Friday, April 5, 2024

IndyCar Month-By-Month Winners

Since we are in a bit of a lull during the IndyCar season, it was best to use this time to complete some projects. This one was started about five years ago but was put on the backburner shearly because how time consuming it would be. After a few times updating it, over the last few weeks it was finally completed and it fully has an answer.

Who has the most IndyCar race victories per month? 

A completely excessive exercise, but something we cannot readily find an answer for in the history book. It is more done out of pure fascination than anything else. A season generally runs from spring through summer and maybe into autumn. There could even be that sneaky race run in winter just prior to the vernal equinox. Out of 12 months, about six regularly have races, but spring is different than summer, and summer is different than autumn. Different race conditions can produce different results. 

The main level of interest was seeing if certain drivers do better during certain points of the year. Are there drivers that always start hot and then burn out when summer begins? Are there drivers that take a few months to get up to speed and then go on a tear during the hottest time of the year? Or are the best the best and consistently win no matter the time of the year?

That is what is hopefully answered after this exercise? 

Where do we begin? 

We are going over each month and recognizing the top winner for each month before delving into some of the other top performers and then anything else interesting to note from this research. 

Most Victories: Eddie Cheever - 2
You might not be surprised to learn it only takes two victories to have the most January victories in IndyCar history. Well, there have only been seven January races ever, five of which occurred from 1996 to 2000 at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Florida. 

Eddie Cheever won the second of those races in 1997, a rain-shortened race where Cheever inherited the lead after Tony Stewart spun out of first position due to an oil leak from his own car, and Cheever won the fourth of those races in 1999. Cheever's victory in 1997 was his first career IndyCar victory in his 87th career start.

Other Top Drivers: There are five other drivers to have won in January. George Hill, Earl Cooper, Buzz Calkins, Tony Stewart and Robbie Buhl.

Hill and Cooper each won in San Diego on January 1, 1913 and January 9, 1915 respectively, but on two entirely different courses. 

Interesting Notes: For Hill and Calkins, it was the only career victory for each driver and both drivers won on their debuts. For Buhl, it was his final of two career victories, but it came in the very first race for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and it remains Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's only IndyCar victory to this day.

It should come as no surprise that with seven total races, January is the least raced in month in IndyCar history.

Most Victories: Ralph DePalma & Jimmy Murphy - 3
There are a healthy number more February races than January, but the all-time leaders are two drivers who last won in February over a century ago. 

DePalma was the first to three. He won in Santa Monica on February 26, 1914. Seven years and one day later, he won twice on the Los Angeles Motor Speedway, a 1.25-mile board oval located in Beverly Hills. 

On the day DePalma won those two races in Beverly Hills, Jimmy Murphy also won that day on the same circuit, a little over a year after Murphy won in Beverly Hills for the first time. Murphy's third February victory came on February 25, 1923 at Beverly Hills. 

Other Top Drivers: Only two other drivers have won multiple times in February.

Eddie O'Donnell won twice in a five-day period between February 3 and February 7, 1915. O'Donnell won in Glendale California on Tropico Road, a 1.9-mile street course and then won at Ascot Speedway, a one-mile dirt oval. 

Al Unser swept the Rafaela, Argentina doubleheader held on February 27, 1971. Lloyd Ruby finished second in both of those races in two events that were absent of A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti, but did feature Cale Yarborough. Bobby Unser burned a piston after three laps in the first race and was unable to participate in the second event. 

Interesting Notes: There have been 22 February races in IndyCar history, but only three have taken place in the 21st century, one of which was on Leap Day 2004 (Sam Hornish, Jr. won at Homestead), but 17 of those races took place between 1911 and 1926.

Most Victories: A.J. Foyt - 6
Things pick up as we get into March, and it was inevitable the all-time leader in IndyCar victories would be the all-time leader in victories for at least one month, but here is the catch for A.J. Foyt...

Five of his six March victories were at Ontario Speedway, two of those were 100-heat races ahead of the California 500, and one of those was a 200-mile race. His other victory, his first March victory at that was the inaugural race at Phoenix International Raceway. It was the 1964 season opener and it was the first of Foyt's seven consecutive victories to open that season, a season where Foyt's ten victories remains a single-season record.

Other Top Drivers: Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Sam Hornish, Jr. each won four times in March. Tommy Milton, Gordon Johncock, Michael Andretti, Dan Wheldon, Will Power and Josef Newgarden have each won three times.

