What’s The Closest Finish In The History Of The Indianapolis 500?

cars racing at the Indy 500

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In recent years, Formula 1 has taken the world by storm thanks in no small part to Drive to Survive (the Netflix series chronicling the drama that unfolds on and off of the track), which has helped thrust what used to be a fairly niche area of auto racing into the mainstream.

Prior to that rise, the closest most people had come to being exposed to that particular realm was the Indianapolis 500, the storied race featuring drivers behind the wheel of the spiritual relative of F1 cars facing off in a quest to take home one of the most sought-after trophies the sport has to offer.

You don’t need to be a diehard racing fan to be familiar with the mystique surrounding what is commonly referred to as the “Indy 500.”

The race is hosted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a.k.a. “The Brickyard”), a venue steeped in more than a century of history, and some of the greatest drivers to ever make a living on the track have earned the right to chug from the bottle of milk that’s historically been presented to the winner.

The Indy 500 tends to be an incredibly hard-fought battle that requires competitors to be at the top of their game while navigating the 200 laps that comprise the total number of miles featured in its name.

While some of them are able to navigate the gauntlet with relative ease, the Indy 500 has a tendency to feature some wildly nail-biting finishes—including one that stands out among a fairly crowded pack.

What’s the closest finish in the history of the Indy 500?

checkered flag being waved at the Indy 500

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The first iteration of the Indianapolis 500 was held all the way back in 1911 and took close to six hours and 45 minutes to complete; when everything was said and done, Ray Harroun earned the victory by crossing the finish line 1.43 seconds ahead of the next car after averaging a speed of close to 75 miles per hour.

It’s safe to say we’ve come a long way since then; in 2021, Hélio Castroneves only needed two hours and 37 minutes to complete the 200 circuits while posting an average speed of 190.69 MPH.

However, the relatively even nature of the playing field means the race tends to be a tight one more often than not regardless of the technological advancements that impact the overall pace.

None of them have been tighter than the Indy 500 that was held on Memorial Day Weekend in 1992, which saw Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear break out well ahead of the rest of the pack heading into the final lap.

Goodyear spent the last two-and-a-half miles attempting to figure out a way to overtake the man in first place, and it appeared he had the chance to do exactly that by drafting Usner on the home stretch before cutting to his left in an attempt to claim the checkered flag at the last second.

Unfortunately for him, Usner was able to beat him across the finish line by a grand total of .043 seconds, which remains the mark to top (although Ryan Hunter-Reay came close when he hedged out Castroneves by .06 seconds in 2014).

It doesn’t get much closer than that.

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