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Fastest Indy 500 drivers: A history of speed in the race leading up to its 105th running

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No racing event has lasted as long as the Indianapolis 500. 

Through the times of winners, fans have been able to see the evolution of racing and cars as the average speeds of the winners just get faster and faster. 

The first winner of the Indy 500, Ray Harroun in 1911, averaged 74.602 mph. Last year, winning his second Indy 500, Takuma Sato averaged 157.824 mph, more than doubling the speed of Harroun. 

MORE: Pole, starting lineup for 2021 race at Indy 500

As drivers prepare for the 105th running of the Indy 500, we’re taking a look at how speed has changed in the race over the years. Who have been the fastest drivers, and which ones set the most major milestones along the way? 

Check out the below graphic for the engines over time that have produced the fastest speed in each race. A full breakdown of winners in each race is at the bottom of the post. 

Fastest Indy 500 average speeds

The 2013 Indy 500 wound up setting a number of records. There were 68 lead changes, 14 different leaders, 26 cars still running at the end, only 21 caution laps and 5,863 laps completed by the field, all records. 

On top of all that, it was also the fastest-ever finish to the race, with Tony Kanaan finishing with an average speed of 187.433 mph. Not since Arie Luyendyk in 1990 had a driver averaged more than 180 mph. Kanaan, a Brazilian-born driver, drove on KV Racing Technology’s team and won with a Chevrolet engine and Dallara chassis. 

While Kanaan finished the race as the fastest driver, he did not finish with the most laps led. He led in 34 while Ed Carpenter, who began the race in pole position, finished with 37 laps led. 

Had the race not finished under caution, it would have gone down in the official record books as one of the narrowest margins of victory. Kanaan edged out second-place Carlos Munoz by just 0.1159 seconds. Only six races have featured a narrower margin of victory; two were under caution. 

The next year, Ryan Hunter-Reay finished the second-fastest Indy 500 in history, also surpassing Luyendyk’s time with an average time of 186.563 mph. Like Kanaan, he also just barely held off the second-place finisher, coming in ahead of Helio Castroneves by 0.0600 seconds, the second-closest margin among races that didn’t end under caution. 

MORE: Here are the 5 closest Indianapolis 500 finishes in race history

When did a driver first finish averaging more than 100 mph?

It was in 1925 that a car first crossed the finish line in under five hours, and in doing so averaged more than 100 mph during the race. 

Peter DePaolo, driving as an entrant of Duesenberg Motors Co., started in the No. 2 position and finished in first with an average speed of 101.127 mph. Norman Batten drove for 21 laps in relief for DePaolo. 

While the Duesenberg driver was the first to average that speed in a race, it was René Thomas in 1919, driving a Delage engine, who was the first to drive more than 100 mph in the time trials, racing out to 104.785 mph to grab the pole position. He wound up placing 11th in the race with Howdy Wilcox, driving a Peugeot for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, winning the race at an average of 88.050 mph. 

What is the fastest lap ever recorded?

Just as the 2013 race was full of broken records, so too was the 1996 Indy 500. The most prominent record fell on the 78th lap when Eddie Cheever raced around at 236.103 mph, the quickest in history. 

But more lap records fell during the build-up to the race. Luyendyk set a practice lap record of 237.774 mph a day before he shattered his time, racing out to an average speed of 239.260 mph for the fastest ever in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history. But having come during practice, it remains an unofficial record. However, Luyendyk set something more official, averaging 237.498 mph on his fourth lap on the second day of time trials to set the single-lap track record and averaging 236.986 on all four laps together for another record. 

No driver has been able to reach the 240 mph mark for a single lap. 

As for who got off to the fastest start, that would be Kanaan again. He finished the first lap of the 2007 Indy 500 in 41.3359 seconds for an average speed of 217.728 mph. 

How late into a race has a driver maintained 200 mph?

As the races go on, drivers inevitably slow down. But some can keep their insane speeds up much later than others. 

That was the case with Hunter-Reay in 2014. The eventual winner of the 2014 Indy 500 was still averaging 201.267 mph by the time he had finished 170 laps — 425 miles — on the course. It is the latest that a driver has been able to keep an average greater than 200 mph. 

