Ranking Last 14 Indy 500s

So, to get extra pumped for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2017, I watched all of the Indianapolis 500s since 2003. I picked 2003 because that is the year Andretti-Green Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing joined Team Penske as full-time teams in the Indy Racing League, thus giving the race life that it had been lacking in the dark-days of The Split. Here are how I ranked the Indy 500s from worst to best.

14) 2005 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dan Wheldon

While the last 30 laps were pretty damn exciting, most of the rest of the race was pretty uneventful. Some good scraps existed throughout the track and the winning driver, Dan Wheldon, was phenomenal. But the mass hysteria over Danica Patrick's finish, which I would call extremely lucky, coupled with a general poor race didn't make for the best TV.

Wheldon wins Indy 500 #1 and first for Michael Andretti (Photo: AP)

13) 2006 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Sam Hornish Jr.

Of course this race had an all-time classic Indianapolis 500 finish, as Sam Hornish Jr., who battled back from almost being lap down and a pit gaffe, somehow came from behind and beat Marco Andretti at the line by a couple of feet. But prior to the epic last 10 lap shootout, the race was a total snooze. Hornish, Ma. and Michael Andretti were only in the position to contend because of strategy. The drivers who dominated (Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Scott Dixon, and Helio Castroneves) got burned and fell through in the final stages of the race. The finish was great, the race was not.

The Andretti Curse hit Marco early (Photo: NY Times)

12) 2009 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Helio Castroneves

There was a couple of dramatic moments in this race. First lap and first turn, Mario Moraes moved up the track on Marco Andretti and both were knocked out of the race. Later on in the race, Tony Kanaan suffered a mechanical failure and had a big crash. But other than that, a lack of passing persisted throughout the field. A late change in the aero and mechanical package by IndyCar meant cars had a tough time drafting and making a second groove in the turns. Helio Castroneves, who was recently (six weeks prior) acquitted of charges on tax fraud. Talk about a turn of fate. It was Helio's third Indianapolis 500 win.

Helio's third fence climb at Indy (Photo: Autoweek)

11) 2003 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Gil de Ferran

Some crazy action and unpredictable parity bestowed the 2003 Indianapolis 500, with all around good guy Gil de Ferran winning his first and only Indianapolis 500. The rookies in the show were memorizing: Dan Wheldon (who would flip his car in the race), Tony Renna, and Scott Dixon (who foolishly crashed under yellow) all stood out.

Wheldon had a rough introduction to Indianapolis (Photo: IndyCar Media)

10) 2004 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Buddy Rice

I mean, I wasn't wild about Buddy Rice winning an Indianapolis 500. I mean, seriously, Buddy Rice? The guy shouldn't even have been in the seat. That was Kenny Brack's seat until that absolutely devastating crash at Texas in the finale in 2003. But Rice took over, won the pole, and had some thrilling overtakes on his way to winning his first race. Still, the best part of the race was some absolutely crazy action on the restarts. Tomas Scheckter was a human highlight reel with some of his passes. I thoroughly enjoyed this race, which was delayed, interrupted, and and finished by rain.

Buddy Rice Coming Across The Line To Win The 2004 Indy 500 [3405x2266]
Buddy Rice is one of two drivers on this list to win the
Indy 500 outside of The Big Three teams (Photo: AP)

9) 2011 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dan Wheldon

Don't get me wrong, the finish to this was an instant classic Indianapolis 500 moment. Coming to the finish, JR Hildebrand played the strategy right and was one lap away from winning the 500. Coming into the final turn, he failed to pass Charlie Kimball correctly and hit the wall. Dan Wheldon passed him and won the race, his second Indy 500 after only leading one lap. But had it not been for the finish and the one-and-done two-wide restarts introduced for 2011 (and only 2011), the race was pretty boring. Restarts were amazing, the finish was amazing, but the race wasn't all that great.

That moment Hildebrand threw it away (Photo: NY Times)

8) 2007 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

This race was an absolute doozy. With rain interrupting the race right after the race was official (past 100 laps), many people thought the race was over and the track was lost. Unfortunately for Tony Kanaan, who was leading at the time, the track would dry and they would continue to race. The thrill of this race was that despite some 90 laps to go (officially), teams and drivers knew more rain was coming in 45 minutes, meaning that drivers really had to push as if there was really 30 laps to go. We saw action all over the field and some thrilling restarts. In separate restarts, Jeff Simmons and Helio Castroneves were both very close to hitting the pit attenuator. On the final restart, Marco Andretti pushed the envelope and got hooked by Dan Wheldon, causing the young Andretti to flip his car. Then the rain would fall, and it would be Dario Franchitti collecting his first Indianapolis 500 win.

