Monday, April 9, 2012

The Anniversary Of The 500 Rookie Of The Year Award

This year's Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will mark an anniversary few people might be aware of, but is important enough in its own right. 2012's Indy 500 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award being handed out at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Art Cross kicked things off in 1952, being the first 500 driver so honored with the top rookie designation. And while the members of the media still vote to determine the award (now sponsored by Chase Bank), just as they did then, you'd think they were voting for a 500 Hall of Fame class. The 500's Rookie of the Year honors have gone to a truly special list of drivers, from Parnelli Jones and Jim Clark in the 60s, to Rick Mears and Pancho Carter in the 70s, to Michael Andretti and Arie Luyendyk in the 80s and beyond. Here's a bit more Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Award trivia and facts for your consumption:

-The list of award alumni includes 10 drivers that would go on to win the Indianapolis 500. During the CART/IRL years, Juan Pablo Montoya (2000) and Helio Castroneves (2001) became the only two drivers to win both the race and the top 500 rookie award in the same year.

-Four different members of the Andretti family have won the Rookie of the Year Award: Mario (1965), Michael (1984), Jeff (1991), and Marco (2006). Despite their proficiency at Indy, no Unser family member has ever won the award.

-Along with Mario Andretti and his sons Michael and Jeff (and of course Michael and Marco), the only other father/son duo to win Rookie of the Year honors was Bill Vukovich II (1968) and his son Bill Vukovich III (1988).

-Co-Rookies of the Year have announced due to a tie vote on five separate occasions. The first was 1961 (Bobby Marshman/Parnelli Jones), followed by 1978 (Rick Mears/Larry Rice, in an especially contentious vote), then 1984 (Michael Andretti/Roberto Guerrero), 1989 (Bernard Jourdain/Scott Pruett), and finally 2002 (Alex Barron/Tomas Scheckter).

Larry Rice shared 500 ROY honors with Rick Mears in '78.
(Credit: Indianapolis Motor Speedway)
-Seven drivers that could still be considered active in INDYCAR have won top rookie honors: J.R.Hildebrand, Simona de Silvestro, Alex Tagliani, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Tomas Scheckter, and Helio Castroneves.

-The following starting grid positions have never produced an Indy 500 Rookie of the Year: 18th, 29th, 31st, and 32nd.

-In the 60 years since its inception, Teo Fabi is the only pole winner to win the 500 Rookie of the Year Award in the same year (Tony Stewart started in first position after Scott Brayton's death in 1996, but was not the pole winner).

-The first winner of the award, Art Cross, was also a Purple Heart winner from his service during World War II in the Battle of the Bulge.

-Last year's Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, J.R. Hildebrand, received a $25,000 bonus and the Chase Rookie of the Year trophy. By comparison, in 1952, Art Cross received $500 and a year's supply of meat!

Check back tomorrow for the story of one of these Rookie of the Year winners.


  1. Art Cross, the first winner, lived in La Porte, Indiana for quite some time, IIRC.

  2. You're right. I believe he had a farm up there.