Indianapolis 500 winners by year

*indicates the Indy 500 did not go the full 200 laps that year

Year Driver (Team) Chassis/Engine Average Speed (MPH)
1911 Ray Harroun (Nordyke & Marmon Company) Marmon/Marmon 74.602
1912 Joe Dawson (National Motor Vehicle Company) National/National 78.719
1913 Jules Goux (Peugeot) Peugeot/Peugeot 75.933
1914 Rene Thomas (Louis Delâge Company) Delage/Delage 82.474
1915 Ralph DePalma (E.C. Patterson) Mercedes/Mercedes 89.84
1916 Dario Resta (Peugeot Auto Racing) Peugeot/Peugeot 84.001*
1919 Howdy Wilcox (I.M.S. Corporation) Peugeot/Peugeot 88.05
1920 Gaston Chevrolet (William Small Company) Frontenac/Frontenac 88.618
1921 Tommy Milton (Louis Chevrolet) Frontenac/Frontenac 89.621
1922 Jimmy Murphy (Jimmy Murphy) Duesenberg/Miller 94.484
1923 Tommy Milton (H.C.S. Motor Company) Miller/Miller 90.954
1924 L.L. Corum-J. Boyer (Duesenberg) Duesenberg/Duesenberg 98.234
1925 Peter DePaolo (Duesenberg) Duesenberg/Duesenberg 101.127
1926 Frank Lockhart (Peter Kreis) Miller/Miller 95.904*
1927 George Souders (William S. White) Duesenberg/Duesenberg 97.545
1928 Louis Meyer (Alden Sampson, II) Miller/Miller 99.482
1929 Ray Keech (M.A. Yagle) Miller/Miller 97.585
1930 Billy Arnold (Harry Hartz) Summers/Miller 100.448
1931 Louis Schneider (B.L. Schneider) Stevens/Miller 96.629
1932 Fred Frame (Harry Hartz) Wetteroth/Miller 104.144
1933 Louis Meyer (Louis Meyer) Miller/Miller 104.162
1934 Bill Cummings (H.C. Henning) Miller/Miller 104.863
1935 Kelly Petillo (Kelly Petillo) Wetteroth/Offy 106.24
1936 Louis Meyer (Louis Meyer) Stevens/Miller 109.069
1937 Wilbur Shaw (Wilbur Shaw) Shaw/Offy 113.58
1938 Floyd Roberts (Lou Moore) Wetteroth/Miller 117.2
1939 Wilbur Shaw (Boyle Racing Headquarters) Maserati/Maserati 115.035
1940 Wilbur Shaw (Boyle Racing Headquarters) Maserati/Maserati 114.277
1941 F. Davis/M. Rose (Lou Moore) Wetteroth/Offy 115.117
1946 George Robson (Thorne Engineering) Adams/Sparks 114.82
1947 Mauri Rose (Lou Moore) Deidt/Offy 116.338
1948 Mauri Rose (Lou Moore) Deidt/Offy 119.814
1949 Bill Holland (Lou Moore) Deidt/Offy 121.327
1950 Johnnie Parsons (Kurtis Kraft) Kurtis-Kraft/Offy 124.002*
1951 Lee Wallard (Murrell Belanger) Kurtis-Kraft/Offy 126.244
1952 Troy Ruttman (J.C. Agajanian) Kuzma/Offy 128.922
1953 Bill Vukovich (Howard B. Keck) KK500A/Offy 128.74
1954 Bill Vukovich (Howard B. Keck) KK500A/Offy 130.84
1955 Bob Sweikert (John Zink) KK500C/Offy 128.213
1956 Pat Flaherty (John Zink) Watson/Offy 128.49
1957 Sam Hanks (Geoge Salih) Salih/Offy 135.601
1958 Jimmy Bryan (Geoge Salih) Salih/Offy 133.791
1959 Rodger Ward (Leader Cards) Watson/Offy 135.857
1960 Jim Rathmann (Ken-Paul) Watson/Offy 138.767
1961 A.J. Foyt (Bignotti-Bowes Racing) Trevis/Offy 139.13
1962 Rodger Ward (Leader Cards) Watson/Offy 140.293
1963 Parnelli Jones (J.C. Agajanian) Watson/Offy 143.137
1964 A.J. Foyt (Ansted-Thompson Racing) Watson/Offy 147.35
1965 Jim Clark (Team Lotus) Lotus/Ford 150.686
1966 Graham Hill (Mecom Racing Team) Lola/Ford 144.317
1967 A.J. Foyt (Ansted-Thompson Racing) Coyote/Ford 151.207
1968 Bobby Unser (Leader Cards) Eagle/Offy 152.882
1969 Mario Andretti (STP Corporation) Hawk/Ford 156.867
1970 Al Unser (Vel’s Parnelli Jones Ford) Colt/Ford 155.749
1971 Al Unser (Vel’s Parnelli Jones Ford) Colt/Ford 157.735
1972 Mark Donohue (Roger Penske Enterprises) McLaren/Offy 162.962
1973 Gordon Johncock (Patrick Racing Team) Eagle/Offy 159.036*
