“Second”–The Exhibit

Although someone probably said it before, the late Bobby Unser is credited with saying “Second-place is the first loser”. A more common phrase is “No one remembers second-place”. Thanks to The IMS Museum’s current special exhibit simply named Second, we have a way to remember some of the more famous cars and drivers who finished second.

When I was up at the IMS Open Test last month, the Friday session was rained out. I took that opportunity to go visit the museum with hardly anyone else in there. I always enjoy going to the museum on the day before the race with my brothers, but the crowds tend to dampen my enthusiasm. What’s even worse is if it is a hot day. The air-conditioning system in there can’t fully handle a huge crowd on a hot day. The old tagline of “Aren’t you glad you use Dial? Don’t you wish everybody did?” comes to mind.

While this doesn’t stir the awe that the Unser, Foyt or Andretti exhibits of years past did, this is a very interesting exhibit. The two best things I can say about it are (a) I learned something from it and (b) I saw cars I’ve never seen before.

The exhibit is on the entire west side of the building, to your left as you walk in after buying your ticket. By the way, your ticket is $15, unless you are old like me. Those over 62 are only charged $14. It is pretty obvious by the sign over the door where the exhibit starts.


The first car you come to is a replica of the car that Ralph Mulford drove in the Inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911. The fact that it is a replica is clearly displayed, so they aren’t trying to sneak a replica in. Still, you see up close what the car looked like. There are some conspiracy theorist that think that Mulford won the 1911 race, but was cheated out of it due to a scoring error. Many also belong to the recent movement that says the earth is flat.


Across the way, is the car driven by Scott Goodyear to second place in 1997. Again, this was a controversial finish as the race suddenly went green with just a couple of laps left – catching most of the field off guard, including Goodyear. His teammate, Arie Luyendyk, went on to the win.


Eddie Sachs replaced AJ Foyt in the Dean Van Lines Special. Sachs put this car on the pole in 1961 and he and Foyt were battling for the win at the end. Foyt had a refueling issue, which made his car much lighter…and faster. Sachs wore out his tires trying to catch him. After Foyt had to pit for a splash near the end, it appeared Sachs would win. But the worn tires were showing the white wear-indicator strip, and Sachs was afraid he would crash and throw away a good finish. He pitted, allowing Foyt to speed ahead for the win, while Sachs settled for second.



When I think of the 1996 race, I think of the unfamiliar names, then I think about Eliseo Salazar T-boning Arie Luyendyk as they were leaving the pits. I had to think about who finished second, but it was Davy Jones in a Galles entry. Rick Galles is one of the few car-owners (if not the only) who fielded cars in both the US 500 at Michigan and the Indianapolis 500. The trivia question is who drove this car fulltime for Galles in CART that season? The answer is motorcycle rider Eddie Lawson.


I will admit that I was not familiar at all with the name Dave Lewis. Some of my IndyCar friends chastised me for not knowing his name. The car was originally ordered by 1922 winner Jimmy Murphy, but he was fatally injured in late 1924 and never got to see or drive this Miller that finished second in 1925 behind Peter DePaolo.


I would also be lying if I said I knew much about Wilbur D’Alene. But once I read the plaque, I realized he was a rookie in 1916, and finished second behind Dario Resta. He drove in two more races after World War I, but never finished higher than fifteenth. I was intrigued, however with the AAA badge on the grill of this Duesenberg.



D’Alene is not the only rookie to finish second. Roberto Guerrero finished second as a rookie behind Rick Mears in 1984 in this March. He also shared Rookie of the Year honors with Michael Andretti.


While I was unfamiliar with a couple of the previous drivers, I was very familiar with Jimmy Jackson, who finished second to George Robson in 1946 – the first year back after World War II and the first under Tony Hulman’s ownership.


Shorty Canton was another rookie that finished second in the Indianapolis 500, in this Miller – behind winner Billy Arnold. Cantlon had ten more starts, but had only one Top-Ten after his rookie year. He was fatally injured in Turn One, forty laps into the 1947 race.



Michael Andretti is on a very short list of one of the greatest drivers to never win the Indianapolis 500. In the closing laps of the 1991 Indianapolis 500, it looked like he would win, when he passed Rick Mears on the outside in Turn One. The following lap, Mears returned the favor and went on to win his fourth 500. Michael settled for second. As an aside – I think a Lola of the early 90s may be the best looking car from the early seventies going forward. That’s my opinion and others will disagree.



Billy Vukovich II was a very capable driver, even though he did not match the talent or results his famous father did. Few could. While he wasn’t flashy, he had a reputation for taking care of his equipment and bringing them home. He brought the Sugaripe Prune Spl. Eagle home in second-place in 1973, behind Gordon Johncock.



