecked car coasted across the line to finish 2nd.
In 2011, the Speedway celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first running of the Indianapolis 500 (1911). The race was the culmination of the three-year “Centennial Era”. Five rookies made the field, including future “500” pole winner James Hinchcliffe, Charlie Kimball (who would finish 3rd in 2015), Jay Howard, and Pippa Mann. J.R. Hildebrand was the fastest rookie qualifier, but he failed to advance to the Fast Nine Shootout (he qualified 12th).
On race day, both Hinchcliffe and Howard crashed out, while Mann was two laps down at the finish. Fuel strategy became the deciding issue for the leaders. During a caution on lap 164, Hildebrand was among several cars that pitted to top off their fuel. With 36 laps remaining, making it to the finish without another yellow was going to be challenging. As the laps dwindled down, one by one, the leaders – most running low on fuel – started ducking into the pits. Hildebrand, driving for Panther Racing, had been saving fuel during the stint. Panther had finished second the previous two years (2009-2010) with driver Dan Wheldon, and was still searching for their first Indy triumph.
With four laps to go, Bertrand Baguette clung to the lead with Dario Franchitti in second, and Hildebrand charging in third. Franchitti slowed to conserve fuel, and Hildebrand passed him to take over second place. Moments later, Baguette headed for the pits. With less than three laps to go. Hildebrand cycled to the front. With to laps to go at the stripe, Hildebrand held about a 4-second lead over Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon. Wheldon got by Dixon on the backstretch, and set his sights on the lead.
The white flag came out with J.R. Hildebrand leading Dan Wheldon by about 3 seconds. Running precariously low on fuel, Hildebrand still had enough of a lead going into turn three. As he approached turn four, Hildebrand rapidly encountered the lapped car of Charlie Kimball. Out of fuel, Kimball was coasting along the inside while line. Hildebrand went high to avoid the traffic, but got up into the “marbles”. He lost traction, and hit the wall coming off of turn four. With still a considerable amount of speed and momentum, and his foot still planted on the accelerator, Hildebrand’s wrecked car slid down the frontstretch. Before Hildebrand could cross the finish line, Dan Wheldon skirted by in the final 1,000 feet and took the checkered flag. Hildebrand’s wrecked and disabled car coasted aimlessly across the line to finish second, and finally came to a rest in the grass in turn one.
Hildebrand became the first driver in Indy history to crash while leading on the final lap. He was also the second rookie in five years to lead the race at the white flag – only to finish second due to a last lap pass (Marco Andretti, 2006). He nevertheless, easily won the vote for Rookie of the Year. He led three times for 7 laps, and his second-place prize purse of $1,064,895 was the highest-ever for a rookie runner-up. It was the third-highest, single-race payday all-time for a rookie driver, behind only Montoya (2000) and Castroneves (2001), who were race winners.
2012 — Rubens Barrichello (started 10th, finished 11th; 200 laps)
After 19 seasons (and eleven victories) in Formula One, Rubens Barrichello came to the IndyCar Series for 2012. Barrichello had notably won the 2002 U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis on the IMS road course. While Josef Newgarden was the fastest rookie qualifier, Barrichello was the highest finishing rookie (11th). Barrichello led two laps during a sequence of pit stops, but was not really a factor for the win. Newgarden dropped out with mechanical problems, and future “500” winner Simon Pagenaud finished 16th. Barrichello was named rookie of the year, in what would be his only Indy 500 appearance.
2013 — Carlos Muñoz (started 2nd, finished 2nd; 200 laps)
Four rookies were entered, and since only 33 cars made qualifying attempts, all four rookies made the starting field without much concern of being bumped. A.J. Allmendinger, a former Champ Car World Series driver and NASCAR competitor, moved to Team Penske in 2013, and made his first (and only) appearance at the Indy 500. He qualified 5th (middle of row two) and led three times for 23 laps. A loose clasp on his seatbelt, however, necessitated an unscheduled pit stop and he wound up finishing 7th.
Carlos Muñoz, an Indy Lights competitor, was making his first career IndyCar Series start. For most of 2013, he was driving for Andretti Autosport in both Indy Lights and IndyCar. Muñoz was quick all month. During Rookie Orientation/Refresher Tests (May 11), Muñoz set the fastest single lap for a rookie. During practice on both May 12 and May 16, he set the fastest lap of the day, then on Fast Friday, he put in the third-best speed. Muñoz advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout, and squeezed himself onto the front row, bumping his Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti out to third.
On Carb Day (May 24), Muñoz started on the outside of the front row for the Firestone Freedom 100 (Indy Lights race). He led 27 laps (of 40) and placed 4th in the famous four-wide finish.
On race day, the 2013 race was the Fastest Indy 500 in history to that point, with a record average speed of 187.433 mph. Muñoz led 12 laps during the race, an event that saw a record 68 official lead changes (and 84 lead changes unofficially). As the field was coming down for a restart with three laps to go, Ryan Hunter-Reay was leading Tony Kanaan, and Muñoz. The three cars went three-wide down the mainstretch, with Kanaan on the inside, and Muñoz going to the outside. Kanaan took the lead, with Muñoz tucking in right behind him in second. Just seconds later, Dario Franchitti brushed the outside wall in turn one, bringing out the yellow. With only two laps to go, the race finished under caution with Kanaan the winner. Muñoz finished second and won the $25,000 Rookie of the Year award. He never got the chance to set his sights on Kanaan over the final two laps. He continued a perceived “jinx” for the Second Starting Position.
Carlos Muñoz became the third Colombian-born Rookie of the Year. He nearly matched fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya’s achievement of winning the “500” as rookie – from the middle of the front row. Roberto Guerrero finished second and won co-rookie of the year honors as well. Muñoz would follow up with another second place at Indy in 2016. He would win one race on the IndyCar circuit, post five top-ten finishes at Indianapolis, then was out of the series after 2018.
