05 May 2011

The Greatest 33: No. 25 - Bill Holland

With 24 days remaining until the 100th Anniversary running of the Indianapolis 500, SB Nation Indiana is starting its countdown of the Greatest 33, the ultimate Indianapolis 500 field. Fans can build their own field by clicking here. Today, SB Nation Indiana looks at a driver who had the hottest start to a career at IMS, Bill Holland.
Like Dan Wheldon in yesterday's Greatest 33 profile, Bill Holland could have won the Indianapolis 500 on at least two occasions, had he been more lucky.  As it was, the Pennsylvanian enjoyed the best start to one's career at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for nearly 90 runnings of the race, until Helio Castroneves took first place in his first two 500s.
Holland first came to Indianapolis in 1947, starting eighth in the second race at IMS since World War II ended.  Driving for Lou Moore, Holland dominated the race, leading 148 laps; however, with laps dwindling, the team gave Holland a confusing message of "EZY" as he ran ahead of teammate Mauri Rose.  Believing Rose was a lap down, Holland allowed his teammate to pass with eight laps to go, finishing second.  The following year, Holland would once again finish runner-up to Rose.
1949 was Holland's year to shine.  He dominated the race, just as he had in 1947, taking the lead on Lap 55 and never letting go the remainder of the 500.  
For the fourth straight year, Holland had a chance to win the 500 in 1950.  Swapping the lead with Rose and second-year driver Johnny Parsons (who finished second to Holland in '49), Holland was at the front of the field for eight laps, 110-117, but it was Parsons who had the dominant car on the day, leading 115 laps.  Parsons took the lead back on Lap 118 before rain moved over Speedway.  After 138 laps, the race was called, with Holland in second place.
No driver has averaged a better finish in their first four starts in the Indianapolis 500, as Holland's average place of 1.75 (2nd-2nd-1st-2nd) trumps Castroneves' 3.25 (1st-1st-2nd-9th).

The Greatest 33:
Row 9
25. Bill Holland
26. Dan Wheldon
27. Ray Harroun
Row 10
28. Mark Donohue
29. Jacques Villeneuve
30. Danny Sullivan
Row 11
31. Tony Kanaan
32. Michael Andretti
33. Eddie Sachs

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