One of the most famous second-place cars is this 1992 Lola-Chevy driven by Scott Goodyear. This car was on the losing end of the closest finish ever, behind Al Unser, Jr. in 1992.



There are at least two winning cars in this exhibit, and the 1950 winner is one of them. Johnnie Parsons drove this car to victory in 1950. In 1951, the car had been sold to Jim Robbins and Mike Nazaruk was the driver. After winning one year, the car finished the following year behind Lee Wallard.


Art Cross was the first to be named Rookie of the Year in 1952, by finishing fifth. The following year, he bested that with a second-place finish in this car behind Bill Vukovich. Cross would drive in two more 500s after this, but never finished better than eleventh.


Rex Mays is another driver on that short list of greatest drivers to never win the Indianapolis 500. He was a very popular driver, who drove on both sides of World War II. He held the record for most poles with four, until AJ Foyt tied the record and then Rick Mears broke the record with six. He finished second in this car.


I guess they had to have a representative of practically every era in this exhibit. This car driven by Jeff Ward finished second to Kenny Bräck in 1999. As good looking as cars were in the early 90s, by the late 90s this is what cars had become. This marks probably the ugliest era of cars to ever run in the Indianapolis 500.


Growing up, I was always a fan of the Dan Gurney Eagles. I always thought the 1966-67 Eagles were some of the prettiest cars ever, with the very pronounced “beak” on the nose. The 1968 Eagle had a more subdued beak, but they were good enough to win with Bobby Unser driving one and Gurney driving another to second-place. Then in 1969, the Eagle got ugly, following suit with many 1969 cars that were copying the wedge shape of the Lotus 56 from 1968. For the second year in a row, Dan Gurney finished second in this 1969 Eagle.





Ted Horn is another driver that belongs on that short list of best to never win the 500. He had ten starts from 1934 to 1948. As a rookie, he finished sixteenth. In his next nine starts, he never finished lower than fourth. He drove this car, which won the 1932 race with Fred Frame driving, to a second-place finish in 1936 behind Louis Meyer, who became the first three-time winner that day.


Maybe the most infamous second-place car in this exhibit was this Dallara-Honda driven by JR Hildebrand in 2011. Hildebrand was a rookie in 2011, yet he appeared destined to win the 500 in his very first attempt. He inherited the lead when several front-runners had to pit for fuel. As Hildebrand was coming out of Turn Four to take the checkered-flag, he came across the sputtering car of Charlie Kimball – causing him to lose control enough to put him into the wall within sight of the flag stand. Dan Wheldon sped by him to take the win, his second. Hildebrand was left to ponder what might have been. Fans were left to wonder how different Hildebrand’s career would have been had he won that day.



Some of these cars represent uneventful second-place finishes. Others were involved in fascinating stories that will live for generations.

I was sort of surprised by some of the second-place cars that weren’t in this exhibit. For instance, what about the car that Marco Andretti drove to get passed by Sam Hornish in the last two-hundred yards of the 2006 race? Although the car was actually classified in fourteenth-place, I’d like to see Scott Goodyear’s car from 1995 – the car that passed the pace car. Jerry Grant’s Mystery Eagle in 1972 finished second, but was penalized to twelfth. Where is it now? What about Roberto Guerrero’s 1987 car that he stalled on his last pit stop – allowing Al Unser to come around and pass him, or the car that Rick Mears came so close to winning over Gordon Johncock? All of these were cars with major stories behind them, yet they were not included. I guess you can’t have all of them made available to you.

If you are at the track over the next couple of weekends, I highly recommend that you go to the museum and take in these historic cars, as well as the winning cars on the east side of the building. It will be time and money well spent.

George Phillips

11 Responses to ““Second”–The Exhibit”

  1. S0CSeven Says:

    Also missing was Helio’s second place car when he lost to Paul Tracy.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    A really neat idea for an exhibit. The 500’s second place finishers are a mixed bag, many are legends or at the very least had very successful careers… but some, a broken washer away from a win that practically guarantees racing immortality, never approached such success again.

  3. Talon De Brea Says:

    Thanks, George. I was first gaining interest in racing and the 500 as a little kid in ’63-’65, and to me, the front-engine cars were dinosaurs that were on their way out. However, I see images of those cars today and consider them examples of great automotive beauty — truly artistic, purpose-built machines. Great cars in a great exhibit!

  4. Steven Kilsdonk Says:

    I heard the 1987 Roberto car was not present because it has a stock block engine installed and the bodywork has been clearly altered to accommodate it.

  5. the car sponsors were interesting to me as well.
    sort of shows how the situations have shifted.

  6. Thanks for sharing all those photos with us. Great post George!

  7. That 90s Lola was what got me hooked on Indycars!

  8. Mrs. Oilpressure Says:

    Dang! I can’t believe you went to the museum without me!

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