2014 — Kurt Busch (started 12th, finished 6th; 200 laps)
Seven rookies qualified for the 2004 race. Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, made a highly-publicized effort at Indianapolis, attempting “Double Duty”. Busch was planning to drive in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 in same day – the first driver to attempt “Double Duty” since Robby Gordon in 2004. Busch had actually conducted an evaluation test in May 2013, and passed his initial rookie test. When he returned in 2014 with Andretti Autosport, due to his earlier test, coupled with his extensive experience with high-speed oval racing, he was required only to take a “refresher test”. Busch was the fastest rookie qualifier, posting the 10th-fastest speed on the first day of time trials. Later that night, he raced in the NASCAR Sprint All-Star race. On the second day of time trials, he qualified for the 12th starting position. Jack Hawksworth (13th) and Mikhail Aleshin (15th) were his nearest competitors.
During Post-Qualifying practice on Monday May 19, Busch suffered a hard crash in turn two. He was uninjured but forced to switch to a back-up car. Sage Karam, the 19-year old driving for Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing, qualified 31st. On Carb Day, he advanced to the finals of the annual TAG Heuer Pit Stop Challenge. There he finished runner-up to Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi Racing). Karam was a U.S. F2000 champion and the 2013 Indy Lights champion. Karam finished 3rd in the famous four-wide finish of the 2013 Freedom 100.
On race day, Kurt Busch did not lead any laps, but finished 6th on the lead lap. He slipped down to 20th position, then slowly worked his way up to the top ten. Busch took home the $25,000 rookie of the year award, the first NASCAR driver to do so since Donnie Allison in 1970. Busch tied Robby Gordon (2000) and Tony Stewart (2001) as the third “Double Duty” driver to post a 6th-place finish at Indy. After the race, he promptly flew to Charlotte, and raced in the Coca-Cola 600. At Charlotte, he blew an engine, and finished 40th. He completed a total of 906 miles of racing (out of 1,100 possible). Sage Karam charged from 31st to finish 9th. Karam received praise from some observers who thought he might have been more deserving of consideration.
2015 — Gabby Chaves (started 26th, finished 16th; 200 laps)
Only two rookies were entered and both qualified for the race. Gabby Chaves was the 2014 Indy Lights champion, and Stepahno Coletti was a veteran of several ladder series including Formula 3, GP3, and GP2. After multiple blowover crashes during practice, plus rain on pole day, the format for time trials was re-tooled. In the interest of safety, only one round of qualifying was utilized, followed by a special Last Row Shootout. Cars were required to qualify in race trim, and the turbocharger boost was set back to race levels. Chaves ranked 29th, and was locked-in to the field. Coletti ranked 32nd, and took part in the Last Row Shootout. Coletti qualified 32nd, but due to multiple drivers switches (involving other entries) he lined up 29th on the grid; Chaves lined up 26th. On race day, Coletti crashed out on lap 175. Chaves ran as high as 8th at one point in the race and finished 16th. For 2015, the cash prize for Rookie of the Year was increased to $50,000.
2016 — Alexander Rossi (started 11th, finished 1st; 200 laps)
Alexander Rossi won the 100th Indianapolis 500 in a dramatic fuel mileage gamble. Rossi stretched his fuel over the final stint, and coasted across the finish line 4.4975 ahead of second place Carlos Muñoz. Rossi became the third rookie to win the race and the Rookie of the Year award together. Rossi qualified tenth-fastest on Saturday, just missing out on making the Fast Nine Shootout. On Sunday, he qualified 11th, the highest starting and fastest rookie. He led 14 laps during the race, the only rookie out of five to lead laps. Award sponsor Sunoco unveiled a new trophy to go along with the $50,000 prize.
2017 — Fernando Alonso (started 5th, finished 24th; 179 laps)
On April 12, 2017, two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso made the shocking announcement that he would be skipping the Monaco Grand Prix and entering at Indianapolis. In a partnership with Andretti Autosport, he was entered under the banner of McLaren-Honda-Andretti, and his sported the familiar “papaya orange” livery made famous by McLaren. Alonso was the highest-profile rookie at Indy since Nigel Mansell (who was reigning World Champion at the time) arrived at Indy in 1993. Alonso had raced previously on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course – he finished second at the 2007 U.S. Grand Prix – but had never turned a lap on the oval.
Andretti Autosport arranged for a private test session for Alonso at Indy for May 3. With the track entirely to himself, he passed all three phases of his rookie test, with ease and without incident. The session was broadcast as a live stream through IndyCar’s social media channels, with combined live viewership estimated to be in excess of 2 million worldwide. Alonso departed for the Spanish Grand Prix, then returned and particpated in the regularly schedule Rookie Orientation on May 15. Alonso’s participation largely overshadowed the other three rookies in attendance. Ed Jones, Jack Harvey, and Zach Veach all passed their respective rookie tests, and with only 33 cars entered, all of the rookies would make the race without much difficulty.
On the first day of qualifying (Saturday May 20), Fernando Alonso qualified 7th, advancing to the Fast Nine Shootout. Ed Jones was the next-best rookie, placing 10th. On the second day of qualifying (Sunday May 21), Jones qualified for the 11th starting position. During the “Shootout”, Alonso made a strong run, but ultimately ended up qualifying 5th. Alonso’s month was not without incident, however. He suffered some engine trouble, and also struck and killed two birds during a practice run.
