Social pioneers deserve recognition, too
We'll tell you up front we've decided to make social pioneering a special-recognition category, separate from our all-time list of the 33 drivers who make up our Indy 500 Field of the Century.
Field Of The Century
More than just drivers who won "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing," a proper all-time Indy 500 grid should reflect the spirit of the race. Here is Ed Hinton's list of 33 drivers -- three per row -- spanning a century of racing in the Indianapolis 500. And because not everyone can make the list, there is a special place for trailblazers.
|May 27||Row 1|
|May 26||Row 2|
|May 25||Row 3|
|May 24||Row 4|
|May 23||Row 5|
|May 21||Row 6|
|May 20||Row 7|
|May 19||Row 8|
|May 18||Row 9|
|May 17||Row 10|
|May 16||Row 11|
|May 16||Social Pioneers|
It would simply be impossible to choose which social pioneers to include, and which to omit.
How could we include Danica Patrick, the first woman to lead the 500 (in 2005), and omit Janet Guthrie, the first woman to attempt to qualify (1976) and to race (1977) at Indy?
And what about Lyn St. James, the Indy rookie of the year in 1992 with an 11th-place finish, who competed in seven 500s -- and who brought Patrick, as a teenager, to the Speedway for the first time, as an intern?
Then there's Sarah Fisher, the youngest woman to compete at Indy, at age 19 in 2000.
And then what about William Theodore Ribbs Jr. -- "Willy T." -- who in 1991 became the first black driver to qualify for the 500?
Include one or more of the social pioneers, and you slight the others by default. Include all five, and pure racing is somewhat displaced by sociology as a criterion.
So here's to the groundbreakers
Janet GuthrieIndy 500 starts: Four
Best finish (year): Ninth (1978)
Laps led: 0
First woman to race at Indy. Arrived in 1976 to endure a storm of hostility, including some whispered lewd comments from some male drivers, but failed to record an official qualifying attempt.
Started 26th in '77 and raced under terrible hardship. A fuel spill during a pit stop left her soaked in methanol, and after the race there was no shower in Gasoline Alley for women. So some crewmen had to hold up panels in the male showers so she could wash off the skin-blistering fuel. She marched into the media center for an impromptu press conference to protest, drawing mainly snickers from a largely chauvinist media corps.
Quieted the critics somewhat in '78 when she started 14th and finished ninth.
Danica PatrickIndy 500 starts: Six
Best finish (year): Third (2009)
Laps led: 19
Has had far and away the most visible impact among women drivers at Indy, and has been easily the most serious female threat to win the race, but had the way opened for her by Guthrie's ordeals of the '70s.
First woman ever to lead the 500, in 2005. Led with seven laps remaining, but had to slow down to conserve fuel and was passed by eventual winner Dan Wheldon.
Almost won the pole in that rookie year of '05, but a slight gust of wind spoiled one of her four laps and she started fourth, where she would finish.
Feisty demeanor and glamorous style have made her the most popular female driver ever at Indy, and the most popular driver in the IndyCar series today.
Has shown only flashes of delivering on the promise she showed in '05. Only IndyCar series win came at Motegi, Japan, in 2008. Third-place finish at Indy in '09 is best ever there by a female driver.
Lyn St. JamesIndy 500 starts: Seven
Best finish (year): 11th (1992)
Laps led: 0
First woman to win rookie of the year honors at Indy, with an 11th-place finish in 1992. Seven 500 starts were most by a woman until Sarah Fisher in 2008.
If Guthrie blasted through the barriers for Patrick, it was St. James who literally brought Danica through the threshold. When Patrick was 15 and a go-kart champion, St. James brought her to Indy as a team intern.
Willy T. RibbsIndy 500 starts: Two
Best finish (year): 21st (1993)
Laps led: 0
First African-American driver to qualify for Indy 500 in 1991. Had made brief efforts at NASCAR, but best racing year was 1983, in the SCCA Trans-Am series, when he won five races and was Pro Rookie of the Year.
For the '91 Indy effort, Ribbs and car owner Derrick Walker got basic funding from comedian Bill Cosby, and after Ribbs made the race on the last day of qualifying, they hoped outside corporate sponsorship would flow in.
As it turned out, "McDonald's threw a few hamburgers at it," Ribbs recalled recently of the funding offered by the corporate giant at the time.
Ribbs raced in eight other Championship Auto Racing Teams Inc. races that season, with three top-10 finishes for 17th place in season points.
Sarah FisherIndy 500 starts: Nine
Best finish (year): 17th (2009)
Laps led: 0
Youngest woman driver to race in the 500 at age 19 in 2000. Became youngest female car owner at Indy when she formed her own team in 2008 at age 27 and qualified for her eighth 500, setting the existing record for starts by a woman.
Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
95TH INDIANAPOLIS 500-MILE RACE
It's time for the 95th running of the Indianapolis 500, but it's the number 100 that counts in 2011. This is the 100th anniversary of the running of the first 500, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Centennial Era celebration is in high gear.
Indianapolis 500 Home
Race Day, May 29• Blount: The thrill and agony
• Hinton: Oh yeah, Indy is back!
• Oreovicz: Bad day for power teams
• McGee: What a capper to 100 years
• espnW: A roller-coaster ride for Indy women
• Gallery: 100th anniversary of the 500
• Recap: Wheldon wins a stunner
• Watch: Full highlights
• Watch: Full booth analysis
• Watch: Wheldon so thankful
• Watch: Hildebrand crestfallen
Saturday, May 28• Blount: Hang on to your hats!
• Hinton: Back again in Indiana
• ESPN.com staff: Our podium predictions
• Racing Live! Indy 500, Sunday, noon ET
Carb Day, May 27• Blount: The weekend's best race is ...
• Hinton: Foyt legend still strong in 2011
• Gallery: A.J. Foyt, A Racing Life
• Hinton from 1991: The last ride of A.J. Foyt
• Hinton on the Field of the Century front row
• Hinton's Indy 500 Field of the Century: Row 1
• Oreovicz blog: Ganassi team leads Carb Day
• espnW: Patrick's mom, Bev, enjoying ride
• Blount blog: The way Mario Andretti sees it
• Ed Hinton chat wrap
• John Oreovicz chat wrap
• Podcast: Brent Musburger previews the race
• Podcast: Helio Castroneves is ready to roll
• SportsNation: Indy 500 predictions
Features• Oreovicz: Breaking down the field of 33
• Blount: Bumping Junqueira saved jobs
• James: Women find a niche in IndyCar
• SportsNation quiz: All-time lap leaders
• Indy 500 preview photo gallery
• James: No stopping Simona
• Blount: Indy shows NASCAR how it's done
• James: Women drivers carving a niche
• Oreovicz: Danica dodges Bump Day disaster
• James: A stormy day at the track for Danica
• Oreovicz: Wild and wacky Pole Day
• Oreovicz: Month of May primer
Practice And Qualifying• Danica makes 500 field
• Carpentier crashes in Sunday practice
• Tagliani wins Indy 500 pole
• Briscoe crashes in Saturday practice
• Di Silvestro cleared to race
• Castroneves tops speed charts
• Tagliani leads Friday at over 228 mph
• De Silvestro waiting for medical clearance
• Power leads Thursday practice
• De Silvestro burns hands in crash
• Rain scrubs practice again Wednesday
• Weather limits practice Tuesday
• Tagliani turns month's fastest lap Monday
• Opening Sunday washed out
• Opening day starts fast
Indy 500 Field Of The Century• Hinton: The method in our list
• Row 1: Foyt, Lockhart, Vukovich
• Row 2: Ma. Andretti, Mears, A. Unser
• Row 3: Shaw, Jones, DePalma
• Row 4: Meyer, B. Unser, Rutherford
• Row 5: Ward, Johncock, Fittipaldi
• Row 6: Rose, Unser Jr., Milton
• Row 7: Clark, Mi. Andretti, Villenueve
• Row 8: Luyendyk, Hill, Harroun
• Row 9: Castroneves, Franchitti, Montoya
• Row 10: Ruby, Donohue, Sullivan
• Row 11: Flaherty, Kanaan, Hurtubise
• The Social Pioneers
Indy At 100• Indy at 100: 2000 and beyond
• Indy at 100: Tony George reigns in the '90s
• Indy at 100: 1980s had stars, foreign cars
• Indy at 100: Speed and safety in the '70s
• Indy at 100: A time of change
• Indy at 100: The '50s golden era
• Indy at 100: WWII puts racing on hold
• Indy at 100: 1930-39 a dangerous era
• Indy at 100: 1920-29 a roaring time
• Indy at 100: 1911-1919 was pivotal
• Indianapolis Motor Speedway timeline
More• Indy 500 front row chat wrap
• John Oreovicz chat wrap
• Danica not tipping hand on future
• Foyt, Mears, Unser top "greatest" fan poll
• Scott Speed joins Dragon Racing
• A.J. Foyt will drive Indy 500 pace car
• China's Ho-Pin Tung eyes Indy 500
• Indy 500 to honor Tom Carnegie
• Buddy Rice heading back to Indy 500
Indy 500 Rewind• 2010 Flashback: Dario's all the way back
• 2009 Flashback: Castroneves wins again
• 2008 Flashback: Quiet Dixon makes noise • 2007 Flashback: Franchitti comes up big
• 2006 Flashback: Hornish gets his "Holy Grail"