The upcoming Mecum auction, to be held in Monterey from August 23 through 25, has many fine examples of automotive excellence up for grabs, but only one can lay claim to winning one of the most famous races in the world—the Indianapolis 500. And not just any Indy 500—the 100th anniversary edition held on May 29, 2016.
Crossing the block is the Dallara IR-12 IndyCar—chassis No. 037—entered by Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian racing team for Alexander Rossi. The 24-year-old Californian was paired with powerhouse teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay, Townsend Bell, and Carlos Munoz, who qualified third to fifth, respectively, while Rossi himself would begin the race in 11th.
The smart money would have been on one of Rossi’s three teammates emerging victorious in the 2016 contest. However, a gamble from the Rossi car’s co-owner and strategist, Bryan Herta, would see the Californian stay out during the midpoint round of pit stops, catapulting him into the lead group with Alex Tagliani, who, ironically, drove this very chassis in the 2012 and 2013 Indy 500 races. At around the same time as Rossi’s comeback, Bell was tagged by Helio Castroneves, pushing him into teammate Hunter-Reay and out of contention.
A caution flag with 34 laps to go bunched the field back up once again, and for the remaining laps the drivers came in one by one for a quick splash of fuel—except Rossi. He slowed his pace to an average speed of almost 170 mph, conserving fuel where he could as the laps wore down. It was just enough to take what will go down as one of the most unlikely of victories, one that made Rossi only the ninth driver in IndyCar history to win the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on his first attempt. To put a touch of sugar on the win, Rossi also set the race’s fastest lap of 225.288 mph, showing he had the speed to match the luck.
“The car, still owned by a silent partner in the Andretti/Herta organization, has spent the last two years inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s museum,” says Alex Yovanovich, a Mecum Auctions motorsport expert. “It’s possible the winning bidder will place the car back at IMS, as that’s the logical home for such a machine.”
Mecum’s Monterey auction thus offers an incredibly rare opportunity to purchase this already iconic IndyCar, resplendent in the Napa Auto Parts colors. However, the car’s race-winning Honda HI18R Indy V-6 motor is not currently fitted to the carbon-fiber-and-Kevlar-composite chassis. Believe it or not, that engine is still in racing rotation.
“We are hoping to have an agreement in place at the auction from Honda Performance Development to fit the car with the race-winning motor. However, this will not happen until after the 2020 racing season, when the rules change from the current 2.2-liter twin-turbo V-6 to the 2.4-liter configuration used for the 2021 season,” says Yovanovich.
Firestone provided the tires for this winning machine and added a touch of class by inscribing the names of all 66 drivers who have won the 500 on the sidewalls using their rubber.
“There’s only one car that can claim to have won the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500,” says Yovanovich. “The winning bidder will be buying a very significant piece of motorsport history.”