On race day, Alonso got off to an average start, but after the first round of pit stops, moved to the front. Alonso took the lead for the first time on lap 37. He would lead four times for 27 laps in his debut. In the second half, Alonso was running consistently in the top ten, and often among the top five, making some bold passes along the way. With less than 21 laps to go, Alonso’s engine blew going down the mainstretch. He parked the car in the infield of turn one and climbed out to a standing ovation. After an impressive performance, he was relegated to 24th place finish.
Ed Jones was running 4th when Alonso dropped out. Jones (the 2016 Freedom 100 winner), started 11th but ran over debris during the Jay Howard/Scott Dixon crash on lap 53. He fell to the rear of the field, but charged into the top five by the late stages. He finished third, battling closely with Helio Castroneves, who finished second.
Fernando Alonso was voted Rookie of the Year, but not without some mild controversy. Some media and fans, as well as observers on social media felt that Jones was equally (or more) deserving, and lost the award simply due to the massive amount of pre-race attention and hype focused on Alonso. Both Zach Veach and Jack Harvey dropped out, meaning Jones was the only rookie running at the finish, and the only to complete all 200 laps.
2018 — Robert Wickens (started 18th, finished 9th; 200 laps)
Four rookies – Robert Wickens, Kyle Kaiser, Matheus Leist, and Pietro Fittipaldi (grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi) were entered for 2018. Fittipaldi skipped the Rookie Orientation Program due to his participation in the 6 Hours of Spa. He was scheduled to return to Indy and take his rookie test during the month. However, Fittipaldi was injured in a crash at Spa, and was replaced by Zachary Claman DeMelo (also a rookie). Wickens set the fastest time during ROP and also set the second-fastest speed during “Fast Friday” practice. Leist qualified 11th, while Wickens managed only 18th starting spot – the worst of the four rookies.
During Post-Qualifying practice on Monday May 21, Wickens brushed the wall coming out of turn two, damaging his suspension. Continuing down the backstretch, the car veered to the outside wall, suffering heavy damage. The car would be repaired in time for the race. On race day, all four rookies made it beyond the halfway point. Kaiser fell out on lap 110 with mechanical problems, while Wickens and Leist finished on the lead lap.
Wicken’s 9th place finish earned him the rookie of the year. He became the third Canadian to win the award, after Jacques Villeneuve and Alex Tagliani. Less than three months later, Wickens’ IndyCar career was cut short after a serious crash at Pocono.
2019 — Santino Ferrucci (started 23rd, finished 7th; 200 laps)
The 2019 Indy 500 rookie class included future “500” winner Marcus Ericsson, as well as future IndyCar Series race winners Colton Herta, Pato O’Ward, and Felix Rosenqvist. However, O’Ward failed to qualify, and none of the other three finished on the lead lap. During time trials, Herta advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout, and qualified 5th overall. Santino Ferrucci, making his first career IndyCar start on an oval, had the second-fastest speed during Carb Day practice, and was the only rookie (out of six) to complete the full 500 miles.
Ferrucci, just days short of his 21st birthday, was driving for Dale Coyne Racing. He made a race-high 30 on-track passes. He led 1 lap, and worked his way into the top ten by the second half. Ferrucci narrowly avoided the multi-car crash on lap 178, cutting through the grass and onto the warm-up lane. With less than two laps to go, Ferrucci passed Ryan Hunter-Reay for 7th place and that is where he would finish.
After the 2018 race, Sunoco dropped their sponsorship of the rookie of the year award. Going forward, the $50,000 prize was maintained, but without a presenting sponsor.
2020 — Pato O’Ward (started 15th, finished 6th; 200 laps)
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Indianapolis 500 was postponed from May 24 to August 23, and held without spectators. The annual Rookie Orientation Program was originally scheduled for April 30 (during a full-field Open test), however, it was cancelled along with all private testing. Rookie test were conducted on the opening day of practice (August 12), and five rookies took part: Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay, Álex Palou, Oliver Askew, and Dalton Kellett. With only 33 cars entered, all five rookies made the starting field without much suspense. VeeKay and Palou advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout, with VeeKay qualifying 4th (inside of Row 2). On Carb Day, O’Ward set the fastest lap of the day, while VeeKay was credited with that day’s fastest “no-tow” lap.
Kellett, Askew, and Palou all crashed out of the race. Askew, the 2019 Indy Lights champion, led 4 laps during a sequence of pits stops, but was eliminated in a hard crash on lap 92. Askew suffered a concussion. Pato O’Ward ran as high as second at one point, and raced among the leaders in the second half. O’Ward, who had failed to qualify for the race a year earlier, was the only the rookie to finish on the lead lap. He finished in 6th place, becoming the third Mexican driver to win rookie of the year honors (after Josele Garza and Bernard Jourdain.
2021 — Scott McLaughlin (started 17th, finished 20th; 200 laps)
Only two rookies qualified out of three entered. Pietro Fittipaldi (grandson of two-time Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi) was the qualified fastest of the three. R.C. Enerson was too slow, and failed to qualify. Scott McLaughlin of New Zealand, the three-time Australian Supercars champion, moved to the IndyCar Series full-time starting in 2021. He qualified 17th and finished 20th. McLaughlin was running in the top ten around the halfway point before he was penalized for speeding in pit lane on lap 116. He was issued a drive-through penalty, and slipped down the standings. He finished near the tail end of the lead lap. Fittipaldi was a lap down in 25th.
2022 — Jimmie Johnson (started 12th, finished 28th; 193 laps)
Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, and four-time Brickyard 400 winner (2006, 2008, 2009, 2012) Jimmie Johnson switched to the IndyCar Series in 2021. He competed part-time during the 2021 season, skipping the ovals and racing on road/street courses only. In 2022, he expanded his participation to full-time. On the first day of time trials, he qualified 6th-fastest, advancing to the Top 12 Qualifying session. On Sunday, he nearly lost control during his run, and ended up and qualified 12th. He started on the outside of row four for his first (and only) Indy 500. Johnson led 2 laps during the race before crashing on lap 194. Six other rookies qualified for the race, with David Malukas (16th) the highest-finishing. Johnson (46) surpassed Lyn St. James as the oldest Indy 500 Rookie of the Year.