Dario crosses the line in a soaked track (Photo: IndyCar Media)

7) 2008 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Scott Dixon

What a thrilling race the 2008 Indianapolis 500 was. With the Champ Car contingent coming over to the IndyCar Series after the merger, a plethora of rookies flooded the field. The race had plenty of drama. The two biggest plot twists were a crash involving Tony Kanaan and Sarah Fisher, in which Kanaan lost control after an aggressive move from teammate Marco Andretti. Kanaan was furious. Later on in the race, Danica Patrick collided with Ryan Briscoe in the pits, and both drivers were knocked out. Danica stormed down the pits, as she wanted to have a word with Briscoe, but security ushered her away. The most thrilling moment of the race was an absolutely stunning overtake on Scott Dixon and Ed Carpenter by Vitor Meira. The pass was a textbook definition of shooting the gap. Meira was thrilling all day. Many restarts were spectacular as well. Overall, a great race to watch.

It was a good day for Chip Ganassi, especially Dixon (left) (Photo: AP)

6) 2012 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

With the introduction of the new Dallara DW-12 came a new era of racing at Indianapolis. No longer were leaders able to run away with the lead with no opposition. Massive drafting meant the cars were able to pack up and continually pass each other. With this came tons of passing and some thrilling restarts. Despite Dario Franchitti being hit in the pits early on, he came back to the front had an epic battle with Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, and unlikely protagonist Takuma Sato. As the laps trickled down, it was apparent that whoever would win had to put themselves in the right position to win. For Sato, he chose turn one on the final lap to make an attempt on Dario Franchitti for the win. Dario gave him almost no room, they barely touched, but it was enough to send Sato into the wall. Dario would win his third and final Indy 500.

An epic finish between Franchitti and Sato (Photo: WTOP)

5) 2010 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Dario Franchitti

The race was all-around great. After a less than stellar show in the 2009 Indianapolis 500, a change in components meant a lot more passing happened, especially in the turns. A lot of two-wide action occurred in the turns and it was thrilling. Late cautions jumbled the strategy, meaning some cars stayed out and were good on fuel and others were rolling the dice and playing it very cautious on the fuel strategy. Dario Franchitti and Dan Wheldon managed to extend their run and were coming to the white flag. Dario was starting to crawl to the line, while Wheldon had saved enough to go full out. But, before we could see the conclusion, which reminded me of the 100th Indianapolis 500, an absolutely massive crash occurred in turn three. Mike Conway flew over the back of Ryan Hunter-Reay, who had just run out fuel, and hit the catch fencing. Thank god he was okay. Overall, it was an epic race.

Start of the 2010 Indy 500 (Photo: Autoblog)

4) 2015 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Juan Pablo Montoya

With the introduction of aero kits, the DW-12 racing slightly changed. While drafting was still important, no longer was there huge gaggles of cars inseparably drafting each other. Now, small packs of cars could separate from the larger groups. Still, plenty of action was to be found, including an absolutely awesome last 40 laps of the race. Lots of edgy passes, blocking, gap shooting, and side by side action in the turns was epic. Juan Pablo Montoya, who had to charge through the field, clearly had the best car on held of Will Power for the win.

Montoya holds off Power for the win (Photo: IndyCar Media)

3) 2013 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Tony Kanaan

In one of the more emotional wins we've seen in recent memory, the glutton for punishment at Indianapolis a.k.a. Tony Kanaan finally won an Indianapolis 500. This race was the 2010 race on steroids, with a record number of lead changes occuring. Kanaan may have won the race, but the driver of the race may have been rookie Carlos Munoz, who finished second in his first ever IndyCar race. The craziness of restarts and lead changes makes this one to remember.

The last restart where Kanaan held of Munoz, Andretti, and RHR (Photo: Getty Images)

2) 2016 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Alexander Rossi

In one of the most anticipated Indianapolis 500s in history because it was the 100th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, IndyCar put on one hell of a show. Passing was abundant, action occurred everywhere, and the finish was absolutely insane. It was another finish where no matter how many times I've seen it or even though I know what the result is, I still get an elevated heart rate. In the closing stages of the race, everyone had to pit once more, except Alexander Rossi who was rolling the dice. With everyone safe on fuel other than Rossi, the field was trying to catch the rookie who had almost a half-a-lap lead. Despite a charging field behind him, Rossi literally crawled to the finish line to win an absolutely thrilling race. It will definitely go down as a historical race.

Rossi celebrates after running out of fuel (Photo: IndyCar Media)

1) 2014 Indianapolis 500

Winner: Ryan Hunter-Reay

My personal favorite Indianapolis 500 was the recent action packed race we saw in 2014. This race had a bit of everything. There were no yellows for so many laps, and the action was great for over 100 straight laps. After Charlie Kimball spun, all hell broke loose. Scott Dixon would crash a couple of laps later. On the next restart, a controversial incident happened between James Hinchcliffe and Ed Carpenter, knocking them both out. Next, Townsend Bell crashed. The final laps would be an epic battle between Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay would get Helio at the line in one of the best finishes we've ever seen. Ever now, my palms get a bit sweaty watching it in nervousness.

An epic finish between RHR and Helio (Photo: NY Times)

What has been your favorite Indy 500 since 2003? Let me know what you think!

-Matthew Hickey