Interesting Notes: Mario Andretti never won a race in the month of March. However, of Andretti's record 407 starts, only 19 came in the month of March. He had three runner-up finishes, six top five finishes, ten top ten finishes and his career average finish in March was 11.157.

Most Victories: Mario Andretti - 8
For his lack of victories in March, Andretti made up for it in April. Eight victories is the most with Andretti having won at Trenton twice, Hanford once, Long Beach thrice and Phoenix twice, including his 52nd and final victory on April 4, 1993.

Other Top Drivers: Al Unser, Jr. is second all-time in April victories. When you win six times at Long Beach, it will put you at the top. Along with Unser, Jr.'s six Long Beach triumphs, his seventh April victory was April 22, 2000 at Las Vegas, his third career start in the Indy Racing League, and it was his first victory in over four years. 

A.J. Foyt, Will Power and Josef Newgarden have each won six times in April. Jimmy Murphy, Paul Tracy, Dan Wheldon and Hélio Castroneves each won five times during the month of April.

Interesting Notes: Of the 13 drivers that won at least 30 IndyCar races, which one do you think won the fewest races within the first four months of the year?

The answer is Dario Franchitti with only two victories. Franchitti won on March 27, 2011 at St. Petersburg and he won on April 19, 2009 at Long Beach. Franchitti is the only driver with at least 30 career victories to have fewer than five victories from the first four months of the year.

Most Victories: Sébastien Bourdais & Will Power - 6
I must admit it was glorious to see that the all-time leaders in May victories weren't one of the names you associate the most with the month of May. 

God Bless The Split!

Bourdais won six times in his career during the month of May, including his first career victory on Monday May 5, 2003 at Brands Hatch. Bourdais won six days later at the Lausitzring. He won twice at Monterrey, Mexico's Parque Fundidora and he won in Houston in 2006. Add in a May 31, 2015 victory at Belle Isle and that is how Bourdais is at six.

Power has benefitted from the introduction of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Before that, Power won on Monday May 1, 2011 in São Paulo. This was a race that was delayed a day due to rain. Without the rain, Power would likely have one fewer May victory! Power then won on May 31, 2014 at Belle Isle. Power won the Grand Prix of Indianapolis three times and his sixth and most recent May victory was his 2018 Indianapolis 500 victory. 

Other Top Drivers: Rick Mears and Scott Dixon each won five times in the month of May. 

We know four of Mears' victories. What was the fifth? May 1, 1982 at Atlanta. 

Dixon, however, has won on five different circuits in the month of May! His first career victory was on May 6, 2001 at Nazareth. Dixon has won twice on May 1, and he won on that date 11 years apart, first in 2010 at Kansas then at Texas in 2021. He won the 2008 Indianapolis 500, and he won on May 31, 2009 at Milwaukee. 

There are eight drivers with four May victories. 

There are the usual suspects: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Hélio Castroneves. Those three all won the Indianapolis 500 four times. 

Ray Harroun and Tommy Milton each won four times in May. Three of Harroun's victories were before the Indianapolis 500 existed.

Johnny Rutherford has three Indianapolis 500 victories plus a May 2, 1976 victory in Trenton. 

Along with two Indianapolis 500 victories, Juan Pablo Montoya won twice in May 1999 in two different countries (Nazareth and Rio de Janeiro). 

Simon Pagenaud has three Grand Prix of Indianapolis victories plus the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

Interesting Notes: Though he never won the Indianapolis 500, Michael Andretti did win three times in the month of May, just at Milwaukee, Gateway and Motegi. His Gateway victory did come on Memorial Day weekend in 1999, but it was the day prior to the 1999 Indianapolis 500. 

Bourdais and Andretti are the only drivers with at least three May victories to have never won the Indianapolis 500.

Most Victories: Scott Dixon - 12
This is where the numbers start to get big. Dixon has won a dozen times in June. Seven of those victories have occurred between Texas and Belle Isle. Dixon won twice at Richmond, once at Pikes Peak International Raceway, once at Watkins Glen and once at Road America. 

In five of Dixon's six championship seasons, he won at least one race in the month of June. The exception was 2013.

Other Top Drivers: A.J. Foyt won ten times in June, five times at Milwaukee, three times at Pocono and twice at Langhorne.

Bobby Unser and Michael Andretti each won nine times in June. Mario Andretti won eight times. Al Unser, Jr., Paul Tracy and Hélio Castroneves each won seven times and Ryan Hunter-Reay won six times.

