Marco Andretti ends his IndyCar win drought at last at Iowa
|By Matt Beer||Sunday, June 26th 2011, 02:58 GMT|
Marco Andretti finally claimed his second IndyCar Series win under the lights at Iowa Speedway on Saturday night, almost five years after his maiden triumph.
The Andretti Autosport won a superb late battle with his former team-mate Tony Kanaan, now at KV Racing Technology, with Scott Dixon coming through from 23rd on the grid to third for Ganassi.
Polesitter Takuma Sato crashed out late on, while long-time leader Dario Franchitti faded to fifth behind JR Hildebrand, but still moved into a clear points lead as title rival Will Power had a pit incident with Charlie Kimball and later spun into the wall.
Ganassi driver Franchitti seemed to have the race under control for most of the evening. He moved up from sixth on the grid to first within just seven laps, ending an early KV one-two formation that had seen polesitter Sato holding team-mate Kanaan at bay.
The champion and the KV duo were joined in a lead pack by Andretti and Penske's Helio Castroneves, until the latter found himself having to pit under green with a deflating tyre while challenging for the lead - just as he had at Milwaukee only six days earlier.
Andretti finally got through to the lead for the first time on lap 158, though only for three laps before Franchitti was back in front.
But at the final pitstops the Andretti crew managed to turn their driver around faster, with Andretti sweeping past Franchitti in the pit exit.
Those stops happened just as Sato brought out the last yellow by spinning into the Turn 2 wall and at the subsequent restart, Kanaan pushed Franchitti down to third and set off after Andretti in what became a private lead battle. They would swap first place no fewer than five times in the closing stint before Andretti finally made a small but crucial break, going on to take his first victory since the Sears Point triumph of his rookie season in 2006.
Dixon steadily crept forward from his lowly grid spot and was soon in the top 10. He then pounced on team-mate Franchitti when the Scot lost momentum trying to pass Kanaan, taking third. Panther's JR Hildebrand edged Franchitti back to fifth soon afterwards, in a very strong run for the American rookie.
Penske had to settle for sixth and seventh with Ryan Briscoe and the delayed Castroneves. Their team-mate Power sustained early damage when he collided with Kimball in the pitlane, and later crashed heavily in an incident that Power, who sustained a slight concussion, reckoned was caused by damage from the pit clash.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti) was eighth ahead of Newman/Haas' James Hinchcliffe, whose team-mate Oriol Servia was a top five contender until a disastrous final pitstop dropped him to 14th.
Front row starter Danica Patrick (Andretti) could not match her qualifying speed in the race and ultimately finished 10th.
The race saw a string of heavy accidents at the bumpy Turn 2. In addition to Power and Sato's evenings ending at that spot, James Jakes, Sebastian Saavedra and Ana Beatriz all lost control at the same turn - with the latter collecting Mike Conway in her crash.
Results - 250 laps: Pos Driver Team Time/Gap 1. Marco Andretti Andretti 1h53m00.1074s 2. Tony Kanaan KV + 0.7932s 3. Scott Dixon Ganassi + 1.1067s 4. JR Hildebrand Panther + 1.4856s 5. Dario Franchitti Ganassi + 1.8926s 6. Ryan Briscoe Penske + 2.3628s 7. Helio Castroneves Penske + 2.6732s 8. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti + 4.1625s 9. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas + 5.6272s 10. Danica Patrick Andretti + 6.0327s 11. Ed Carpenter Sarah Fisher + 7.6745s 12. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold + 14.1527s 13. Alex Lloyd Dale Coyne + 16.8865s 14. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas + 1 lap 15. Graham Rahal Ganassi + 1 lap 16. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt + 1 lap Retirements: EJ Viso KV 239 laps Vitor Meira Foyt 227 laps Takuma Sato KV 182 laps Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 114 laps Will Power Penske 89 laps Charlie Kimball Ganassi 62 laps Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 44 laps Mike Conway Andretti 44 laps James Jakes Dale Coyne 22 laps