Two Heads Are Better Than One

I think by now, most readers of this site know that I really enjoy Indianapolis 500 trivia. In fact, I enjoy all forms of trivia – whether it be racing, football, baseball, movies or TV shows. For whatever reason, my brain is geared for remembering dates and useless facts. It’s too bad that I never found a way to put that brain-power into something that paid money or accomplish something for the betterment of mankind. It only serves me well in meaningless trivia contests.

One of the few silver linings of this lost Month of May is the fact that I was already very behind on gathering questions for the annual Trivia Contest held on this site each May. There was sort of an upheaval at my job in January and my workload suddenly became overwhelming. I usually get most of my questions listening to old episodes of Donald Davidson and The Talk of Gasoline Alley (TOGA) as I do chores around the house or on walks around my neighborhood. My winter weekends this year have been spent with work or simply resting to recuperate from a stressful work week. When the pandemic hit, I had a total of five trivia questions for the next contest. Now I have ten of the thirty-three questions for the annual ritual. It should be ready for August, but no guarantees.

I had noticed earlier last week that nine-time Indianapolis 500 starter Charlie Kimball would be hosting some sort of trivia contest this past Saturday night. Once I saw that there was a $33 entry fee involved, I decided I would pass. I was also discouraged in participating when I saw that he was going to cap it at 500 team entries. I figured that there were a lot of hard-cores that knew a lot more than I did, especially when it came to my weak spot – the late seventies and early eighties. Those were my college and then early adulthood years, when I had other things on my mind.

But Thursday afternoon, my good friend Paul Dalbey, from, texted me, wanting to know if he and I could form a team for Saturday night’s contest. I hesitated for the reasons I just stated, but he persisted and called me Thursday night to pester me further.

I finally relented. I knew Paul was just as astute, if not more so, about Indianapolis 500 trivia. What convinced me to do it was that he and I had different areas of expertise. I felt I was very strong with the fifties, sixties and early seventies, while he was much stronger with the eighties. He and I are both very strong from the nineties to the present. While I can tell you what driver ran for what team and which chassis, engine and tire combination they had; Paul is much better with Rookie of the Year winners, Pole winners and front-row occupants. I was thinking that maybe as a team, we could have a decent showing.

This contest seemed to have a lot of credibility. Kimball was touting on social media that all of the questions had been vetted by Donald Davidson, and that the final round of three questions would be read by legendary drivers AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and Dario Franchitti.

Some of the team names were very clever. Oh Me So Hornish, Willy P and the Wankers, Definitely Not Arni’s Team and Al Unser Taught Me the F-Word come to mind. Our team name of and was not very clever, but they gave no style points for team names in this contest.

I’ll admit that I was getting nervous before it started. How do you prepare for a trivia contest? About an hour before it started at 7:30 pm Saturday night, I started going through my own trivia questions over the past decade, just to at least get myself in the right frame of mind. Paul and I were set up on Facetime, where we could discuss our responses as we watched the questions being asked live on You Tube. I didn’t know if it was going to be rapid fire or what.

As it turned out, there were several rounds of questions being read aloud at once and the teams had about eight minutes to submit their answers through Google Docs, before moving on to the next round. Paul was manning the forms, so I had nothing in front of me regarding the list of questions. I just had to jot them down or ask Paul to re-read them to me. This was particularly cumbersome on the “picture round”, where there were ten obscure photographs and the teams had to identify the year each was taken. Paul had to take his phone and show me each photo.

These were tough questions and as was expected, each round got harder. They would announce the correct answers after each round, but we had no idea where we stacked up against all of the other teams. This was actually headed up by Matt Hammond, a former attorney in Indianapolis, who has apparently built himself quite a reputation as a trivia expert through his Hambone’s Trivia. Hammond served as the host and asked the questions, while Kimball provided guest commentary.

Ultimately, we missed one question – a four-part question in Round Three. It was (paraphrasing) “In the twenty-first century, there have been four Indianapolis 500s decided by a pass on either Lap 199 or Lap 200. Who made those passes and in what year?” Paul and I both came up with Wheldon in 2011 and Paul was the first to remember Pagenaud in 2019. I was the first to say Hornish in 2006, but we were stuck on the fourth one. We both agreed that it must have been Ryan Hunter-Reay in his great late-race battle with Helio Castroneves in 2014. We were wrong. It was Dario Franchitti passing teammate Scott Dixon at the beginning of Lap 199, with Takuma Sato following Franchitti.