1974 Johnny Rutherford (Bruce McLaren Motor Racing) McLaren/Offy 158.589
1975 Bobby Unser (All American Racers) Eagle/Offy 149.213*
1976 Johnny Rutherford (Bruce McLaren Motor Racing) McLaren/Offy 148.725*
1977 A.J. Foyt (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) Coyote/Foyt 161.331
1978 Al Unser (Chaparral Racing) Lola/Cosworth 161.363
1979 Rick Mears (Penske Racing) Penske/Cosworth 158.899
1980 Johnny Rutherford (Chaparral Racing) Chaparral/Cosworth 142.862
1981 Bobby Unser (Penske Racing) Penske/Cosworth 139.084
1982 Gordon Johncock (STP Patrick Racing Team) Wildcat/Cosworth 162.029
1983 Tom Sneva (Bignotti-Cotter) March/Cosworth 162.117
1984 Rick Mears (Penske Cars) March/Cosworth 163.612
1985 Danny Sullivan (Penske Cars) March/Cosworth 152.982
1986 Bobby Rahal (Truesports) March/Cosworth 170.722
1987 Al Unser (Penske Racing, Incorporated) March/Cosworth 162.175
1988 Rick Mears (Penske Racing, Incorporated) Penske/Chevy Indy V8 144.809
1989 Emerson Fittipaldi (Patrick Racing, Incorporated) Penske/Chevy Indy V8 167.581
1990 Arie Luyendyk (Doug Shierson Racing) Lola/Chevy Indy V8 185.981
1991 Rick Mears (Penske Racing, Incorporated) Penske/Chevy Indy V8 176.457
1992 Al Unser Jr. (Galles-Kraco Racing) Galmer/Chevy Indy V8A 134.477
1993 Emerson Fittipaldi (Penske Racing, Incorporated) Penske/Chevy Indy V8C 157.207
1994 Al Unser Jr. (Penske Racing, Incorporated) Penske/Mercedes Benz 160.872
1995 Jacques Villeneuve (Team Green) Reynard/Ford Cosworth XB 153.616
1996 Buddy Lazier (Hemelgarn Racing) Reynard/Hemelgarn 95 Reynard/Ford Cosworth XB 147.956
1997 Arie Luyendyk (Treadway Racing) G Force/Aurora 145.827
1998 Eddie Cheever Jr. (Team Cheever) Dallara/Aurora 145.155
1999 Kenny Brack (A.J. Foyt Enterprises) Dallara/Aurora 153.176
2000 Juan Pablo Montoya (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) G Force/Oldsmobile 167.607
2001 Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Team Penske) Dallara/Oldsmobile 141.574
2002 Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Team Penske) Dallara/Chevy 166.499
2003 Gil de Ferran (Marlboro Team Penske) G Force/Toyota 156.291
2004 Buddy Rice (Rahal Letterman Racing) G Force/Honda 138.518*
2005 Dan Wheldon (Andretti Green Racing) Dallara/Honda 157.603
2006 Sam Hornish Jr. (Marlboro Team Penske) Dallara/Honda 157.085
2007 Dario Franchitti (Andretti Green Racing) Dallara/Honda 151.774*
2008 Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) Dallara/Honda 143.567
2009 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske) Dallara/Honda 150.318
2010 Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) Dallara/Honda 161.623
2011 Dan Wheldon (Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb) Dallara/Honda 170.265
2012 Dario Franchitti (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) Dallara/Honda 167.734
2013 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology) Dallara/Chevrolet 187.433
2014 Ryan Hunter-Reay (DHL Honda) Dallara/Honda 186.563
2015 Juan Pablo Montoya (Verizon Team Penske) Dallara/Chevrolet 161.341
2016 Alexander Rossi (Andretti Herta Autosport w) Dallara/Honda 166.634
2017 Takuma Sato (Andretti Autosport) Dallara/Honda 155.395
2018 Will Power (Verizon Team Penske) Dallara/Chevrolet 166.935
2019 Simon Pagenaud (Verizon Team Penske) Dallara/Chevrolet 175.794
2020 Takuma Sato (Rahal Letterman Racing) Dallara/Honda 157.824

