Indy 500 has a big place in F1 history

Thu May 26, 2016 3:18pm EDT
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By Alan Baldwin

MONACO (Reuters) - Very few Formula One fans, even from the older generations, can name the first U.S. driver to score points, win a round of the world championship and lead the standings.

Even the engraver who had the job of inscribing the name of 1950 Indianapolis 500 winner Johnnie Parsons onto the silver Borg-Warner trophy got it wrong, famously writing 'Johnny' instead.

Parsons, his name now eclipsed by Formula One world champions Phil Hill (1961) and Mario Andretti (1978), did much more than win America's biggest race that May afternoon, however.

From 1950 to 1960, Formula One counted the Indy 500 as a round of the championship and, as winner of the third race of the inaugural F1 season, Parsons led the standings with Italian Giuseppe Farina and Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio.

On the back of that one win, and despite never starting a grand prix, Parsons ended the 1950 season sixth overall in the championship.

Even now the United States ranks third for providing the most Formula One drivers -- after Britain and Italy -- because every year tens of them started Indianapolis.

Some statisticians exclude the Indy racers from the F1 record books, although Parsons's win provides a good trick quiz question, but Formula One has also helped shape the history of the 500.

If Indianapolis to modern F1 fans is mostly a reminder of the farcical six car U.S. Grand Prix in 2005, a race that did much to damage the sport's reputation in America, earlier decades were different.   Continued...

May 17, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; A close up of a cross section of the Borg Warner Trophy on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum during practice for the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports