One of the unique things about motorsports is that you can never predict what is going to happen at the end. A driver can lead 70 percent of the laps and have the fastest car but not win the race. A driver can be leading by five seconds on the last lap, but not come across the finidh line with the win. Anything can happen -- run out of gas, crash into another car, blow a motor, or anything of the sort.
5. 1989 Indianapolis 500 -- Emerson Fittipaldi started on the front row and was untouchable the entire day, but with 19 laps to go a yellow came out and brought the field back together. This set the stage for a duel between Emmo and Al Unser, Jr. The two chased each other thru lapped traffic until Unser passed him on lap 196. With a lap and a half to go, Emmo made his move on the backstretch while still in the middle of lapped traffic. When the two entered turn thtrr, they touched, and Unser spun and hit the wall while Emmo continued on to take the white and the yellow flag together, solidifying that he would win the race. On the cool down lap, Unser walked out on the apron allegedly to give Emmo the finger, but instead he gave him a double thumbs up. The Unser/Fittipaldi duel will go down as one of the best duels in racing history. Ironically the two would be teammates at Penske Racing in the mid 90s.
4. 2011 Indianapolis 500 -- This is a finish where fuel strategy made predicting the winner a huge stretch. On lap 178, Scott Dixon whom had the dominant car had to pull in for his final pit stop of the day, handing the lead over to Danica Patrick who led the next 10 laps in hopes of a yellow to try and stretch her fuel, but she pulled in on lap 188 for a splash and go. That handed the lead to Belgian sophomore Bertrand Baguette, who had not led a lap in his entire Indycar career until that moment. Bertrand tried to conserve his fuel as much as he could, but he had to pit with two laps to go. Then rookie JR Hildebrand inherited the lead running on fuel mileage and using a unique strategy to save fuel -- slow down at the beginning of the run in order to run hard at the end. Hildebrand took the white flag with a comfortable lead, but coming out of four Hildebrand hit the marbles while going around a lapped car and smacked the fall. With his foot still on the gas, he tried to make it across the line on three wheels with a damaged car, but Dan Wheldon -- who did not have a full time ride that year -- came thru at full speed and led the final straightaway and won his second Indianapolis 500. That goes to show you that you can never turn away for a lap while you are watching a race. This win also will go down as Dan Wheldon's final win in Indycar, as he would lose his life at the series finale at Las Vegas that year, which makes this race even more special.
3. 2001 Michigan 500 -- After CART introduced the Handford device in 1998 at the larger speedways, lead changes at those races skyrocketed and made those races super competitive and made those finishes very unpredictable. After Team Rahal teammates Max Papis and Kenny Brack, who had led the most laps between the two of them, crashed into each other on lap 232, five cars -- Bryan Herta, Patrick Carpentier, Michel Jourdain, Dario Franchitti, and Christiano de Matta -- would decide who would come out as the victor. Herta got a huge jump on the restart, but Franchitti, Carpentier and Jourdain ran him down and swapped the lead multiple times over the next six laps. On the final lap, Carpentier's teammate Alex Tagliani whom was a lap down entered the lead group and figured into the mix. Carpentier made a bold three wide move on the outside of Franchitti and Carpentier and used the draft off his teammate and was able to hold on for the win.
2. 2000 Michigan 500 -- Another one of racing's greatest duels -- Juan Montoya and Michael Andretti. The two swapped the lead at least once each of the last ten laps. With the Handford device being in place at this race as well, the leader on the last lap was usually a sitting duck. Andretti had the lead at the line and Montoya made his move coming to get the white, and held the lead for a half a lap. Andretti drafted past Montoya going into turn three for the final time and the two ran side by side into the front stretch. The lapped car of Tarso Marques was ahead of the two, and Montoya got just enough draft to inch ahead of Andretti and nip him at the line.
1. 1998 U.S. 500 -- The first race that the Handford device was introduced produced a good one right off the bat. Officially the lead changed 63 times, unofficially it was maybe twice that. A late yellow set up a five lap trophy dash to the finish and with 10 cars still on the lead lap, anybody could potentially win. Jimmy Vasser brought the field down for the restart with teammate Alex Zanardi taking the lead almost right away, but Zanardi took it back the very next lap. While those two were battling, Greg Moore passed Scott Pruett for third and set his sights on Zanardi when Zanardi's engine began to smoke, Moore then zipped by Vasser, only to lose the lead coming to get the white flag, Zanardi even with a bad engine still kept his foot in it and made it nearly three wide in turn one on the final lap, but Moore made his move just that much earlier and passed Vassar and held on for the remainder of the lap. Vasser and Zanardi crossed the line side by side for second. See the video here.
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