News & Multimedia

The Luck - and Skill - of the Irish in the Indianapolis 500

All things Irish are celebrated in the United States and around the world on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. At least for one day, life’s too short not to be Irish, as the saying goes.

Drivers of Irish heritage also have celebrated on Memorial Day weekend in late May in Indianapolis while standing in Victory Lane for the Indianapolis 500.

Jimmy Murphy was an early winner of the “500” among drivers of Irish descent, speeding to Victory Lane in 1922 in the No. 35 Murphy Special Duesenberg/Miller in a then-record average pace of 94.484 mph.

Murphy was born in 1894 in a poor, predominantly Irish section of San Francisco. Murphy’s Irish immigrant parents owned a fuel and feed store in the city. His mother died when Murphy was 2, and his father was killed in the earthquake and fire in 1906 in San Francisco, leaving Murphy an orphan.

1956 winner Pat Flaherty was one of the more prominent Indianapolis 500 champions of Irish descent. Flaherty was born in 1926 in Los Angeles as George Francis Flaherty Jr. but was nicknamed “Pat.”

The red-haired Flaherty, who won from the pole in 1956, wore his Irish heritage on his sleeve – or more accurately, his head. His well-worn, white Cromwell racing helmet featured either a large green shamrock or four-leafed clover, both symbols of Ireland.

The Irish theme continued the year after Flaherty’s victory when Pat O’Connor won the pole for the 1957 Indianapolis 500 in the Sumar Special before finishing eighth.

While Murphy, Flaherty and O’Connor each were born in the United States, an Irish breakthrough was made in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in 1983. Derek Daly became the first driver born in the Republic of Ireland to compete in the Indianapolis 500, qualifying 28th and finishing 19th.


Daly, born near Dublin, made six career starts in the “500” between 1983-89, with a best finish of 12th in 1985. He went on to become a motivational speaker, author, motorsports driver developer and manager, and popular racing analyst on television. Daly’s son Conor, born in the Indianapolis area, will attempt to make his fourth Indianapolis 500 start this May, driving for A.J. Foyt Racing.

Michael Roe attempted to become the second Irish-born driver to race in the Indianapolis 500, in 1985. But he failed to qualify in a Hemelgarn Racing entry.

But 1985 did feature a winner of Irish descent who used some of the famous “luck o’ the Irish” to earn a piece of racing immortality and a spot on the Borg-Warner Trophy. Danny Sullivan, born in Louisville, Kentucky, spun in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 after passing Mario Andretti for the lead. Sullivan miraculously kept the car off the wall and recovered to win.

While drivers of Irish descent have enjoyed success in the Indianapolis 500, a man whose nickname was “Irish” is believed to have made “500” history, too. IMS Public Address announcer John Francis “Irish” Horan was the first person to make the formal command to start engines before the start of the race, believed to be in 1950.

Show More Show Less
Now Viewing
Pat Flaherty
 
The Luck - and Skill - of the Irish in the Indianapolis 500
Drivers of Irish heritage also have celebrated on Memorial Day weekend in late May in Indianapolis while standing in Victory Lane for the Indianapolis 500.
Read More
Related Media
2018 Indy Car
 
Fans Can Watch Testing of New IndyCar Aero Kit Tuesday, July 25 at IMS
Fans are welcome to watch the inaugural test of the Dallara universal aero kit to be used by all Verizon IndyCar Series teams starting in the 2018 season on Tuesday, July 25 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Read More
SCCA
 
SCCA Runoffs at IMS Attract Record Entry of More Than 750 Drivers
Competitor registration opened July 19 for the Sports Car Club of America 2017 National Championship Runoffs being held this year for the very first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sept. 29-Oct. 1. In just 24 hours, 763 driver entries were registered -- crushing the 413 entries made in 24 hours for last year’s 2016 Runoffs at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Read More
2018 Indy Car
 
Montoya, Servia Named to Test 2018 Indy Car Aero Kit
Team Penske is providing the Chevrolet-powered Dallara IR-12 chassis to be driven by Montoya. Servia will drive a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara with a Honda engine. While the teams are providing crews to service the cars, the testing regimen will be supervised by INDYCAR, the sanctioning organization for the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Read More
Josef Newgarden
 
Newgarden Victorious on Streets of Toronto
Newgarden seized the lead by making his first stop just before a full-course caution flag waved on the streets course at Exhibition Place. The Team Penske driver led 58 of the last 61 laps to win the Verizon IndyCar Series race by 1.8704 seconds over Alexander Rossi.
Read More
Indianapolis 500
 
Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network Ratings Soar for 101st Indianapolis 500
Overall United States radio listenership of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil grew 43 percent from 2016 on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, according to a recent research study.
Read More
Items 1 - 5 of 1,465
Reserve one of our hospitality suites for your next event!
To start planning your event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway please fill out our Information Request Form or contact IMS Sales Department at (317) 492-8739 or email at hospitalitysales@brickyard.com.
Latest Tweets
It's Pole day on @CrownRoyal Armed Forces Weekend & we can't wait to see you! Check out details on the day: https://t.co/yKQ6Db3YRK
May 21