Danny Sullivan Spin & Win 1985
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Video: Spin & Win, the most bizarre victory in the Indianapolis 500

In the 1985 edition, Danny Sullivan managed to win the 500 after recovering from a 360º spin at over 300 km/h while trying to pass Mario Andretti.

In more than 100 years of history of Indianapolis 500, all kinds of adventures and feats have been seen, but few reach the heights of the one starring Danny Sullivan 1985. The American driver had debuted in the Indycar -then called CART- in 1982, contesting a couple of races with the Forsythe Newman team at the controls of a March 82C. After disputing the Formula 1 World Cup in 1983 with Tyrrell and achieving two solitary points, he returned to the domestic competition where he began to show what he was made of.

In 1984, enrolled in the team Shierson Racing, he was able to win three wins and two more podiums, results that catapulted him to fourth place in the final standings. Looking ahead to the 1985 season, signed for the almighty team Penske, so the expectations were high.

Danny Sullivan Indy 500 1985
The March 85C with which Danny Sullivan won was designed by Adrian Newey himself. Photograph of doctorindy, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Although he repeated position in the championship and only had two victories, Sullivan won the most prestigious victory: the Indianapolis 500. In his case, not only the what was important, but also the how.


After qualifying on the third row of the grid, in eighth place, Sullivan was in second position behind the leader, Mario Andretti. Just past the halfway point of the test, due to a misunderstanding with his team, Danny thought that there were only 12 laps left, when in fact there were 80 laps left. This made turn up the turbo pressure to the maximum to hunt down and overtake Andretti as soon as possible.

That's how it was, but, at the moment of overtaking him, Mario closed the door, sending him to the bottom of the circuit. Upon rejoining, Danny Sullivan lost control of the car causing a huge spin and generating a great smoke. Surprisingly, she didn't go against the wall, she did a 360º turn and faced straight ahead. Despite the fact that the engine stalled, the American pilot engaged a gear and was able to continue.

After the corresponding yellow flag and after going through the pits, Sullivan repeated the maneuver at the same point 20 laps later.. This time, he successfully completed the pass and broke away in pursuit of a victory that is Indianapolis 500 history. The Americans, so prone to name these things, the name "Spin & Win", that is, "spin and win". Sullivan wouldn't win the 500 again, but he did go CART champion in 1988 with the Penske team.


As a finish to this story, we will point out what is perhaps the most unexpected victory in the 500 Miles, the one achieved by Dan Wheldon in 2011. The rookie John Randal Hildebrand He was walking towards victory when in the last corner of the last lap, he found himself lapped. Overtaking him on the outside, he lost control of the car and went into the wall.

His car, with the left part destroyed, kept accelerating towards the finish line, in a desperate attempt by Hildebrand to prevent his mistake from costing him victory. It was in vain, the ill-fated Dan wheldon he overtook him on the last stretch, winning by just two seconds and adding his second victory in the Indy 500. Hard to imagine a crueler finish than this. We leave you the video so you can see the complete sequence.

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Written by Ivan Vicario Martin

I am lucky to have turned my passion into my way of earning a living. Since I left the Faculty of Information Sciences in 2004, I have been professionally dedicated to motor journalism. I started in the magazine Coches Clásicos in its beginnings, going on to direct it in 2012, the year in which I also took charge of Clásicos Populares. Throughout these almost two decades of my professional career, I have worked in all types of media, including magazines, radio, the web and television, always in formats and programs related to the engine. I am crazy about the classics, Formula 1 and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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