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2004 Indianapolis 500

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88th Indianapolis 500
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Indianapolis 500
Sanctioning bodyIndy Racing League
Season2004 IndyCar season
DateMay 30, 2004
WinnerUnited States Buddy Rice
(450 miles due to rain)
Winning teamRahal Letterman Racing
Average speed138.518 mph
Pole positionUnited States Buddy Rice
Pole speed222.024 mph
Fastest qualifierUnited States Buddy Rice
Rookie of the YearJapan Kosuke Matsuura
Most laps ledUnited States Buddy Rice (91)
Pre-race ceremonies
National anthemJessica Simpson
"Back Home Again in Indiana"Jim Nabors
Starting commandMari Hulman George
Pace carChevrolet Corvette
Pace car driverMorgan Freeman
StarterBryan Howard
Honorary starterNick Lachey
Estimated attendance300,000 (estimated)
TV in the United States
AnnouncersPaul Page, Scott Goodyear, Jack Arute
Nielsen ratings4.7 / 11
Previous Next
2003 2005

The 88th Indianapolis 500 was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana on Sunday, May 30, 2004. It was part of the 2004 IndyCar Series season and the ninth Indy 500 sanctioned by the Indy Racing League. Buddy Rice won the pole position, the pit stop contest, led the most laps, and won the race for team owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman.

The race began about two hours behind schedule due to a morning rain delay. After 27 laps had been completed, rain began to fall again and threatened to wash out the rest of the day. About two hours later, the rain had ceased, and the track was dried. The race resumed on lap 28, and cruised beyond the halfway point to make the race official. At the 150-lap mark, the race had been very competitive up to that point, but was destined to come down to the final round of pit stops to decide the winner. Moreover, dark skies were looming, and inclement weather was moving back into the area. The race appeared to be turning into a weather battle. Some leaders headed for the pits for their final pit stops. At the same time, a handful of teams gambled by staying out, in hopes that they could stretch their fuel and be leading the race when the approaching rain arrived.

Despite desperate attempts to prevail over the approaching rain storm, all of the leaders ultimately were forced to cycle through their final round of pit stops. Nobody was able to stretch their fuel long enough to beat the rain. Buddy Rice, who had led the most laps thus far, re-emerged as the leader. The race was ended after 450 miles (180 laps), just 50 miles (20 laps) short of the scheduled distance. A severe thunderstorm, which eventually produced an F2 tornado, formed in the area of the speedway, shutting the track down, and sending the spectators and competitors for cover. Buddy Rice was declared the winner, his first victory in championship-level competition.

Honda, which had first arrived at Indianapolis in 1994, scored its long-anticipated first Indy 500 victory. It was also the fourth and final Indy victory for the Panoz G-Force chassis.

Race schedule[edit]

Race schedule — April/May 2004
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
Pole Day
Time Trials
Bump Day
Carb Day
Indy 500
Memorial Day
Color Notes
Green Practice
Dark Blue Time trials
Silver Race day
Red Rained out*
Blank No track activity

* Includes days where track activity
was significantly limited due to rain

ROP — denotes Rookie Orientation Program


Rules changes were implemented before the start of the season, which reduced engine displacement from 3.5 L down to 3.0 L. In addition, on-board capacity of fuel was reduced from 35 gallons down to 30. The changes were made in an effort to curtail speeds, which had crept up into the low 230 mph range in 2003, and in the wake of Chip Ganassi Racing No. 10 driver Tony Renna dying on October 22, 2003, the second day of a Firestone off-season tire test. On a cool 50 degree morning, Renna spun in turn three, became airborne, and crashed into the outside wall and catch fence. The car was heavily damaged, and Renna died of massive internal trauma. Furthermore, the series imposed a minimum ambient and track surface temperature requirement.

For the first time, single-point refueling rigs were allowed.[1] During pit stops, teams were now allowed to utilize a single combined fuel/vent hose assembly. This eliminated the need for a separate vent hose and dedicated vent hose operator, improving safety.[2]

Rookie Orientation[edit]

Rookie orientation was held April 26, with seven drivers participating. Newcomers Ed Carpenter, Kosuke Matsuura, Mark Taylor, and Luis Díaz passed all four phases of the rookie tests. Jeff Simmons and Marty Roth passed three phases, and can pass the fourth phase during routine practice.