We were bummed. With so many teams, we were afraid that question was going to bite us. Going into the final round, they explained that we would be able to wager points – Jeopardy style – on our final answers. The final round had three questions. AJ Foyt read the first one: “I’m AJ Foyt and I finished eighteen Indy 500 races. What other driver has done that?” Paul knew that one right off the bat – Al Unser. Question Two was read by Mario Andretti: “I’m one of five drivers to ever win an Indianapolis 500 and a Formula One World Championship. The most recent driver to achieve this feat was Rookie of the Year in my last race at Indianapolis.” We both knew that Jacques Villeneuve won Rookie of the Year in 1994 and most everyone knows that Mario retired after the 1994 season.

The last question had some potential confusion attached to it, but if you answered it as it was literally worded – you were in good shape. Dario Franchitti read the question: “I’m not the only Scotsman to have won the Indianapolis 500. Jim Clark, a man who I admire greatly won the 1965 race. I’m also not the only Dario to have won the great race. Dario Resta, an Italian who lived most of his life in the UK, won one of the more unusual races at the Speedway. Which of these facts is not true about the 1916 Indianapolis 500? (a) It remains the shortest race in Indianapolis 500 history. (b) It had the smallest field with 21 drivers taking the start, or (c) The starting grid had rows of four and not rows of three.

If meant literally, I knew that the untrue statement was statement (a). The 1916 race was scheduled to run only three-hundred miles. But I also knew that the 1976 race was shortened by rain at Lap 102, making it the shortest race in Indianapolis 500 history at 255 miles. I also knew that the 1916 race had the fewest starters, with 21. That was actually one of my trivia questions a few years earlier. Statement (c) was one we made an educated stab at. We both knew that the earlier 500s started in rows of five. Neither of us were certain about the rows of four in 1916, but it seemed logical. So we decided to take the question at its literal wording. We chose to roll the dice and wager the maximum allowed thirty points.

When the final points were tallied for the night, you can probably guess by now who won the contest– the team with the very non-clever name: and Had we not been bold and wager the maximum, we probably would not have won; because the team known as Balloon Knots was right on our heels – just three points behind.


In case you are interested, here is the full replay of Saturday night’s Hambone’s 500 Trivia Contest. If there is a time-counter at the beginning, run it up to about the 14:45 mark

Although they say that two heads are better than one, if I’m being totally honest – I think Paul could have won this all on his own. Except for the 1916 question, I can’t think of any question that went back further than the eighties. My strength is in the earlier days – especially the fifties and sixties. With questions from the more recent years, this played more to Paul’s strength. But still I contributed a few answers and I got to feel warm and fuzzy about myself. There were prizes given away, but as I type this – I’ve yet to be notified what I won. It doesn’t really matter. It was fun to be a player for once instead of gathering the questions for an entire year. Fortunately, I have a little more time for this year’s contest.

George Phillips

11 Responses to “Two Heads Are Better Than One”

  1. Jack in Virginia Says:

    Wow! Congratulations! What did you get as a prize, other than bragging rights?

  2. Congrats on the win … signed, a player off of Definitely Not Arni’s Team

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Way to bury the lede, George. Congratulations to you and Paul, sounds like it was a lot of fun. I’ll get to listening to the whole thing while I work today.

  4. Bruce Waine Says:

    George – Jeopary here we come ! !

    So have you & Paul received a telephone call or email from Alex Trebek ?

  5. Bruce B Says:

    $33 seems a bit expensive for a trivia contest. Will the earnings be Kimball’s new sponsor? “Indy trivia”

  6. Congratulations George and Paul!!! I am very impressed, but not surprised you two won. Was a portion of the entry fee going to charity?

  7. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    Matt Hammond of Hambones Trivia is a great guy and runs great trivia almost every day. If you guys had known what you were doing, Paul would have sent you a link where you could have seen all the questions. Congrats on winning, it was a lot of fun. We finished 25th!

  8. Great article as always! Sounds like it was a ton of fun! Congrats

    Also, I know you probably aren’t big on the indycar e-sport races but are you going to write about the iRacing Indy 175 event with Norris, Pagenaud and Ferucci? I’m curious to your thoughts on the recent drama. That being said, I know you write about whatever you want so I’m just looking forward to your next article!

  9. I am trying to decide if I want to binge watch Legends of the Brickyard and Indy 500 The Classics, this month still or wait until August…. Or both? Ok, that’s the answer!

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