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IMS Writers’ Roundtable, Volume 15: Near-Misses at Indy

Today’s question: There could be up to nine former Indianapolis 500 winners in this year’s field. Which active driver best could have made it 10?

Curt Cavin: Marco Andretti and JR Hildebrand are the obvious choices, but I’ll go Ed Carpenter, a three-time “500” pole winner who finished second to Will Power in 2018. He has led the most laps (146) of all of the active non-winners. Andretti is second with 141 with James Hinchcliffe third at 54 and Max Chilton fourth with 50. Graham Rahal has led only 20 laps, but he has scored a pair of third-place finishes, the most recent coming in August. I expect him to be a factor in May.

Zach Horrall: Not to bring up bad memories, but we are 10 years removed from one of the most unlikely finishes in Indianapolis 500 history, when then-rookie JR Hildebrand was literally seconds away from winning the 100th Anniversary Indy 500 in 2011. It was a moment that brought fans to their feet, and it’s a finish we continue to think about each year as we wonder what could’ve been – what if Hildebrand practiced a little bit more patience in Turn 4 when attempting to get past fellow rookie Charlie Kimball on Lap 200? That’s a tough question. Hildebrand’s NTT INDYCAR SERIES career would be completely different, that’s for sure. But the easy answer is we would have 10 former winners entering in the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Paul Kelly: Curt and Zach nailed the obvious candidates and the most painful memories – Marco Andretti in 2006 and JR Hildebrand in 2011. Not much I can add to that! It’s tough to say which scenario was more cruel. Marco had the checkered flag in sight and lost the race in the last few hundred yards, but he had to know Sam Hornish Jr. was lurking. JR, on the other hand, was almost home-free for a straightaway sprint to immortality. And then calamity struck. Either way, both were among the most exciting, yet cruelest, “500” finishes I can remember since I started working here in 1998. If we were counting recent drivers who are no longer in the series, Carlos Munoz in 2016 and Stefan Wilson in 2018 are two faces who could have been on the Borg-Warner Trophy if they got a late caution while trying to stretch fuel.

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