INDIANAPOLIS (WDTN) – Five drivers from Ohio have won the Indy 500. The 1986 win by Medina’s Bobby Rahal is still one of the most popular, and Sam Hornish, of Defiance, went to victory lane in 2006 in the third-closest finish of all time. The other three were either born in or lived in Dayton: Frank Lockhart in 1926, Mauri Rose in 1941, 47 and 48, and Sam Hanks in 1957.
As for Ohio drivers in this year’s race, you have two to root for: one is a young up and comer, and the other has one of the most famous last names in the history of the Indy 500.
The newcomer is Zach Veach of Stockdale, Ohio. The 24-year-old is in his second season with powerhouse Andretti Autosport and admits he may be trying a little too hard to impress.
“This year has been a little up and down, we’ve had good speed in some places, but for me coming in as a year two driver, I find myself pushing too hard, pushing that envelope a little too far. I think that’s typical sophomore season blues that you have, you just have to bring it back a little bit, but luckily here at Indianapolis it’s a place that keeps you in check,” he said.
It’s also a place that is every driver’s dream. As he prepares for his third Indy 500, the kid from small town Pike County is also very thankful his came true.
“When I put my helmet on and I was walking up pit lane to get in my race car for the install check, I paused, looked up at the pagoda, looked down the front straight to turn one, and just thought, ‘Today I’m getting to do something that’s really cool,’” Veach said.
This year’s other Ohio driver is Graham Rahal, son of the 1986 winner. Born in Columbus, the 30-year-old is making his 12th Indy 500 start, and he will do it as a proud Buckeye.
“There’s no doubt I’ve always been somebody who’s very proud of my home state. Ohio’s a place with a lot of hard workers and people who have to earn it and that carries through all different sports, day-to-day jobs and things like that, but there’s no doubt I’m proud of where I’m from. Normally if you see me at home, I have something Ohio-related on so for sure it means a lot to me,” Rahal said.
Graham drives for the team owned by his father and late-night TV legend David Letterman, who was born just 12 miles from the Speedway, and made his first national TV appearance when he interviewed Mario Andretti during the 1971 race.
Rahal adds, “He’s always been a big IndyCar and Indy 500 fan. He’s been a part of this time for 20 years now, so a long time we’ve had the chance to have him around this year, he was in Alabama when my teammate Takuma won. He’s a great guy, a big time enthusiast, I hear from him all the time.”