Larry Foyt participated, but due to previous high-speed oval experience, was exempted from needing to pass the four-phase test.[3][4]

Carpenter led the speed chart at 215.584 mph. Though Díaz passed the rookie test, he did not return with Ganassi for practice come May.

Sunday May 9[edit]

Scott Dixon led the speed chart with a lap of 219.760 mph on opening day. No incidents were reported.

Monday May 10[edit]

Track remained closed most of the afternoon, due to thunder storms. The track re-opened just before 5 p.m. and Hélio Castroneves set the fastest lap of the month at 220.300 mph. Late in the day, Robby Gordon spun and hit the outside wall in turn 2 but was uninjured.

Tuesday May 11[edit]

Felipe Giaffone brushed the wall in the north chute, then slid along the wall to the entrance to the pits. He was uninjured. Adrián Fernández became the first driver of the month to break the 221 mph barrier but Kosuke Matsuura (221.857 mph) ended up with the fastest lap of the day.

Wednesday May 12[edit]

Tony Kanaan drove the fastest lap of the month, at 222.668 mph.

Thursday May 13[edit]

Rain kept the track closed until 3 p.m. The session was ended about 10 minutes early when Scott Sharp crashed in turn 1. Hélio Castroneves turned the fastest lap of the day (221.156 mph). Buddy Rice was among the top five for the first time all week.

"Fast" Friday May 14[edit]

The track opened at 11 a.m. but lasted only four minutes, as rain began falling and closed the track for the day. During the brief session, only four cars had entered the track with Sarah Fisher (212.616 mph) the only car to run a single lap at speed.

Time trials: weekend 1[edit]

Pole Day - Saturday May 15[edit]

Pole day dawned cool and damp. Overnight rain kept the track closed until shortly after 12 noon. During the first practice session, Tony Kanaan reached 223.224 mph, the fastest lap of the month.

Pole qualifying began at 2:15 p.m. Roger Yasukawa earned the distinction as the first driver in the field. Shortly after, Robby Gordon qualified his car and immediately boarded a plane to Richmond to participate in the NASCAR event that evening. At 3:06 p.m., Dan Wheldon placed himself on the provisional pole position after a qualifying run of 221.524 mph. Several wave offs and two wrecks (Bryan Herta and Felipe Giaffone) characterized the early attempts.

At 4:14 p.m., Buddy Rice took over the pole position with a run of 222.024 mph. Rice held off late runs by Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan to secure his first Indy 500 pole. At the end of the day, the field was filled to 22 cars.

Second Day - Sunday May 16[edit]

Four cars completed attempts to fill the field to 26 cars. After wrecking the day before, both Bryan Herta and Felipe Giaffone put their cars safely in the field. Herta was the fastest qualifier of the afternoon.

Practice: week 2[edit]

Wednesday May 19[edit]

Mark Taylor brushed the wall in turn 2, but suffered only minor damage. Scott Dixon led all drivers at 220.576 mph, while Marty Roth was the fastest of the non-qualified cars (212.292 mph).

Thursday May 20[edit]

A. J. Foyt IV spun in turn 3 and brushed the inside wall, suffering minor damage. Kosuke Matsuura was the fastest of the day (220.784 mph). Marty Roth once again led the non-qualified cars (212.352 mph).

Friday May 21[edit]

Adrián Fernández topped the speed chart at 218.257 mph. Meanwhile, Buddy Lazier joined DRR to drive the #24 car (which later became #91 in a joint entry with Hemelgarn). On his first day of track activity, Lazier led non-qualified cars at 215.513 mph.

Saturday May 22[edit]

The final full day of practice saw heavy activity. P. J. Jones took to the track for the first time but only managed 208 mph. Buddy Lazier led the non-qualified car at over 214 mph.

