McLaren has a rich history of competing in the Indianapolis 500.
In 1970, McLaren entered the race for the first time with its M15 car with New Zealand drivers Chris Amon and Denis Hulme.
It was not the best of beginnings as Amon withdrew and Hulme was severely burned in a crash during practice. Peter Revson and Carl Williams were named to to replace those two drivers for McLaren.
Revson started 16th and finished 22nd. Williams started 19th and finished ninth.
Just three days after the 1970 Indianapolis 500, team owner Bruce McLaren was killed when his Can-Am car crashed at Goodwood Circuit in England. He was 32.
It’s leader and founder was gone, but McLaren continued.
Gordon Johncock drove the McLaren the following weekend at Pennsylvania’s Langhorne Speedway and finished 10th. Johncock also drove for McLaren at Michigan, finishing 12th. Two McLarens were entered in the inaugural California 500 at Ontario Motor Speedway with Johncock finishing fourth and Revson fifth.
In 1971, McLaren entered the M16 at the Indianapolis 500. Penske Racing’s Mark Donohue said the entry “obsoleted every other car on the track.” Revson won the pole with a record four-lap average of 178.696 mph. He finished second.
In 1972, Donohue drove the McLaren chassis used by Penske Racing to his only Indianapolis 500 victory, the first of a record 17 for team owner Roger Penske. Johnny Rutherford won the pole for McLaren and finished ninth.
McLaren scored its first Indianapolis 500 victory as a team with Rutherford, who started 25th, in 1974.
Rutherford and McLaren finished second in 1975 and won the Indy 500 again in 1976.
The M16 car was replaced by the new M24 in 1977, but the team could not match the success it enjoyed with the M16. Although McLaren continued to win other USAC races with the M24 in 1977, ’78 and ’79, the team withdrew from the series at the end of the 1979 season.
The absence ended when McLaren returned to the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017. Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso started fifth and finished 24th after leading 27 laps.