2023 — Benjamin Pedersen (started 9th, finished 21st; 196 laps)
Four rookies were entered for 2023: R.C. Enerson, Sting Ray Robb, Benjamin Pedersen, and Agustín Canapino. Robb was the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion, and the 2022 Indy Lights series runner-up. Enerson is making his second attempt at Indy; he failed to qualify in 2021. Canapino is a former champion in Turismo Carretera in Argentina, and Pedersen has experience in multiple ladders series. During time trials, Benjamin Pedersen was the fastest rookie qualifier. On the first day of Time Trials, he set a 1-lap rookie qualifying record (233.297 mph), and advanced to the Top 12 Qualifying session. On Sunday, he qualified 11th (232.671 mph). Both Canapino (27th) and Enerson (29th) managed to make to Top 30, while Robb was relegated to the Last Chance Qualifying group. On Sunday, Robb qualified 32nd, and all four rookies made the starting field.
On race day, none of the four rookies led a lap, and none were running at the checkered flag. Enerson dropped out on lap 75 with mechanical problems to finish 32nd. Robb finished 31st after crashing out on lap 91. Canapino and Pedersen made it to the late stages of the race. Canapino became caught up in the Pato O’Ward incident on lap 192. Petersen was then taken out along with Ed Carpenter on the ensuing restart on lap 197. Petersen was the highest starting rookie (9th), the highest finishing rookie (21st), and completed the most laps (196) of the four. Petersen became the second Rookie of the Year for car owner A.J. Foyt; the last being Donnie Allison in 1970.
The Rookie of the Year Award was first sponsored by Stark & Wetzel Co., an Indianapolis-based meat packing and supply company. Stark & Wetzel was known for their radio commercials during the “500”, featuring a whistle, and often narrated by Voice of the 500 Sid Collins. The original prize package included $500 cash (equivalent to about $5,700 adjusted for inflation) and “year’s supply of meat” from their downtown retail store. Described to be an ‘approximate value’ of $500 worth, this consisted of a seemingly unlimited quantity of lunchmeat or even steaks and chops, which could be picked up or delivered on a regular basis. The free meat was often a welcome perk, with some drivers of the era barely living paycheck-to-paycheck. It was sometimes lightheartedly referred to as an award ‘for the wives‘. It was not unusual for the spouses to do all the shopping and the cooking, and be the ones to pick up the meat. The free meat benefit ran through 1967, after which time the prize was simply upped to $1,000 cash. In 1977 it doubled to $2,000. Stark & Wetzel also supplied food for concessions stands at the track, and conducted various promotions surrounding the race. Stark & Wetzel was purchased by Rath Packing Company in 1974, but the sponsorship continued under the Stark & Wetzel brand through 1978, at which time the Stark & Wetzel Foods division had been eliminated.
From 1979 to 2013, the award was sponsored by a series of banks corporately related by subsequent mergers. In 1979, Indianapolis-based American Fletcher National Bank (AFNB) took over as the presenting sponsor. American Fletcher was absorbed by the Bank One Corporation in January 1987, and the award was renamed accordingly. Bank One then merged with JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2004, and the award was subsequently renamed for the Chase bank brand. Over this period of time, the prize steadily increased from $5,000 in 1979 to $25,000 by 1999 – plus a trophy or plaque, and sometimes a ring. In 2015, the cash prize was upped to its current amount of $50,000.
1959 Stark & Wetzel commercial (Courtesy of 2019 Heroes of the 500 – “The 1959 Race”)
For a time, a dinner was held during the month of May to honor the previous year’s Rookie of the Year recipient. In later years, a less formal “Bash” was held complete with wieners and soft drinks (as opposed to fine wines and fancy meals seen at other gatherings during race week). As of 2022, the award is $50,000 and a plaque. The presenting sponsors over the years are as follows:
|1952–1974||Stark & Wetzel Co. meats|
|1975–1978||Rath Packing Company/Stark & Wetzel Foods|
|1979–1986||American Fletcher National Bank|
|1987–2004||Bank One Corporation|
|2005–2013||JPMorgan Chase & Co.|
Drivers to win Rookie of Year and the Indy 500
Since its inception in 1952, a total of twelve drivers have won the Rookie of the Year Award, and also won the Indianapolis 500 in their career. The following is a chronological list of drivers who have won both. Bold indicates it was accomplished in the same year.
|Driver||Rookie of the Year||Race win(s)|
|Rick Mears||1978||1979, 1984, 1988, 1991|
|Arie Luyendyk||1985||1990, 1997|
|Juan Pablo Montoya||2000||2000, 2015|
|Hélio Castroneves||2001||2001, 2002, 2009, 2021|
Indy 500 — Rookie winners
Officially ten drivers have won the Indianapolis 500 in their first attempt. In 1928, Louis Meyer won the race in his first start, but he had driven relief in the race a year earlier. In the first race (1911) all drivers were considered “rookies’, but at least 24 of the 40 starters had driven previously in other races at the track during events in 1909–1910.
|1911||Ray Harroun||Had driven multiple races at the Speedway in 1909–1910, including winning the 1910 Wheeler-Schebler Trophy race|
|1928||Louis Meyer||Meyer drove in relief in the 1927 race; drove laps 77-129 for 4th place Wilbur Shaw|
|1966||Graham Hill||Was the 1962 Formula One World Champion; was not named the Rookie of the Year|
|2000||Juan Pablo Montoya||Was the 1999 CART series champion (7 wins)|
|2001||Hélio Castroneves||Was a three-year veteran of the CART series; had won 4 CART races up to that point|
|2016||Alexander Rossi||Was a Formula One test driver; had 5 Formula One starts in 2015|
Best Rookie Performances: Pre-Award (1911—1951)
No official rookie of the year award was presented from 1911 to 1951. However, at least one rookie starter was part of the field in each of those races. During that timeframe, not counting the first race, the number of rookies ranged from as few as one (1939) to as many as 19 (1919 & 1930). For the inaugural race in 1911, all 40 starters were considered “rookies”. However, at least 24 of those drivers had taken part in various pre-500 races at the Speedway during 1909–1910.
The following is a list compiled of the best rookie performances each year, for the races in which there was not an official rookie of the year selected (1911–1951). This list is entirely UNOFFICAL, and based only on objective research. Like the official award, it is not merely a listing of the highest finishing rookies, but performances during time trials and the race (even though the driver may have dropped out) are considered. The intent is to present a theoretical list of the most outstanding rookies, and who may have won “rookie of the year” had there been an official award dating back to the inaugural “500”.
1911 — Ralph Mulford (finished 2nd)
For the inaugural race, all 40 starters were considered “rookies”. However, at least 24 of the 40 drivers had raced at the Speedway before. Ray Harroun won the first “500”, officially credited as the first rookie winner. However Harroun had raced at the Speedway in both 1909 and 1910, winning the 1910 Wheeler-Schebler Trophy Race. If the 24 Speedway “veterans” are excluded, the next best rookie would have been Ralph Mulford. After staring 29th (one position behind Harroun), Mulford led 10 laps and finished second.
1912 — Johnny Jenkins (finished 7th)
Eight rookies made the race, though one (Len Zengle) had already competed at the Speedway in 1909–1910. Jenkins was the fastest rookie qualifier, ranking 13th-fastest in the field (he started 11th as the field was set by the order than entries were received). Jenkins completed all 200 laps, finishing 7th, two minutes and ten seconds behind 6th place Zengle.
1913 — Jules Goux (race winner)
Frenchman Jules Goux led 138 laps, and won the race by an all-time record margin of 13 minutes and 8 seconds. Goux was the 3rd-fastest qualifier in the field, but started 7th on race day as the field set by blind draw. Five rookies finished in the top ten.
1914 — René Thomas (race winner)
In 1913, 15 of the 30 starters were “rookies”; six finished in the top ten. Thomas qualified 4th-fastest in the field (he started 15th as the field was once again set by a blind draw). Thomas led 101 laps and won the race by more than 6 minutes over fellow rookie Arthur Duray.
1915 — Dario Resta (finished 2nd)
Future “500” winner Dario Resta qualified 3rd, led 37 laps, and finished second.
1916 — Wilbur D’Alene (finished 2nd)
The 1916 race was scheduled for 300 miles (120 laps). Four rookies finished in the top ten. D’Alene started 10th and finished second.
1917–1918 — No race due to World War I.
1919 — Denny Hickey (finished 9th)
In the first race after World War I, more than half the field (19 of 33 cars) consisted of rookie drivers. Fifteen of the rookies placed 15th or worse, while only four were running at the finish. Future “500” winner Gaston Chevrolet qualified 6th-fastest at 100.4 mph (the only rookie to qualify over 100 mph), started 16th, and finished 10th. Hickey overcame a practice crash on May 26 to qualify 27th. On race day, he came from near the back of the field to finish 9th – one spot behind fellow rookie Ira Hall.
1920 — Jimmy Murphy (finished 4th)
Murphy, the future “500” winner, finished 4th, completing all 200 laps. Bennett Hill started 8th, but crashed after 115 laps.
1921 — Percy Ford (finished 8th) & Eddie Miller (finished 9th)
Only two rookies made it beyond the halfway point. Ford and Miller started 8th and 9th respectively, and finished 3rd-4th, one minute and 50 seconds apart (approximately 1 lap difference).
1922 — Harry Hartz (finished 2nd)
Of the eleven rookies, Hartz qualified 2nd and led 42 laps. He placed second starting a notable five-year streak of finishing 2nd-2nd-4th-4th-2nd from 1922 to 1926.
1923 — Max Sailer (finished 8th)
Ten rookies were in the field, and rookies finished 8th-12th. Max Sailer, in his only start, finished 8th. Raúl Riganti was the fastest rookie qualifier, but he dropped out early with a broken fuel line.
1924 — Fred Comer (finished 7th) & Antoine Mourre (finished 9th)
French driver Antoine Mourre qualified 9th (the fastest rookie) and finished 9th. Fred Comer finished two places higher, but was relived by Wade Morton for 21 laps (laps 99-120).
1925 — Phil Shafer (finished 3rd)
Eight of the 22 starters were rookies. Ralph Hepburn qualified 6th, and led 15 laps. He dropped out after 144 laps due to a broken gas tank and placed 16th. Phil Shafer charged from 22nd starting position (last) to lead 13 laps and finished third.
1926 — Frank Lockhart (race winner)
Of the twelve rookies, Lockhart largely dominated the race en route to victory. He started 20th, but reportedly passed 14 cars by lap 5, and was running 2nd by lap 16. Lockhart led 95 laps, and was over two laps ahead of second place when the race called on lap 160 (400 miles) due to rain. Lockhart became the first rookie winner since 1913.
1927 — George Souders (race winner)
A total of 13 rookies were in the field. Souders led 51 laps and won the race. His margin of victory was over eight laps, the largest margin since 1913. Souders became the first driver to win the full-500 mile race solo, with neither help from a relief driver, nor accompanied by a riding mechanic. Wilbur Shaw and Dave Evans finished 4th and 5th, respectively, but neither led any laps.
1928 — Louis Meyer (race winner)
Rookies finished 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 7th. Louis Meyer became the third consecutive rookie race winner, starting 13th and leading 19 laps. Meyer drove relief in the 1927 race, but is still considered a rookie for 1928. Lou Moore finished 2nd, but he was relieved by Louis Schneider for laps 133-200. Fourth place Ray Keech and seventh place Billy Arnold also had relief help, while Meyer drive the 500 miles solo.
1929 — Carl Marchese (finished 4th)
Fourteen rookies qualified, but most of them started in the final five rows. After crashing twice in practice, Marchese qualified 27th and came home 4th. Freddy Winnai and William “Speed” Gardner finished 5th-6th, but both received a substantial amount of relief help. Gardner spent only 45 of the 200 laps behind the wheel.
1930 — Shorty Cantlon (finished 2nd)
A record-tying 19 rookies were in the 1930 race. There were 38 cars in the field, and only three of the rookies finished in the top ten. Shorty Cantlon qualified 3rd and finished 2nd. Cantlon was relived by Herman Schurch (laps 97-151), but was back in the car for the final 49 laps. Rookie Leslie Allen started 9th and finished 9th, but was behind the wheel for only the first 50 laps. He handed the car over to Fred Lecklider and Stubby Stubblefield, who combined to drive the rest of the race. Future “500” winner Bill Cummings placed 5th, but he too received a considerable amount of relief help. He finished over 14 minutes behind Cantlon.
1931 — Stubby Stubblefield (finished 8th)
Rookie Myron Stevens charged from 35th starting position to finish 4th. Officially it ties for the second-most gained positions in Indy 500 history (+31 positions). However, Stevens only drove the car for the first 72 laps. Former winner Louis Meyer (who had dropped out early with an oil leak) took over the car and drove laps 73-200. Stubby Stubblefield started 9th and finished 8th, driving the entire 500 miles without relief help.
1932 — Howdy Wilcox II (finished 2nd)
Two rookies (out of 12) were running at the finish. Bob Carey started 14th and led 36 laps. However, on lap 94 Carey hit the outside wall in turn 4 while leading. He spun around three times, and drove back to the pits with a damaged left front wheel. He lost ten minutes in the pits, but got back on the track to finish 4th. Howdy Wilcox II started 6th and finished second. Wilcox led 1 lap during the race.
1933 — Willard Prentiss (finished 13th)
Five rookies started the race, but only one was running at the finish. Both Mark Billman and Lester Spangler were fatally injured in separate crashes. Prentiss finished 13th, completing all 200 laps. Mauri Rose started the race in what was his rookie year, as a last-minute substitute for Howdy Wilcox II. Rose took over the car when Wilcox was disallowed due to having diabetes. Rose dropped out after 48 laps with broken timing gears.
1934 — Herb Ardinger (finished 10th)
Only one rookie was running at the finish.Herb Ardinger started 14th and finished 10th.
1935 — Floyd Roberts (finished 4th)
Future “500” winner Floyd Roberts started 3rd and finished 4th, the only rookie to complete all 200 laps.
1936 — Ray Pixley (finished 6th)
Pixley started 25th and finished 6th, the only rookie to complete the full 500 miles.
1937 — Billy Devore (finished 7th)
Billy Devore started 14th and finished 7th, the only rookie to complete the full 500 miles.
1938 — Duke Nalon (finished 11th)
Only two rookies (of four) were running at the finish, and neither completed the full 500 miles. Joel Thorne finished 9th (185 laps) and Duke Nalon finished 11th (178 laps). Nalon charged from 33rd starting position (last), a gain of 22 positions.
1939 — Mel Hansen (finished 19th)
Hansen was the lone rookie in the field. He crashed in the pits after 113 laps.
1940 — René Le Bègue & René Dreyfus (finished 10th)
French rookie René Le Bègue qualified 31st, the slowest car overall in the field. His teammate René Dreyfus, however, was bumped and wound up as the second alternate. The drivers decided to share the car on race day, and split the driving duties. Le Bègue drove laps 1-50 and 101-150 (approx.) and Dreyfus drove laps 51-100 and 151-192 (approx.). The duo finished 10th, gaining 21 positions. The car was flagged after 192 laps. The final 50 laps of the race were run under the yellow light due to rain, and the race was ended once the top three cars completed 200 laps. Future “500” winner Sam Hanks started 14th and finished 13th. It was the only career start at Indy for Le Bègue. Dreyfus (who officially only participated as a relief driver) also never returned to Indy. He never had a “start” credited to his name.
1941 — Overton Phillips (finished 13th)
Only two rookies qualified for the race. Phillips finished 13th, completing 187 laps. Everett Saylor qualified 12th (31st fastest car in the field), but crashed out on lap 155.
1942–1945: No race due to World War II.
1946 — Jimmy Jackson (finished 2nd)
The first race after W.W.I.I., and the first race under the ownership of Tony Hulman came in 1946. After four of being shut down due to the war, the track had fell in a dilapidated state. Hulman purchased the track and cleaned up and renovated facility in time for May 1946. The 33-car field included ten rookies. The entire Row was made of rookie (Hal Cole, Jimmy Jackson, Louis Durant). Cole dropped out early due to an oil leak. Jackson led five laps during the race and finished second, just 44.05 seconds behind race winner George Robson (it was the 6th-closest finish all-time up to that point).
1947 — Bill Holland (finished 2nd)
Bill Holland qualified 8th, led 143 laps, and nearly won the race in his first attempt. Late in the race, Lou Moore teammates Bill Holland and Mauri Rose were running 1st-2nd. The pit crew displayed a confusing chalkboard sign with the letters “EZY”, presumably meaning for Holland to take the final laps at a reduced pace to safely make it to the finish. Rose ignored the board, and charged to catch Holland. Holland believed that he held a lap lead over Rose, and allowed him to pass by. In reality, the pass was for the lead, and Rose led the final eight laps to take the controversial victory.