Time trials - weekend 2[edit]

Bump Day - Sunday May 23[edit]

The final day of qualifying saw seven positions open in the field. P. J. Jones was the first car to qualify (213.355 mph), followed by Marty Roth and others. At 1:45 p.m., Greg Ray filled the field to 33 cars with a run of 216.641 mph; the fastest attempt of the afternoon.

A brief rain shower followed, with Robby McGehee sitting on the bubble as the slowest qualifier (211.631 mph). At that point, it did not appear that any additional drivers would make an attempt to qualify. The only driver left on the sidelines was Jaques Lazier, who briefly practiced during the week for Foyt. However, the ride fizzled. Nevertheless, the track was re-opened after the shower as track crews were able to dry the circuit.

During the afternoon, Tony Stewart visited the track. He was running full-time in NASCAR, and had raced in the NEXTEL All-Star Challenge the night prior. A. J. Foyt reportedly called Stewart while he was at the track and invited him to practice in one of his back-up cars. Stewart quickly passed his physical and went to the pit area to prepare for a possible qualifying attempt. With little else going on during the afternoon, the rumors quickly buzzed around the track and throngs of media surrounded Stewart to cover the breaking story.

With about an hour left in the day, a car was prepared for Stewart and fired up on pit lane. Stewart had yet to climb into the car but was suited up in his driving uniform. At 5:36 p.m., however, Stewart left the pits on foot and announced he would not make an attempt to qualify. Stewart's contracts with Joe Gibbs Racing, Home Depot, and Chevrolet precluded him from driving Foyt's Toyota Indy car.

Carb Day - Thursday May 26[edit]

The final practice was held Thursday May 26. Rahal Letterman Racing with driver Buddy Rice and chief mechanic Ricardo Nault won the Checkers/Rally's Pit Stop Challenge

Starting grid[edit]

Row Inside Middle Outside
1 15 United States Buddy Rice 26 United Kingdom Dan Wheldon 27 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti
2 36 Brazil Bruno Junqueira 11 Brazil Tony Kanaan 5 Mexico Adrian Fernandez
3 17 Brazil Vítor Meira 3 Brazil Hélio Castroneves (W) 55 Japan Kosuke Matsuura (R)
4 4 South Africa Tomas Scheckter 6 United States Sam Hornish Jr. 16 United States Roger Yasukawa
5 1 New Zealand Scott Dixon 2 United Kingdom Mark Taylor (R) 10 United Kingdom Darren Manning (R)
6 52 United States Ed Carpenter (R) 20 United States Al Unser Jr. (W) 70 United States Robby Gordon
7 39 United States Sarah Fisher 8 United States Scott Sharp 14 United States A. J. Foyt IV
8 41 United States Larry Foyt (R) 51 United States Alex Barron 7 United States Bryan Herta
9 24 Brazil Felipe Giaffone 12 Japan Tora Takagi 13 United States Greg Ray
10 91 United States Buddy Lazier (W) 21 United States Jeff Simmons (R) 33 United States Richie Hearn
11 98 United States P. J. Jones (R) 25 Canada Marty Roth (R) 18 United States Robby McGehee

Failed to qualify[edit]

  • #10 Mexico Luis Díaz (R) (participated in Rookie Orientation, but not official practice)
  • #14 United States Jaques Lazier (became relief driver for Robby Gordon)

Race recap[edit]


Rain fell early in the morning between 6:00-6:20 a.m. Rain resumed at 9:18 a.m. and continued intermittently until about 10:30 a.m. Track drying efforts began and the start of the race was delayed by a little over two hours. Mari Hulman George gave the traditional command to start engines at 1:02 p.m.

At 1:07 p.m., the field pulled away for the pace laps, roughly two hours behind schedule. At the start, Buddy Rice took the lead from the pole position. Rice led Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, Dan Wheldon, and Hélio Castroneves.

On lap 10, A. J. Foyt IV brushed the wall in turn four and spun and crashed in turn 1. Foyt was uninjured. Several of the leaders pitted under the caution. Bryan Herta led the field back to green on lap 16. Three laps later, Wheldon took the lead but on lap 22, rain began to fall again and the caution was out again. The field circulated under yellow for several laps and, on lap 28, the red flag came out. Rain was falling hard and the cars were parked in the pits. Many believed the resumption would have to be delayed until Monday.


The rain stopped and after a delay of 1 hour and 47 minutes, the track was dry and the race was ready to resume. Robby Gordon, who was attempting to race in both the Indy 500 and Coca-Cola 600, departed the grounds and flew to Charlotte. Jaques Lazier was standing by, and climbed in the car to drive relief. Lazier became the first relief driver at Indy since 1977. Greg Ray's team was penalized for unapproved work on the car during the red flag. He was sent to the rear of the field for the restart.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., the green flag came out and race continued. Dan Wheldon led the field, but a couple laps later, Buddy Rice took the lead. An intense segment of racing saw several changes in position amongst the top ten and the leaders racing closely together. On lap 56, Larry Foyt crashed in turn two. The Foyt team would finish 32nd-33rd.

First half[edit]

Buddy Rice continued to lead during the next stretch of green flag racing. Dan Wheldon and Sam Hornish Jr. ran 2nd-3rd.

The third crash of the day involved Ed Carpenter and Mark Taylor on lap 64.

As the race approached the halfway point, Rice still led and Wheldon and Hornish continued to battle for 2nd and 3rd. The top five were still within seconds of each other.

On lap 94, P. J. Jones made contact with the wall exiting turn 2. Jaques Lazier (driving in relief for Robby Gordon) dropped out with a broken axle. Leader Buddy Rice stalled exiting the pits. Dan Wheldon took over the lead with Hélio Castroneves now second and Rice dropping down to 8th.

Second half[edit]

As the race completed the 101st lap, it was scored official and would not need to carry over into a second day. On lap 105, Darren Manning and Greg Ray got together, crashing in turn four. They collected Sam Hornish Jr. The three cars slid into the end of the pit wall and came to rest at the entrance of the pits. The green came out on lap 114. Tony Kanaan now led with Rice still mired back in 8th place.

Kanaan and Wheldon traded the lead a couple times over the next several laps. Marty Roth brought out the next caution on lap 131 with a crash in turn four. Buddy Rice worked his way up to 5th place. Most of the leaders pitted on lap 133, but Bruno Junqueira stayed out and cycled up to the lead. Junqueira was gambling that he could outlast the rest of the field on fuel, and be the winner if rain were to return.

At lap 150, Bruno Junqueira led Buddy Rice and Tony Kanaan. Junqueira's gamble failed to pay off, and he headed for the pits on lap 151. Rain was approaching, and all of the leaders were going to require one final round of pit stops. The approaching and the pit stop strategy threatened to turn the result into a crap shoot.


On lap 160, Buddy Rice led Tony Kanaan and Dan Wheldon. Kanaan was the first of the leaders to pit; he ducked into the pits for tires and fuel on lap 164. Wheldon pitted one lap later on lap 165. Two laps later, Rice was in the pits, handing the lead to Bryan Herta. Rain was fast approaching the Speedway and the race was not expected to reach the full distance before the rain fell. More of the leaders cycled into the pits.

Herta gave up the lead on lap 169 to pit for fuel. That handed the race lead to Adrián Fernández. Slight moisture was being reported around the track on lap 170, but not enough to bring out a yellow. Fernandez desperately tried to stretch his fuel, but could stay out no longer. Fernandez was forced to pit on lap 171. He made a quick 9-second stop, but lost the lead. After the hectic sequence of pit stops, Buddy Rice was back into the lead.

With Buddy Rice, Tony Kanaan second, and Dan Wheldon third, rain started falling on lap 174. The yellow came out with Rice the certain winner. A severe thunderstorm moved into the area and the race was halted after the completion of lap 180 (450 miles (720 km)), just twenty laps short of the scheduled distance. Victory Lane was not set up because of weather conditions, with lightning the issue. The victory celebrations were moved indoors inside the master control tower ("Pagoda"), the first time the race conducted its events away from the circuit, and the grandstands were quickly emptied. Rice became the first American winner since Eddie Cheever in 1998. It was also the first rain-shortened 500 since 1976. Honda, which had first arrived at Indianapolis in 1994, scored its long-anticipated first Indy 500 victory.

