Commentary

Indy 500 Field of the Century: Row 6

Updated: May 27, 2011, 12:26 PM ET
By Ed Hinton | ESPN.com

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Our sixth row includes another three-time winner with an asterisk (in our book), one member of a family that will wind up with three on our all-time grid and Indy's first two-time winner, who wouldn't even be allowed to start today due to a physical impairment.


Mauri Rose

16. Mauri Rose

Indy 500 starts: 16
Best finish (years): First (1941, 1947, 1948)
Laps led: 256

Indy's third three-time winner, with an asterisk. After Louis Meyer and Wilbur Shaw each had recorded three victories, Rose got his first one, in 1941, by hitching a ride.

The Maserati in which Rose started lasted only 60 laps, and he was available in the pits. Team owner Lou Moore brought in his driver, Floyd Davis, and put Rose in the car. Rose went on to win the race.

Rose's '47 win was solo but with questionable tactics. Owner Moore, wanting his two front-running cars to last, put out chalk board instructions, "EZ," to Rose and rookie teammate Bill Holland, who had led most of the race. Holland obeyed. Rose did the opposite, indeed speeding up, and passed Holland.

In '48, Rose and Holland finished 1-2 for Moore again, but this time with no shenanigans from Rose. Duke Nalon, in one of the legendary Novi cars, gave Rose a serious duel before Nalon had to pit late for fuel -- his crew hadn't completely filled his tank on one stop.



Al Unser Jr.

17. Al Unser Jr.

Indy 500 starts: 19
Best finish (years): First (1992, 1994)
Laps led: 110

Oddly for a two-time winner, Little Al never really dominated the race. The most laps he led was 48, in his '94 victory powered by Roger Penske's controversial pushrod V-12 Mercedes engine.

In his prime, he was considered one of the best and most versatile drivers in the world, winning the International Race of Champions series in 1986 and '88, showing flashes of brilliance in his brief flirtations with NASCAR, and receiving overtures from both the Williams and Benetton teams to switch to Formula One.

In 1989 came Little Al's version of an old familiar theme at Indy -- a memorable race he lost. Leading on the 199th lap, Unser suddenly saw Emerson Fittipaldi dart alongside on the inside at the entrance to Turn 3. Their cars touched wheels, Unser crashed hard and Fittipaldi cruised to victory under caution.

In 1992, Unser's friend since childhood, Michael Andretti, dominated the race until he fell out with mechanical failure with 11 laps left. Still, Unser had to earn the victory, holding off Scott Goodyear by 0.043 seconds, still the closest finish in the race's history.

By '94, Unser and Fittipaldi were teammates at Penske. In some retribution for '89, Unser got the win after Fittipaldi, who dominated most of the race, smacked the wall with just 15 laps left.



Tommy Milton

18. Tommy Milton

Indy 500 starts: Eight
Best finish (years): First (1921, 1923)
Laps led: 218

Indy's first two-time winner actually won two out of three, at the dawn of a golden era at the Brickyard.

After two starts in storied Duesenbergs, Milton piloted one of Louis Chevrolet's Frontenac cars to his first win, in 1921. The engine displacement was only 178 cubic inches.

In '22, Milton brought his own car, powered by an engine from the then-emerging all-time genius of Indy, Harry Miller. But that car developed a fuel tank leak, and he fell out of the race after only 44 laps.

Milton went with Miller, car and engine (this one only 121 cubic inches!) in '23. They dominated, with Milton leading 128 laps.

And Milton accomplished this while peering through only one good eye. Depth-perception issues would prevent him from even being allowed to compete in major league auto racing today.

Ed Hinton is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at edward.t.hinton@espn.com.