We Have a Winner!

The questions for the Indianapolis 500 Trivia Contest were posted here two weeks ago. Normally few answers trickled in over the first ten days or so, but there was also the stream of those that waited until the last thirty minutes to get their answers in. I remember about five or six years ago, the winning entry came in with four minutes to spare.

This year, the suspense was over early. The winning entry came in barely twenty-four hours after the questions were released. At first glance, it appeared he missed one – Question No. 15. But he offered support information that showed another driver, Ernie Triplett,  was involved in the crash that fatally injured Ray Keech. So I accepted that answer. His was the first entry and he got the tie-breaker as well. I believe this is the first time someone has gotten all of the answers, the tie-breaker and was the first entry.

Congratulations to Rick Johnson of Lynnwood, Washington for correctly answering all of the thirty-three questions and the tie-breaker. Rick was the 2019 champion and came close to winning in 2020. Rick, your Oilpressure.com T-shirt will be coming your way shortly. A tip of the hat to "Billy the Skink", who clearly missed only one, and he got the tie-breaker correct. I thought this one was hard, but you guys are getting good.

Each year, I’m always surprised at how many people know so many of these questions – although I shouldn’t be surprised, as this is a smart bunch here.

Thanks to everyone for playing along. This year’s response may have been the best yet.

Congratulations, Rick! You are now a two-time winner. For those that are wondering, here are the correct answers to the questions.

1. Who was the first woman to drive a lap in a race car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? What was the date and the type of car? Paula Murphy, on Nov 11, 1963 in Andy Granatelli’s Novi.

2. When Jim Rathmann won the 1960 Indianapolis 500 over Rodger Ward, at the time it was the second closest finish in the history of the race. What year had the closest finish at that time, and what was the margin of victory? The 1937 race, when Wilbur Shaw won by 2.16 seconds over Ralph Hepburn.

3. In 1986, Mario Andretti and Tom Sneva finished thirty-second and thirty-third respectively. Prior to that year, when was the last time two former winners finished in the final two positions? 1936, with Bill Cummings and Fred Frame.

4. It is not unusual for the fastest car in the field to start further back, due to qualifying after the first day. Only once, has a driver set one-lap and four-lap records in being the last successful qualifier on the last day of qualifications. Who was the driver and in what year did he accomplish this? Chet Miller in the Novi, in 1952. He started twenty-seventh.

5. Which driver was originally scheduled to drive the very first Sumar Special, before breaking his arm in a sprint car accident? Gene Force

6. Name a driver entered in this year’s race that has a consecutive stretch of Indianapolis 500 finishes of 32, 32, 28, 26,19 and 24; as part of his Indianapolis 500 driving career. Sage Karam

7. Who was the first Japanese-born driver to qualify for the Indianapolis 500? What was the year? Hiro Matsushita

8. Prior to Takuma Sato winning his first Indianapolis 500 in 2017, what was the best finish in the Indianapolis 500 by a Japanese-born driver? What was the year? Tora Takagi, finishing fifth in the 2003 Indianapolis 500 (after starting seventh).

9. There was once a rule that a driver had to get out of his car during a pit stop. What winning driver was heavily fined for not getting out of his car during his two pit stops, but was still allowed to be declared the winner? What was the year? George Robson, in 1946.

10. Manny Ayulo was fatally injured in practice for the 1955 Indianapolis 500. Who drove the same car Ayulo lost his life in, in the 1956 race? Gene Hartley

11. Twice there have been races that had only one rookie in the field – a rookie being defined as never having started the Indianapolis 500. What two years did this happen and who were the drivers? 1939, Mel Hansen; and 1979, Howdy Holmes

12. There has never been an Indianapolis 500 that had no rookies in the starting field. True or False? True

13. Before Conor Daly led forty laps in the 2021 Indianapolis 500, who was the last Indiana-born driver to lead a lap in the Indianapolis 500, and in what year? Tony Stewart in 2001.

14. What well-known national household product had its logo derived from an Indianapolis 500 tradition? Wonder Bread. The colorful balloons of the Balloon Race at IMS, were a “wonder” to the eyes.

15. Ray Keech won the 1929 Indianapolis 500, then was fatally injured just sixteen days later in a race at Altoona. What other Indianapolis 500 driver was involved in the accident, but survived? Cliff Woodbury

16. What driver showed up as a rookie in the twenty-first century, and did not realize the race started three-abreast? Tora Takagi

17. Unfortunately, many drivers have left IMS in the ambulance of Conkle Funeral Home. What driver actually arrived on Race Morning in the Conkle ambulance? Rodger Ward in 1960

18. What driver was a champion parachutist and was actually questioned by the FBI for possibly being DB Cooper (younger folks probably need to Google DB Cooper)? Dick Simon

19. What future winner’s future wife tended to victims of the 1960 infield scaffolding collapse? Johnny Rutherford’s future wife, Betty Hoyer, was a nurse at IMS in 1960.

