Reader “J E Clerk” and your humble host had a slight debate regarding this year’s running of the Indianapolis 500, so to resolve the issue we went to The Source himself, IMS’s Official Historian Mr Donald Davidson.
Q: I don't know if you've been asked this yet, but since "Talk of Gasoline Alley" is on it's 11-month hiatus there is no way of knowing. One of my friends asked me if the 15 cars on the lead lap at Indianapolis this year were a record, to which I (after looking it up) said no since 15 cars finished 200 laps in 1931 and 1962, and 16 cars finished all of the laps in 1959.
However, my friend pointed out that on May 25th you mentioned a policy prior to 1975 where the race didn't actually end when the leader took the checkered flag, and that other cars were allowed to complete a few laps even though the victor had been determined.
So maybe the "15" on the lead lap in 2008 (due undoubtedly to all of the cautions) really is a record. Would you deem it so?
A: 15 breaks the record of 11 in 2002 under the current procedure, certainly aided by the number of cautions and their timing. When 16 went 200 laps in 1959, the elapsed time between 1st and 16th was just under 12 minutes.
And just like every other question I’ve asked, I swear he answered the email in like three minutes. He’s awesome. Period.
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