RACE: 87th Indianapolis 500
DATE: May 25, 2003
WINNER: Gil de Ferran
AVERAGE SPEED: 156.291 mph
WHAT HAPPENED: Helio Castroneves seemed poised to become the first driver to win three in a row, but he was passed by Team Penske teammate de Ferran with 31 laps remaining. The Penske drivers finished 1-2 for the second time in three years. Both Toyota and Honda entered the field, but because of cost issues there were fears there would not be 33 cars in the field. The field was filled on the final day of qualifying.
NOTABLE: For the first time since 1970, the race was not announced as a sellout. Former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton were in attendance, the first time in Indy history two former presidents were at the race. A. J. Foyt IV became the youngest driver to compete in the race, which was held on his 19th birthday. Robby Gordon replaced Dario Franchitti in the race after Franchitti was injured in a motorcycle accident. Gordon attempted the Indy/Charlotte double for the second time in his career, but was stymied by a broken gearbox on lap 172. Mario Andretti got back into a car at age 63 after Tony Kanaan broke his arm in April. There was talk of Andretti qualifying for the 500 as he hit 223 mph. But with two minutes left in the session, Andretti hit debris on the track and his car went airborne in a spectacular crash. Andretti was not injured and initially shrugged off the incident, but a day later he admitted he thought as his car was flipping through the air, "'What the hell am I doing here?"