20. What future winning Chief Mechanic was the riding mechanic for Jimmy Snider in 1937, when he led twenty-four of the first twenty-seven laps after starting nineteenth? Takeo “Chickie” Hirashima

21. When was the last time the winning driver of the Indianapolis 500 could stand in Victory Lane and say “I once drove a roadster in the Indianapolis 500”? Who was the driver? 1982 – Gordon Johncock

22. What is the only year that the entire front row, finished in the Top-Three positions? Who were the drivers? 1940 – Rex Mays, Wilbur Shaw, Mauri Rose

23. Who holds the IMS record for fastest official lap on the all-brick surface (meaning no asphalt in the turns)? Leon Duray

24. Who is the only driver to lead the first lap and the last lap of the Indianapolis 500 in two different cars? Joe Boyer, in 1924

25. Who was the first driver to get bumped, then bump his way back into the field? What year? Spider Webb in 1948

26. In 1941, the winning car was originally assigned to what driver at the beginning of the month? Duke Nalon

27. In 1990, Rick Mears set the record for the best starting streak over a five-year period, with a 1.6 average starting position from 1986 through 1990. Whose record did he break? Leon Duray (1925-1929; 2.0 average starting position)

28. Bill Vukovich was fatally injured on Lap 56 of the 1955 Indianapolis 500. Who was the driver that drove the exact same car just prior to Vukovich? Pat O’Connor

29. What driver is credited with first using what is now generally considered the racing groove at IMS? Lee Wallard, the 1951 winner.

30. The Baby Blue Crown Special was built primarily as a dirt car, but it ran in several Indianapolis 500s. What year did the Baby Blue Crown Special have its best finish in the 500, and who was the driver? George Connor drove the car to a third-place finish in the 1949 Indianapolis 500.

31. What rookie driver led the most laps in an Indianapolis 500, without winning the race? What was the year, and how many laps did he or she lead? Bill Holland led 143 laps in his rookie year of 1947, without winning. He would go on to win the race in 1949.

32. Spain’s Alex Palou came in second in the 2021 Indianapolis 500, then went on to win the IndyCar championship in only his second year. Who was the first Spaniard to qualify for the Indianapolis 500, and what was the year? Fermín Vélez, in 1996.

33. When was the first time the track ran the four-day/two-weekend qualifying format for the Indianapolis 500? 1952

Tie-breaker:  Pat Vidan was the Chief Starter for the Indianapolis 500 from from 1962 through 1979. According to Donald Davidson; where and in what year, was the first time that Tony Hulman met Pat Vidan? The Tangerine Tournament (I accepted Tangerine Bowl Race) in 1957. The Tangerine Tournament was a mini-season of USAC Midget races, throughout the state of Florida from mid-February to mid-March. Tony Hulman attended, while Vidan was the flagman. They met and Hulman invited him to Indianapolis in 1958 to be the assistant starter to Bill Vandewater. When Vandewater passed away in the winter before the 1962 race, Vidan became the Chief Starter.

6 Responses to “We Have a Winner!”

  1. Congratulations Rick! Finishing in 24 hours is amazing. I still needed more time to find the answers. Thanks George, I enjoy this so much every year.

  2. Rick Johnson Says:

    Thanks, ikissedthebricks. I don’t know about you, but I always go through the questions and first answer those that are the easiest – “easiest” being a relative term, since so many of George’s questions are difficult (which I like…keep it difficult). That evening after the trivia questions had been posted, feeling discouraged, I told my wife that I still had six questions for which I hadn’t come up with answers, and there was a possibility that I wouldn’t submit an entry. I kept working on them the next morning, figured them out and got lucky. George, thanks for going to the trouble of doing this trivia contest each year. As I mentioned, I love the degree of difficulty. It’s always a fun (and at times, frustrating) experience, and I always learn a few things. Thanks, George.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Congratulations Rick! Tremendous work.

    I love the degree of difficulty George puts into this as well, especially the questions that have “obvious” answers that are not obvious when you dissect the wording of the question. I also enjoy learning little things that are sort of “answer-adjacent”, like that the answer to question 13 would have been Mark Dismore had Stewart not managed to get back to the lead late in the race.

    That USAC Tangerine Tournament series must have been a lot of fun back in ’57, especially if you were a fan of Andy Linden (or Andy Linden himself, who sadly suffered a career-ending injury later that year).

    • Rick Johnson Says:

      Thanks, Billy. If I remember correctly, you’ve won three times, so I haven’t achieved your results. I’ve only done this trivia contest for four years now, but I love that it’s challenging. What was the one question that tripped you up this year?

      • billytheskink Says:

        You have a better winning percentage than I do, though. Haha

        I missed #17, making an “educated” guess that longtime friend of the Conkles Eddie Sachs was the driver who rode to the track in their ambulance.

        George also gave me credit for #32, where I answered Pierre de Vizcaya rather than the late Fermin Velez. 1923 starter de Vizcaya was born in France and lived there much of his life, but was ethnically Spanish and a Spanish citizen by virtue of being born into a wealthy and prominent Spanish family that had an expansive residence in France. I thought George was trying to trip us up with the use of “Spaniard” instead of “Spanish-born”.

        • Rick Johnson Says:

          Regarding #17, my first thought was Eddie Sachs as well. It sounds like something he would have done.

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