The strange Indy 500 streak that nobody can seem to end

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

You have to go back more than a dozen years to find the last time the Indy 500 winner went on to win the IndyCar championship in the same season.

When Dario Franchitti won his second Indy 500 and went on to win his third career IndyCar championship in 2010, it marked the fifth time in the last six seasons that the winner of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” had gone on to secure the title at America’s highest level of open-wheel racing.

Dan Wheldon did it in 2005, which remains the most recent season in which the champion secured the title before the season finale. Sam Hornish Jr. did it in 2006, winning the Indy 500 via the first ever last-lap race-winning pass in race history over Marco Andretti and then securing the championship on a tiebreaker over Wheldon.

Franchitti pulled it off for the first of two times in 2007 before Scott Dixon did so in 2008. The lone exception from 2005 to 2010 was 2009, when Helio Castroneves won the Indy 500 but finished in fourth place in the championship. Eventual champion Franchitti finished the Indy 500 in seventh.

But here we are in 2023, and Franchitti remains the most recent driver to win both the Indy 500 and IndyCar championship in the same season, 13 years ago.

In 2011, Wheldon won the Indy 500 in a one-off entry, doing so with the race’s second ever last-lap race-winning when J.R. Hildebrand crashed in the final turn. Franchitti finished the race in 12th place before going on to win his fourth and final title.

Wheldon would end up competing in just two more races in 2011, the second of which being the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was killed in a 15-car crash in that race at the age of 33.

In 2012, Franchitti won his third Indy 500 after narrowly avoiding a last-lap crash when Takuma Sato tried to take the lead away from him, but he only finished in seventh place in the championship.

He did not compete in IndyCar in 2008, so the 2012 season was technically his first without a title since 2006. Eventual champion Ryan Hunter-Reay failed to finish the Indy 500 and was scored in 27th with a suspension issue.

In 2013, the Indy 500 was won by Tony Kanaan, who only finished in 11th place in the championship. Eventual champion Dixon finished the Indy 500 in a disappointing 14th.

Things get even more interesting in 2014, when IndyCar introduced double points for the Indy 500. Up until last year, points were doubled for each position in this 200-lap race around the four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in Speedway, Indiana.

Hunter-Reay won the Indy 500 but finished in sixth place in the championship. Eventual champion Will Power finished the Indy 500 in eighth.

Juan Pablo Montoya was poised to end this drought in 2015, when he won his second Indy 500 and first since 2000. He never trailed in the standings throughout the season. But the problem was that he ended up tied with Dixon after the season finale, and Dixon, who had finished the Indy 500 in fourth place, won on a tiebreaker.

In 2016, Alexander Rossi became the Indy 500’s first rookie winner since Castroneves in 2001, when he somehow managed to stretch his final tank of fuel and clutch and coast to the finish line ahead of a hard-charging Carlos Munoz. He finished in 11th place in the championship, while eventual champion Simon Pagenaud finished the Indy 500 in 19th.

In 2017, the one that got away came back to Sato, who denied Castroneves a record-tying fourth Indy 500. But he could only manage to finish the championship in eighth place. Eventual champion Josef Newgarden placed 19th in the Indy 500.

The drought came relatively close to ending again in 2018 and 2019, but it wasn’t meant to be. Power won the 2018 Indy 500 and finished in third place in the championship. Dixon, who won his fifth title, finished the race in third.

In 2019, Pagenaud won the Indy 500 en route to a second place finish in the championship. Newgarden, who claimed his second title, finished the race in fourth.

Dixon dominated the 2020 Indy 500, only for Sato to pass him late and secure his second win in the famed event. Sato finished in seventh place in the championship while Dixon won his sixth title after leading the standings after every race on the schedule, something that hadn’t been done since 2001 when Hornish pulled it off.

Then as a part-time driver competing in the race for somebody other than Team Penske for the first time, Castroneves finally secured his fourth Indy 500 win in his 12th attempt as a three-time winner, holding off eventual series champion Alex Palou to get the job done.

In 2022, Marcus Ericsson became the latest driver who look poised to end this drought, as he became the first Indy 500 winner to lead the championship at any point during his Indy 500-winning season since Pagenaud in 2019. But he dropped to sixth place by the end of the season, and it was Power who won his second title, despite only finishing the Indy 500 in 15th.

It’s a streak that is truly mesmerizing, especially considering the Indy 500 has been a double points-paying race over the last nine years.

Additionally, seven Indy 500 winners during this span are former IndyCar champions. They simply haven’t been able to win both in the same year, something that had been almost a lock for a number of seasons prior.

Next. All-time IndyCar wins list. dark

The 107th running of the Indy 500 is scheduled to take place on Sunday, May 28. NBC is set to broadcast the race live beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET. Will this year’s Indy 500 winner become the first to go on to win the IndyCar championship since Dario Franchitti in 2010, or will this strange streak continue? Begin a free trial of FuboTV now and don’t miss it!