An F2 tornado missed the Speedway and its quarter-million spectators by six miles as it raked across the south central portion of Indianapolis. The tornado caused widespread damage. Precipitation for the day in Indianapolis totaled 3.80 inches; a record single-day amount for that date, and any date during the month since records had been kept.[5]

Box score[edit]

Finish Start No Name Qual Chassis Engine Laps Status Entrant
1 1 15 United States Buddy Rice 222.024 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Rahal Letterman Racing
2 5 11 Brazil Tony Kanaan 221.200 Dallara Honda 180 Running Andretti Green Racing
3 2 26 United Kingdom Dan Wheldon 221.524 Dallara Honda 180 Running Andretti Green Racing
4 23 7 United States Bryan Herta 219.871 Dallara Honda 180 Running Andretti Green Racing
5 4 36 Brazil Bruno Junqueira 221.379 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Newman/Haas Racing
6 7 17 Brazil Vítor Meira 220.958 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Rahal Letterman Racing
7 6 5 Mexico Adrian Fernández 220.999 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Fernandez Racing
8 13 1 New Zealand Scott Dixon 219.319 Panoz G-Force Toyota 180 Running Chip Ganassi Racing
9 8 3 Brazil Hélio Castroneves  W  220.882 Dallara Toyota 180 Running Team Penske
10 12 16 United States Roger Yasukawa 220.030 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Rahal Letterman Racing
11 9 55 Japan Kosuke Matsuura  R  220.740 Panoz G-Force Honda 180 Running Super Aguri Fernandez Racing
12 24 51 United States Alex Barron 218.836 Dallara Chevrolet 180 Running Team Cheever
13 20 8 United States Scott Sharp 215.635 Dallara Toyota 180 Running Kelley Racing
14 3 27 United Kingdom Dario Franchitti 221.471 Dallara Honda 180 Running Andretti Green Racing
15 25 24 Brazil Felipe Giaffone 216.259 Dallara Chevrolet 179 Running Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
16 29 21 United States Jeff Simmons  R  214.783 Dallara Toyota 179 Running Mo Nunn Racing
17 17 20 United States Al Unser Jr.  W  217.966 Dallara Chevrolet 179 Running Patrick Racing
18 10 4 South Africa Tomas Scheckter 220.417 Dallara Chevrolet 179 Running Panther Racing
19 26 12 Japan Tora Takagi 214.364 Dallara Toyota 179 Running Mo Nunn Racing
20 30 33 United States Richie Hearn 213.715 Panoz G-Force Toyota 178 Running Sam Schmidt Motorsports
21 19 39 United States Sarah Fisher 215.771 Dallara Toyota 177 Running Kelley Racing
22 33 18 United States Robby McGehee 211.631 Dallara Chevrolet 177 Running PDM Racing
23 28 91 United States Buddy Lazier  W  215.110 Dallara Chevrolet 164 Fuel System Hemelgarn Racing
24 32 25 Canada Marty Roth  R  211.974 Dallara Toyota 128 Accident FS Roth Racing
25 15 10 United Kingdom Darren Manning  R  219.271 Panoz G-Force Toyota 104 Accident T4 Chip Ganassi Racing
26 11 6 United States Sam Hornish Jr. 220.180 Dallara Toyota 104 Accident T4 Team Penske
27 27 13 United States Greg Ray 216.641 Panoz G-Force Honda 98 Accident T4 Access Motorsports
28 31 98 United States P. J. Jones  R  213.355 Dallara Chevrolet 92 Accident BS CURB/Agajanian/Beck Motorsports
29 18 70 United States Robby Gordon
(Jaques Lazier Laps 28–88)
216.522 Dallara Chevrolet 88 Mechanical Robby Gordon Motorsports
30 14 2 United Kingdom Mark Taylor  R  219.282 Dallara Chevrolet 62 Accident T3 Panther Racing
31 16 52 United States Ed Carpenter  R  218.590 Dallara Chevrolet 62 Accident T3 Team Cheever
32 22 41 United States Larry Foyt  R  213.277 Panoz G-Force Toyota 54 Accident T2 A. J. Foyt Enterprises
33 21 14 United States A. J. Foyt IV 214.256 Dallara Toyota 26 Handling A. J. Foyt Enterprises