1948 — Mack Helling (finished 5th) and Lee Wallard (finished 7th)
Three rookies finished in the top eight, Mack Helling, future winner Lee Wallard, and Johnny Mauro. Mauro placed 8th, but he received relief help from Louis Durant. Wallard started 28th and finished 7th – two spots behind Helling – but Wallard had improved by 21 positions.
1949 — Johnnie Parsons (finished 2nd)
Eleven rookies made the race, one-third of the starting grid (33 cars). Johnnie Parsons was the second-fastest qualifier in the field (started 12th on the grid), while Myron Fohr was third-fastest (started 13th). Parsons finished second, one year prior to his winning the race (1950).
1950 — Walt Faulkner (won pole position; finished 7th)
Faulkner won the pole position with a new track record of 134.343 mph. He was running three laps down in 7th place when the race was called on lap 138 due to rain.
1951 — Andy Linden (finished 4th)
A rather notable rookie class included two future winners – Rodger Ward and Bill Vukovich – plus Bob Sweikert who was the first alternate. Of the twelve rookies in the starting grid, only four were still running at the finish. Mike Nazruk started 7th and finished 2nd. But Andy Linden started 31st and finished 4th (improving 27 positions).
Fastest Rookie Qualifier
Since 1975, a separate award has been presented to the fastest rookie qualifier in the starting field. It has been sponsored since its inception by the American Dairy Association Indiana Inc. Officially titled the Fastest Rookie of the Year Award (not to be confused with the overall Rookie of the Year Award above), it goes to the rookie who posts the fastest four-lap qualifying average during official time trials – regardless of overall starting position. It is strictly a qualifying award, and the driver’s performance in the race has no bearing. The award is typically presented shortly after qualifying has concluded, during a luncheon or reception in the days leading up to the race. No judging or voting is involved, as the official qualifying results is the lone consideration.
As of 2023, the award is currently $10,000 cash and a plaque. In some years, each of the other rookie qualifiers have received a small cash prize (e.g. $250). The names of the winners are affixed to a permanent trophy. Although rookies have qualified for every race dating back to 1911, this particular award has been officially recognized only since 1975.
|1999||John Hollansworth Jr.||12th||220.669||221.631||222.074||221.642||221.698|
|2000||Juan Pablo Montoya||2nd||223.636||223.380||223.236||223.236||223.372|
Through 2009, qualifying was conducted utilizing four, three, or two days of time trials. The Fastest Rookie Qualifier award went to the rookie qualifier who posted the fastest four-lap speed, regardless of what day it was accomplished, and regardless of the respective starting position. At the time, First Day (“Pole Day”) qualifiers lineup up first in the grid by order of speed. Second Day qualifiers lined up by order of speed behind the first day qualifiers, followed by the Third Day qualifiers, and finally the Fourth Day qualifiers. Because of this grid arrangement, it was not uncommon that the fastest rookie qualifier may be a second, third, or even fourth day qualifier – and actually line up behind other rookies that may have put in a slower speed. Thus, the fastest rookie qualifier was not necessarily the highest starting rookie in the grid.
From 2010 to 2021 (except for 2015), pole qualifying was conducted utilizing two rounds. At the conclusion of the first round, the top nine cars would advance to the “Fast Nine Shootout”. Each of those nine cars would erase their earlier time, and re-qualify from scratch to set the pole position, as well as starting positions 2nd-9th. Over the years, the rules regarding the “Shootout” were tweaked (See Pole Position Winners for more information), but the concept remained largely the same. From 2014 to 2018, a “Two-Day” format was utilized, whereby drivers would qualify for the field on Saturday, and re-qualify on Sunday to set grid positions. During this timeframe, the Fastest Rookie Qualifier award in most cases applied to the overall final outcome. But sometimes it was formally based on the first day qualifying speeds only. In most years, the same rookie driver was fastest during both rounds, removing any ambiguity over who technically earned the award.
Starting in 2022, qualifying was conducted over three rounds. On Saturday the first round is held for all cars. The top twelve cars advance to the “Top 12 Qualifying” session on Sunday. The previous times are erased and those 12 cars re-qualify from scratch. Positions 7th-12th are locked-in. The top six advance to the third round, the “Fast Six” session. Those cars once again erase their times, and re-qualify to set positions 1st-6th. The Fastest Rookie Qualifier award was given based on the final overall outcome.
|2010: No rookies advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout.
2011: No rookies advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout.
2012: Award based on first segment speeds. Newgarden (224.677 mph) advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout; qualified 7th (224.037 mph).
2013: Award based on first segment speeds. Muñoz (228.171 mph) advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout; qualified 2nd (228.342 mph).
2014: Award based on Sunday speeds. No rookies made the Fast Nine Shootout. Busch’s Saturday speed was 229.960 mph, and his Sunday speed was 230.782 mph.
2015: One round of qualifying was utilized. The Fast Nine Shootout was cancelled.
2016: Award based on Sunday speeds. No rookies made the Fast Nine Shootout. Rossi’s Saturday speed was 230.048 mph, and his Sunday speed was 228.473 mph.
2017: Alonso’s Saturday speed was 230.034 mph. He advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout; qualified 5th (231.300 mph) on Sunday.
2018: Award based on Sunday speeds. No rookies made the Fast Nine Shootout. Leist’s Saturday speed was 227.441 mph, and his Sunday speed was 227.571 mph.
2019: Herta’s Saturday speed was 229.478 mph. He advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout; qualified 5th (229.086 mph) on Sunday.