Interesting Notes: Of the 13 drivers with at least 30 career victories, all 13 have at least three June victories, 11 of which have at least five victories. 

The two with fewer than five June victories are Sébastien Bourdais on four and Al Unser on three.

Most Victories: Scott Dixon - 15
Dixon goes bigger in July. Not only does he have 15 victories, but this is one of two months where the difference between the all-time leader for a month and second is greater than two victories. We will get to the other one in a second. 

As for Dixon, his 15 July victories have come on eight different circuits. He has won three times in a single July twice in his career (2007 and 2013), and he has won multiple times in July four times total (add in 2008 and 2020).

Over a third of his July victories have come in Canada (six total, four times in Toronto and twice in Edmonton). A fifth of his July victories have come at Nashville Superspeedway, a track that last hosted a race almost 16 years ago! Dixon has been the all-time leader for July since his July 15, 2018 victory at Toronto.

Other Top Drivers: Mario Andretti is second with ten July victories, which includes his first career victory on July 25, 1965 at Indianapolis Raceway Park's 1.875-mile road course. 

There are four drivers tied with nine July victories: A.J. Foyt, Michael Andretti, Sébastien Bourdais and Josef Newgarden. Newgarden has won at least one July race in each of the last five seasons. 

Interesting Notes: What do Robert Doornbos, Buddy Lazier, Bryan Herta and Alex Barron each have in common? 

They all have more July victories than Rick Mears. All four of those drivers each won twice in July. Mears' only July victory was July 23, 1978 at Atlanta, his second career victory in his 17th career start. It was only the fourth July start of Mears' career. Heck, even Scott Sharp won twice in July.

Most Victories: Scott Dixon - 12
It is easy to say the season of summer is the season of Scott Dixon. Between June, July and August, Dixon has won a combined 39 of his 56 career victories. That is 69.642% of his career total.

Most of Dixon's career has come during a time of a condensed season. The season does not go much later than mid-September. More times than not the season is over before the first day of autumn. 

Dixon has made 211 starts between June, July and August, meaning he has made 175 starts outside of those three months.

With 39 victories from 211 starts, that is a winning percentage of 18.483%. That means with 17 victories from 175 starts, Dixon's winning percentage in the other nine months of the year is 9.714%! 

As for the specifics of Dixon's August victories, four came at Mid-Ohio, three were at Sonoma, two were at Gateway with one victory at Kentucky, the Nashville street course and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course respectively.

Other Top Drivers: Like July, Mario Andretti is second with ten victories. Unlike July, Andretti is tied for second with Ralph DePalma! Ten of DePalma's 24 career victories came during the month of August. DePalma only made 18 career starts during the month of August. He won in 55.555% of his August starts.

Will Power has nine career victories in August, Al Unser, Jr. has eight, and Dario Franchitti and Rick Mears are level with seven.

Interesting Notes: Bruno Junqueira won eight times in his IndyCar career. Four of those came in August. How many drivers have at least eight career victories but at least half of those coming in one month?

The answer would be just Bruno Junqueira.

Most Victories: A.J. Foyt - 18
This is where it gets eye-popping. Over a quarter of Foyt's victories came in the month of September, 26.865% to be accurate. 

Twelve of Foyt's September victories came between the Indiana State Fairgrounds and DuQuoin. He also won four times at Trenton in September. His other two September victories were at Sacramento and Michigan.

Foyt made 78 starts in the month of September. He won 23.076% of them.

Other Top Drivers: Foyt has seven more victories than the next closest driver in the month of September. That would be Mario Andretti, who for the third consecutive month has at least a share of second most. 

Tony Bettenhausen is third with nine September victories. Bettenhausen had 40.909% of his victories come during the month of September. Al Unser and Michael Andretti round out the top five with eight and seven victories respectively. Rodger Ward is alone in sixth with six September victories. 

Interesting Notes: Did you know September is the month with the most IndyCar races? It is true! I was as surprised as you when I found that out. 

September has had 287 races. Here is the rankings from most to least:

September - 287
July - 272
August - 263
June - 259
May - 174
April - 146
October - 144
March - 91
November - 70
February - 22
December - 8
January - 7

I would have guessed either July or August when I was first going over the results. Even with the seasons ending earlier than usual, I would guess September will hold onto the all-time lead for quite some time. There are going to be at least two September races this year. July will chip away if it keeps having at least one or two races more a season, but with 15 races to overcome, it could be close to a decade before July takes the top spot. 

