The Worst Indy 500 Crashes of All Time

Over the years in the Indy 500, there’ve been many crashes that resulted in serious injuries and even death. Here are the 10 worst crashes in Indy 500 history.

  • Published on 1 year ago
1964 Indy 500 Crash
1964 Indianapolis 500 Crash

The Indy 500 is one of the most prestigious and dangerous races in the world. Over the years, there have been many crashes that have resulted in serious injuries and even death. Here are 10 of the worst crashes in Indy 500 history:

The Worst Indy 500 Crashes of All-Time

Bill Vukovich (1955)
Bill Vukovich was the defending champion of the Indianapolis 500 and led the race on lap 57 when he was involved in a multi-car crash. As a result, Vukovich’s car went airborne, hit the outside wall, cartwheeled through the air, and landed on top of a group of parked cars. His car finally came to rest upside down and burst into flames. The crash killed Vukovich instantly.

Tony Bettenhausen (1961)
Tony Bettenhausen crashed while testing a car for Paul Russo. On lap 100, a mechanical failure sent Bettenhausen out of control and into the outside wall, leading to him being pronounced dead on the scene. 

Eddie Sachs, Dave MacDonald (1964)
Rookie Dave MacDonald came out of turn four and onto the front stretch on the race’s second lap. His car lifted off the ground, and he lost control, crashing into the inside wall. MacDonald’s car exploded into a massive fireball just as Eddie Sachs was coming around the track. Sachs struck MacDonald’s car, creating a second explosion. Sachs died instantly, while doctors pronounced MacDonald dead two hours later.

Art Pollard, Salt Walther, and Swede Savage (1973)
Art Pollard died as a result of injuries sustained in a crash during practice on the first day of time trials for the 1973 Indianapolis 500. The car slammed into the outside wall coming out of turn one, burst into flames, and spun as it headed to the grass on the inside of the short chute. The chassis dug into the grass and flipped upside-down, slid a short distance and then flipped back over as it reached the pavement again in turn two, finally coming to a stop in the middle of the track.

Once the race started, Salt Walther was involved in a crash on the first lap of the race. Walther’s car spun out of control and hit the wall. The impact caused the vehicle to burst into flames, severely burning Walther.

Swede Savage crashed on lap 59 of the race. Savage’s car hit the wall in turn three and burst into flames. Additionally, a crew member, Armando Teran, ran out across the pit lane to come to Savage’s aid and was struck by a fire truck rushing up the pit road (opposite the normal direction of travel) to the crash. The truck killed Teran instantly.

Doctors expected Savage to live when taken to the hospital and for some time thereafter. However, he died in the hospital 33 days after the accident.

Tom Sneva (1975)
A crash seriously injured Tom Sneva on lap 110 of the 1975 Indy 500. Sneva lost control of his car and slammed into the wall. As a result, Sneva suffered a broken leg and a concussion.

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Rick Mears, Danny Ongais (1981)
Rick Mears and Danny Ongais were both seriously injured in a crash on lap 186 of the 1981 Indy 500. Mears lost control of his car and crashed into Ongais’s car. Mears suffered a broken leg and a concussion, while Ongais suffered a broken back. 

Gordon Smiley (1982)
Gordon Smiley was driving during practice at the 1982 Indianapolis 500 when he lost control and hit the wall at about 185 mph. The impact caused the car to burst into flames and killed Smiley instantly.

Kevin Cogan (1982)
Cogan started from the middle of the front row, between pole-sitter Rick Mears, and A. J. Foyt. As the field approached the starting line, Cogan suddenly swerved right, bouncing off Foyt’s car and directly into the path of Mario Andretti. The cars of Dale Whittington and Roger Mears, deeper in the field, were damaged because of the field checking up.

To put it briefly, Cogan’s shocking accident took out four cars, including himself and Andretti.

Jovy Marcelo (1992)
Jovy Marcelo’s car snapped around at warmup speed and impacted on the right side entering turn one at 172 mph. As a result, Marcelo died instantly from a basilar skull fracture.

Scott Brayton (1996)
At the 1996 Indy 500 Brayton was driving his backup car when it blew a tire going into turn two, and it then half-spun and hit the outside retaining wall at over 230 mph. The severe impact killed Brayton instantly.

Wrapping Up

These are just a few of the worst crashes in Indy 500 history. The race has come a long way in terms of safety, but there is still a risk of serious injury or death.

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