100th Indianapolis 500: Foyt, Jones, Dixon and Mann Share Memories of Past Races

Ashley McCubbinAnalyst IMay 16, 2011

A.J. Foyt
A.J. FoytJonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

The May 27 running of the Indianapolis 500 will mark the 100th running of the historic race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which still contains a strip of the original bricks used.

While rain hampered the on-track action this weekend, many historic and current drivers shared some of their memories from the race.

Both A.J. Foyt and Parnelli Jones were on hand to share thoughts on their historic victories and more.

Foyt won the Indianapolis 500 four-times, though this year marks the 50th anniversary of his first victory in 1961.

"I always say, to win this race you have to have everything go your way," Foyt said.

"I don't care who you are or anything. Everything's just got to fall in line. If it doesn't, then you're not going to win."

In comparing the racing from to now, Foyt pointed at there being many engineering changes.

"Back then you come to the race and you had 80 to 100 cars and you had your chief mechanic," he said.

"You didn't have all the factories in it. It was just a different kind of combination than it is today. I mean, it was a hard combination. It was very competitive. You had to build and make everything yourself. Most of the mechanics today are just 'R and R,' remove and replace. Back then, you designed it, built it and then you tried it."

Jones, meanwhile, won the Indianapolis 500 in 1963 and looked towards how the 500 will be in the future.

"I was looking at these new cars over here, and I can see it's definitely going somewhere," he said.

"You know, aerodynamics and electronics on all the new cars have changed a whole lot in racing. It's not the same. It's not going back. So where are they going from here? It's beyond me. That's like saying, where are we going with aerodynamics or anything like that? They're reaching for maximums. These cars probably have so much downforce, they could run upside down at 150 miles per hour."

Meanwhile Scott Dixon, a native of Auckland, New Zealand and the 2008 Indianapolis 500 winner, talked about memories from when he was a kid.

"Coming from New Zealand, we are a long ways away and probably more European-orientated as far as Formula One," Dixon said.

"For everybody around the world, everybody knows there is one major race - the Indianapolis 500. Growing up as a kid, I always watched the race on TV, even in little New Zealand. In the early days, I hoped to be able to grow up and maybe being able to compete in some of these races. But the whole reality of achieving that was probably next to nil.

"I had been living here (United States) since 1999, and to actually come here in 2002 with Ganassi to watch Kenny (Brack) and Bruno (Junqueira), to see the spectacle itself as far as how many people come to the event, how massive it is, how the city changes; that's when you get the realistic side of the race. The speed of the cars, just hearing the crowd roar, is pretty special."

In comparison, Pippa Mann talked about her impressions of watching the Indianapolis 500 from Ipswich, England.

"In England, nearly everybody has heard of the Indy 500, but strangely enough the race isn't that big of a deal to everyone in England," Mann said.

"It's on a par to the Formula One race in Monaco, the most prestigious race of the year. It's viewed in the UK as just a big race. Until I actually came here and saw IMS for the first time, I didn't quite get it. Only when I ran on it for the first time in an Indy Lights car did I understand what this place was all about."

Mann goes on to speak of the characteristics of the track and why its such a staple in oval racing.

"I think Indianapolis was how I imagined an oval would look like," Mann continued.

"It's pretty much a flat oval and very interesting to drive. While the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the biggest and fastest speedway we go to, it takes so many things from oval racing and from road racing, so it's very interesting. It is a track that takes from both disciplines, and that's why you have drivers who are the best at both disciplines who excel at this track."

This running of the race will mark the first race for Mann at Indianapolis in an IndyCar.

"The Indy car feels like a bigger version of the Indy Lights car," she said.

"At the moment, we are fighting a little bit of a handling issue, and yet as a rookie I'm supposed to be totally phased and spooked by this. However, because of my experience in the Indy Lights car, I know it's just doing that (mishandling) a bit, and we're supposed to be able to fix it. It (Indy Lights) has really helped my comfort level, how I've adapted to the car and how comfortable I am when the car moves around. Not that I'm going to be that comfortable when it moves around because, if you make a mistake, this place can make you pay for it pretty badly.

"In an Indy car, there is so much more to do than just drive the car. I have all these buttons, levers and knobs that I'm meant to play with and moving around all the time. I'm just now getting into that. I've run 50 laps here now in an Indy car, and that's not even the equivalent of a full day's running, so I'm on a little bit of a learning curve right now."

Scott Dixon, meanwhile, recalled his first Indianapolis start in 2003. 

"To be able to come here and be lucky enough to compete in 2003 was definitely a dream come true," Dixon said.

"It's obviously kind of mind-boggling to look back and remember that I had watched these races on TV in New Zealand, so far away, and then to actually be competing in it. And that year we actually led laps. It was pretty cool. It's a special place that demands a lot of respect from drivers. You're always on edge as a driver, and it can bite you pretty quick. When you do well here, it rewards you tremendously.

"The coolest thing about this place is the history. Obviously celebrating the Centennial year, to know people have been doing this for 100 years, is the greatest thing in sporting history. To be one of 67 drivers who have won this race is a very proud moment."

In looking at the prestige of the race, Mann speaks of how she was starting to get involved in the festivities last year.

"When I was with Panther Racing as an Indy Lights driver, we started getting into the 100th Anniversary festivities," she said.

"That was when it really dawned on me how big this event really is. And then seeing everything ramp up over the past two years, the increased interest, the increased spectacle, it's really, really cool to be a part of it now."