Most Victories: A.J. Foyt & Bobby Rahal - 6
Again, Foyt is on top, but this time he has company. 

Foyt won four times at Sacramento and he won a Phoenix race in October 1971. Where did Foyt's sixth and final October victory come? Silverstone! October 1, 1978! One of three road course victories in Foyt's career. 

As for Rahal, he won four times at Laguna Seca, a Phoenix race in October 1984, and his final career victory was October 4, 1992 at Nazareth. 

Talk about symmetry between these two.

Other Top Drivers: While Foyt and Rahal are tied on six, Al Unser and Rick Mears are tied on five October victories. Tony Bettenhausen and Dario Franchitti each won four times in September. 

Interesting Notes: It wasn't until last year at Long Beach that April surpassed October in number of IndyCar races.

Consider that since reunification, only nine times has IndyCar raced in the month of October. Three of those were in 2020 when the pandemic delayed the start of the season by three months and IndyCar raced into October just to have a sufficient calendar. 

Prior to reunification, October had held 135 races while April had held 108. It took about 16 years for April to make up that 27-race gap.

Most Victories: Jimmy Bryan & A.J. Foyt - 4
We have another tie for an all-time lead. This time it is between Bryan, famous for his 1958 Indianapolis 500 victory, and Foyt, who made his Indianapolis 500 debut in the 1958 race. 

All four Bryan's November victories came before he won the Indianapolis 500.

November 7, 1954 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds
November 14, 1954 at Las Vegas Park
November 6, 1955 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds
November 11, 1957 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds

Foyt's November victories are spread about.

November 20, 1960 at the Arizona State Fairgrounds
November 25, 1965 at Phoenix International Raceway
November 3, 1968 at Hanford Motor Speedway
November 9, 1975 at Phoenix International Raceway

Other Top Drivers: Johnnie Parsons, Tom Sneva and Sébastien Bourdais each won three times in November. 

Parsons won twice in November 1951, once at the Arizona State Fairgrounds and then at Bay Meadows. Parsons would win again at the Arizona State Fairgrounds in November 1952. 

Sneva won at Phoenix in November 1980 and 1982 and then he won the final race on the Caesars Palace parking lot circuit on November 11, 1984. 

All three of Bourdais' victories came in Mexico City.

Interesting Notes: IndyCar has not raced in November since reunification. Bourdais' Mexico City victory on November 11, 2007 is the most recent November race.

Most Victories: Jimmy Murphy - 2
Like January, not many races have occurred in December either, only one more to be exact. 

Like January, only one driver has won multiple times in December.

Jimmy Murphy, famous for his 1922 Indianapolis 500 victory, won on December 21, 1921 on the 1.25-mile board oval known as San Francisco Speedway. On December 3, 1922, Murphy capped off a stellar season with a victory in a 250-mile race in Beverly Hills.

Those were actually the first two December races in IndyCar history.

Other Top Drivers: The other December winners are Bennett Hill, Kelly Petillo, Johnnie Parsons, Dan Gurney, Mario Andretti and Keith Kauffman.

Interesting Notes: December is the only month yet to have an IndyCar race in the 21st century. The most recent December race was December 4, 1982, which Kauffman won at Nazareth, which was apart of the USAC Gold Crown Championship while USAC and CART were in the midst of its split and USAC was attempting to have a championship with the Indianapolis 500 surrounded by a few 100-mile dirt track events. 

Just to round up, here are the all-time leaders for each month with their victory totals:

January: Eddie Cheever (2)
February: Ralph DePalma & Jimmy Murphy (3)
March: A.J. Foyt (6)
April: Mario Andretti (8)
May: Sébastien Bourdais & Will Power (6)
June: Scott Dixon (12)
July: Scott Dixon (15)
August: Scott Dixon (12)
September: A.J. Foyt (18)
October: A.J. Foyt & Bobby Rahal (6)
November: Jimmy Bryan & A.J. Foyt (4)
December: Jimmy Murphy (2)

Dixon has the most months with the outright leads with three, but Foyt leads two months outright and a share in another two. Murphy is the only other driver with at least a share of multiple months. If you win a lot, you are bound to top a few months and the top two drivers in IndyCar victories have their fingerprints on over half the calendar year. 

We can dive deeper into some of these numbers and compare drivers later, but you at least know what the top looks like as we are still over two weeks away from the first April race of 2024.