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

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Chris Paul, NBA Twitter react to Deandre Ayton's game-winning dunk in Suns vs. Clippers

Deandre Ayton was the hero for the Suns in their Game 2 win over the Clippers.

With less than a second left on the clock, the Suns were down one point and had just 0.9 seconds to get a shot off. Jae Crowder inbounded the ball on the baseline under the Suns’ basket and found Ayton cutting to the hoop.

Ayton threw it down. The play took just 0.2 seconds off the clock and sealed the 104-103 win for the Suns.

Here’s a look at the amazing finish.

Ayton and Crowder deserve a bulk of the credit, but Devin Booker had an impact on the finish as well. His physical screen on Ivica Zubac — who is seven inches taller and 35 pounds heavier than Booker — gave Ayton just enough space to get open off the cut and throw down the dunk.

And Booker put his body on the line despite playing with a bloodied nose that required stitches after an inadvertent hit from Patrick Beverley earlier in the game.

The Suns’ finish thrilled Phoenix fans as well as the team’s star point guard Chris Paul, who missed his second straight game in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. He took time to celebrate the victory on Twitter and praised coach Monty Williams for his “big-time play call.”

Indeed, it was a nice play call, and Williams made sure Ayton was prepared to dunk immediately after catching the ball.

“DA — if he throws it, you gotta try to dunk it,” Williams said. “Okay?”

Ayton was ready and obliged. As a result of his make, NBA Twitter erupted and celebrated the exciting end to yet another tightly-contested playoff battle. 

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn’t apply on Deandre Ayton’s dunk

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How Suns perfectly executed game-winning play — and why goaltending didn't apply on Deandre Ayton's dunk

Back in December 2017, the Suns and Grizzlies found themselves in a down-to-the-wire contest. Phoenix had the ball with just 0.6 seconds on the clock and the game tied at 97.

So what did then-Suns coach Jay Triano do? He unveiled a play that he had kept in his back pocket for years.

MORE: Chris Paul reacts to Deandre Ayton’s game-winning dunk

While standing on the sideline near the Grizzlies’ bench, Dragan Bender threw a pass toward Tyson Chandler that floated directly above the rim, giving Chandler the opportunity to slam it through the bottom of the net. Wait, you can do that?

“You cannot goaltend a ball that isn’t going to count,” Triano told reporters after the game.

More than three years later, Triano’s words were once again ringing throughout Phoenix Suns Arena. Coach Monty Williams drew up a similar play on Tuesday night, and his players executed it perfectly to give the Suns a stunning 104-103 win over the Clippers and a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

Look at this beauty:

OK, let’s break down what NBA TV’s Matt Winer called “The Valley Oop.” (Great work, Matt).

First, notice the positioning of DeMarcus Cousins. Clippers coach Tyronn Lue made a smart move by putting Cousins on Jae Crowder in order to make an inbound pass more difficult, but Cousins is squared up to Crowder, opening up the passing lane Crowder needs.

As for the action in the paint, Devin Booker sets a terrific screen on Ivica Zubac, allowing Deandre Ayton to break free. Could Nicolas Batum have bumped Ayton and recovered? Possibly, but he is understandably concerned with leaving Booker.

(NBA)

Once Ayton gets a step on Zubac running toward the basket, it’s on Crowder to put the ball in a spot in which Ayton can score. As you can see from the angle below, Crowder just narrowly avoids the backboard. The placement here is simply incredible.

“That’s definitely Jae’s game-winner,” Ayton said after the game.

deandre ayton suns play
(NBA)

Now, you may still be asking, “But why isn’t that a goaltending violation?”

As the NBA explained in its Last Two Minute Report from that December 2017 game, “Goaltending rules do not apply because (Chandler) makes contact with the ball off of a throw-in and not a live ball that has already legally been touched on the playing court.” Scott Foster, who served as the crew chief on Tuesday, offered the same explanation when asked about Ayton’s dunk.

Sometimes less than a second can be all the time in the world. Just ask any Suns fan.

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Clippers’ Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

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Clippers' Paul George misses crucial free throws in stunning Game 2 loss to Suns

The box score from Tuesday’s Suns-Clippers game — a pivotal Game 2 win for Phoenix in the Western Conference finals — will show Paul George had a decent game.

Twenty-six points, on 10-of-23 shooting; six assists; six rebounds; and 5-of-10 shooting from the free throw line. He also scored his team’s last six points, all within the last minute, to help the Clippers to a 103-102 lead with just 8.2 seconds remaining.

The only stats that ultimately mattered in the Clippers’ 104-103 loss, however, were the final two free throws George — a career 84.7-percent free throw shooter — missed. They ultimately allowed Phoenix a chance at an unbelievable comeback victory, which may prove costly even as the series heads back to LA.

NBA MOCK DRAFT 2021: Who will Pistons, Rockets take with top picks?

Had George sunk both of those shots, the Suns would have needed a 3-pointer just to send the game to overtime. Had he sunk even one shot, they would have needed a 2-pointer. But he missed both, allowing the Suns to win on an inbound dunk with less than a second remaining:

Credit to Deandre Ayton, Jae Crowder and the Suns. That play will go down as one of the top plays in NBA playoffs history. But every heartbreaking loss needs a goat, and no one fits the bill better than “Playoff P,” who could have secured a win for his team with the simplest of basketball scoring plays.

Here’s the bright side for the Clippers, if there is one: They have already overcome 2-0 deficits in each of their first two series against the Mavericks and Jazz, respectively. That’s likely a cold comfort as George and Co. head back to LA, however. The scathing Twitter comments aimed at George likely won’t do anything to help, either:

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