Note: Relief drivers in parentheses[6]

 W  Former Indianapolis 500 winner

 R  Indianapolis 500 Rookie

All entrants utilized Firestone tires.

Race statistics[edit]



The race was carried live on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. Mike King served as chief announcer. Kenny Bräck served as "driver expert" up until the rain delay. Bräck sat out the 2004 IndyCar season due to a major crash suffered at Texas in October 2003. This was the only time, other than 2011, that Bräck served as the driver expert on an American broadcast, however, he would serve in later years on international broadcasts.

Departing from the broadcast team were two longtime members, Howdy Bell and Chuck Marlowe. Donald Davidson celebrated his 40th year as a member of the crew, while Jerry Baker reached his milestone 30th race.

Kevin Lee moved from turn two to the pit area. Adam Alexander moved from the pits to the turn two location. This was Dave Argabright's first year on the network. This was the last year for both Jim Murphy and Kim Morris.

Indy Racing Radio Network
Booth Announcers Turn Reporters Pit/garage reporters

Chief Announcer: Mike King
Driver expert: Kenny Bräck
Historian: Donald Davidson
Color analyst: Dave Wilson
Commentary: Chris Economaki

Turn 1: Jerry Baker
Turn 2: Adam Alexander
Turn 3: Mark Jaynes
Turn 4: Chris Denari

Kevin Lee
Kim Morris
Jim Murphy
Dave Argabright


The race was carried live flag-to-flag coverage in the United States on ABC Sports. The broadcast was billed as the Indianapolis 500 Presented by 7-Eleven. The broadcasting crew moved to a new booth, located in the Pit Road Suites next to the Pagoda. Several innovations were introduced, including the first 180-degree on-board rotating camera, and a Skycam along the mainstretch. The network celebrated its 40th anniversary covering the Indianapolis 500.

Bob Jenkins was released from ABC and ESPN after 2003, and his position as "host" was taken by Terry Gannon. Paul Page continued as play-by-play, along with Scott Goodyear. Jack Arute, who had been in the pit area from 1984 to 1998 and 2000-2003, moved into the booth as analyst for the 2004 race. Joining the crew for the first time were Todd Harris and Jamie Little, both as pit reporters.

Despite a lengthy rain delay throughout the afternoon, ABC stayed on-air all day with coverage, and filled the downtime with highlights and interviews. The marathon broadcast totaled 8 hours and 22 minutes.

The introduction, titled "The Chase", featuring Henry Rollins, would earn a Sports Emmy nomination for outstanding post produced audio/sound.

ABC Television
Booth Announcers Pit/garage reporters

Host: Terry Gannon
Announcer: Paul Page
Color: Scott Goodyear
Color: Jack Arute

Vince Welch
Dr. Jerry Punch
Gary Gerould
Todd Harris
Jamie Little




  1. ^ "Single Point Fueling to Be Mandatory in 2005". Trackside Online. 2004-09-07. Archived from the original on 2014-02-22. Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  2. ^ Fan Info - INDYCAR 101 - Glossary of Racing Terms
  3. ^ "Rookie Orientation Program Indy 500 summary". Archived from the original on 2015-06-20. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  4. ^ Larry Foyt participates in rookie orientation
  5. ^ NOAA - MAXIMUM Precipitation Records for Indianapolis (1871-2005)
  6. ^ "Indianapolis 500-Mile Race – May 30, 2004". ChampCarStats.com.

Works cited[edit]

2003 Indianapolis 500
Gil de Ferran
2004 Indianapolis 500
Buddy Rice
2005 Indianapolis 500
Dan Wheldon