2020: VeeKay’s Saturday speed was 231.114 mph. Two rookies advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout; VeeKay qualified 4th (230.704 mph) on Sunday.
2021: No rookies advanced to the Fast Nine Shootout.
2022: On Saturday, Jimmie Johnson (232.398 mph) and Romain Grosjean (232.201 mph) qualified for the Top 12 Qualifying session. On Sunday, Johnson ranked 12th (231.264 mph) and Grosjean (231.999 mph) ranked 9th. Neither advanced to the Fast Six Qualifying session. Grosjean was declared Fastest Rookie Qualifier based on his speed from the Top 12 session.
2023: On Saturday, Benjamin Pedersen was the only rookie to qualify for the Top 12 Qualifying session (232.739 mph). He also set a 1-lap rookie record (233.297 mph). On Sunday Pedersen qualified 11th (232.671 mph), and maintained his status as the fastest rookie.
Most Rookie of the Year awards, Team/owner
- 6 — Andretti Autosport: 1994, 2006, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017
- 4 — Penske Racing / Team Penske: 1969, 1978, 2001, 2021
- 3 — Chip Ganassi Racing: 1990, 2000, 2022
- 2 — Federal Engineering: 1954, 1955
- 2 — Norman C. Demler: 1958, 1964
- 2 — J.C. Agajanian: 1961, 1968
- 2 — Arciero Racing: 1986, 1987
- 2 — Team Cheever / Cheever Racing: 1997, 2002
- 2 — Rahal-Letterman Racing: 2005, 2008
- 2 — Schmidt Peterson Motorsports / Arrow McLaren SP: 2018, 2020
- 2 — A.J. Foyt Racing / Foyt-Greer Racing: 1970, 2023
Andretti Autosport listings include the team’s former existence as Forsythe-Green Racing (1994), as Andretti-Green Racing (2006), and Fernando Alonso’s 2017 entry, which was officially entered under “McLaren-Honda-Andretti”.
Most Rookie of the Year awards, Family
- Andretti — Mario (1965), Michael (1984), Jeff (1991), Marco (2006)
- Vukovich — Bill II (1968), Billy III (1988)
Youngest Rookie of the Year winners
- 1981 — Josele Garza (19 years, 70 days)
- 2006 — Marco Andretti (19 years, 76 days)
Oldest Rookie of the Year winners
- 2022 — Jimmie Johnson (46 years)
- 1992 — Lyn St. James (45 years)
Highest finish for the Rookie of the Year winner
- 1st — Juan Pablo Montoya (2000)
- 1st — Helio Castroneves (2001)
- 1st — Alexander Rossi (2016)
- 2nd — eight times
Lowest finish for the Rookie of the Year winner
- 29th — Phil Geibler (2007)
- 28th — Jimmie Johnson (2022)
- 26th — Bobby Grim (1959)
- 26th — Teo Fabi (1983)
- 26th — Tomas Scheckter (2002)
Additional sources & works cited
- Scott, D. Bruce. “INDY: Racing Before The 500”, Indiana Reflections LLC, 2005, pp. 92 & 231.
- Mittman, Dick (editor), he Indianapolis Star & The Indianapolis News “1998 Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 Record Book”, Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. (originally compiled by Bill Pittman), 1998.
- Baime, A.J., “The Untold Story of Randy Lanier, Indy 500 Star and Drug Smuggler“, Maxim.com, October 27, 2014.
- 1979 SCCA/CART Indy Car World Series Official Press Kit
- Current Whereabouts of Indianapolis 500 Winning Cars; originally compiled HERE
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 22, 2000.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 11, 2002.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 13, 2003.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 24, 2005.
- “The All Night Race Party“, 1070 WIBC, May 27, 2006.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, Network Indiana, May 10, 2007.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 20, 2007.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WIBC, May 21, 2007.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 5, 2010.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 13, 2010.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 2, 2011.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 19, 2011.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 15, 2012.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 20, 2012.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 22, 2012.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 11, 2013.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 23, 2013.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, May 6, 2015.
- “The Talk of Gasoline Alley“, 1070 WFNI, July 17, 2017.
- “Heroes of the 500 – Racing’s Rated Rookies“, WIBC/WFNI, 2015.
- “Heroes of the 500 – Top Ten Rookies“, WIBC/WFNI, 2016.
- “1973 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1973, p. 4, p. 69, p. 104.
- “1981 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1981, p. 43, p. 92.
- “1982 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1982, p. 2, p. 37, p. 78.
- “1983 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1983, p. 2, p. 39.
- “1984 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1984, p. 93, p. 105.
- “1985 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1985, p. 12, p. 143.
- “1986 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1986, p. 7, p. 34.
- “1987 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1987, p. 6, p. 35.
- “1988 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1988, p. 36, p. 48.
- “1989 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1989, p. 36, p. 52.
- “1990 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1990, p. 36, p. 58.
- “1991 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1991, p. 36, p. 55.
- “1992 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1992, p. 36, p. 72.
- “1993 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1993, p. 38, p. 52.
- “1994 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1994, p. 36, p. 83.
- “1995 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1995, p. 45, p. 100.
- “1996 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1996, p. 54, p. 57.
- “1997 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1997, p. 56, p. 151.
- “1998 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1998, p. 36, p. 58.
- “1999 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 1999, p. 62.
- “2000 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2000, p. 57.
- “2001 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2001, p. 63.
- “2002 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2002, p. 49.
- “2003 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2003, p. 73.
- “2004 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2004, p. 61.
- “2005 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2005.
- “2006 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2006.
- “2007 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2007.
- “2008 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2008.
- “2009 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2009.
- “2010 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2010.
- “2011 Indianapolis 500 Official Program”, IMS Corp., 2011.