Sports

Indianapolis 500: Top Canadian moments at the 'greatest spectacle in racing'

James Hinchcliffe won the pole position for the historic 100th running of the event last Sunday. With the race just days away, here's a look at some of the biggest Indianapolis 500 moments involving Canadians.

James Hinchcliffe looking to become 2nd Canuck to win famed race

Al Unser Jr., top, wins the Indianapolis 500 by less than a car length ahead of Scott Goodyear at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1992, the closest finish in the race's history. (David Boe/The Associated Press)

The Indianapolis 500 is the granddaddy of North American auto racing, and Canadians have had quite a history at the event.

This past Sunday, Oakville, Ont.'s James Hinchcliffe won the pole position for the historic 100th running of the even — a year after nearly dying on the famed track — setting the stage for a Canuck to win "the greatest spectacle in racing" for just the second time.

With the green flag ready to drop on May 29, here's a look at some of the biggest Indy 500 moments involving Canadians: 

Goodyear inches away from glory

It was 1992 and Canadian Scott Goodyear was locked in a neck-and-neck battle with American Al Unser Jr.

It would wind up being the closest finish in the history of the race.

Michael Andretti had led the majority of the race but with less than a dozen laps to go, his fuel pump shut down, causing him to roll to a stop, making it a two-horse race between Goodyear and Unser Jr. 

Goodyear trailed right behind Unser Jr. for the final few laps looking for a lane to jump in front, and with the finish line in sight, darted to the inside. Both cars raced nose to nose to the finish line, but it was Unser Jr. who took the checkered flag, defeating Goodyear by just 0.043 seconds.

"This is a real disappointment. When Andretti lost the lead those last few laps I thought, 'This is a real possibility,'" Goodyear said after the race. "We just drove flat out those last three laps."

That race was just chosen as the best in Indianapolis 500 history, as voted by past winners in a survey conducted by The Associated Press.


Villeneuve puts Canada on winners' list

Jacques Villeneuve began his racing career in 1984 at the age of 13,  just two years after his father, Gilles, a risk-taking Formula One driver, died in a horrific crash. 

But a mere 10 years after first stepping into a race car, Villeneuve, now 23, not only raced in his first Indy 500, but he matched Goodyear's result by finishing second.

The following year he went one better, becoming the first and only Canadian to win the famed race.

Ironically, it was Goodyear he had to battle to do it. And not without controversy.

Late in the race, Goodyear was in first with Villeneuve right behind. But on a restart, Goodyear passed the pace car, incurring a stop-go penalty, which would require him to enter the pits for 10 seconds and then exit.

Goodyear disagreed with the penalty and kept racing, refusing to come in to the pits. Officials then dropped him down to 14th, giving Villeneuve the lead and the victory.


Tracy's controversy 

In 2002, Paul Tracy finished second at the Indy 500. But don't tell him that.

In what is one of the most controversial finishes in the history of the Indy 500, Tracy passed leader Helio Castroneves on the second-last lap, taking over the lead and looking like he would become the second Canadian to win the race.

But a crash happened on the course at the same time and while on the final lap, race officials indicated Tracy made the pass after the caution flag had been waved, erasing the takeover.

"They said that it was under yellow, but green was still up in my eyes, I saw the green," said Tracy after the race. "I feel that I was ahead of him when it went yellow."

Tracy protested the ruling but on July 2nd of that year, 37 days after the race, Castroneves' victory was upheld.

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