Hornish snatches win from Andretti

With one deft move, Sam Hornish Jr. went from improbable to victorious

Hornish snatches win from Andretti

Hornish ducked to the inside coming out of the final turn and passed Marco Andretti as the two cars reached the finish line tonight to win the 90th Indianapolis 500, completing an unlikely run from a costly penalty to triumph.

"We were fast when we needed it," an emotional Hornish said after climbing from the car. "I have to thank God for giving me this talent. It's not just that I can drive fast, but I stayed with it and never gave up.

"It's a great feeling. I wouldn't trade it away for the world. ... It might not go just the way you want it to, but it was much sweeter this way."

The car-length victory was the second-closest margin of victory - 0.0635 seconds - in the history of the race, second only to the 0.043-second difference between Al Unser Jr. and Scott Goodyear in 1992. It also padded team owner Roger Penske's Indy 500 record to 14 victories.

"That was a real finish," Penske said. "I told Sam, 'You've got two laps left here, make the best of it.' You've got to hand it to him; he's a fantastic oval racer. In the end, the driver won the race."

While it ended Hornish's six-race streak of trouble in the race, it also continued the curse of the Andretti family, which is now 1-for-54 in the Indy 500 after yet another disappointment.

Andretti's father, Michael, led on a restart during the 196th lap of the 200-lap race, and Marco, the 19-year-old, third-generation rookie, took the lead two laps later.

"Right now it's a heartbreak, but I think in a couple of days we'll be thinking, 'Wow, what a race," said Michael Andretti, who led with four laps left but finished third. "It was a fairy tale, the dream we all talked about."

The finish, and the fact that Marco Andretti gave Hornish room for the final pass, may have prevented controversy.

On the 199th lap, as Hornish attempted to dive low to pass on Turn 3, Andretti moved down. "The first time I attempted it, he didn't give me any room," Hornish said. "But on the second time - I think they'd warned him about it - but he gave me plenty of room."

Hornish, who was third with three laps remaining, came on strong after Marco passed Michael on the outside heading into Turn 1 on the 198th lap.

Hornish passed Michael Andretti down the backstretch for second place. On the next lap, while heading into Turn 3, Hornish tried to pass Marco for the lead inside, but Marco moved low to prevent the pass.

"I thought it was over when I didn't get past him earlier in three," Hornish said. "But we dug down, put her back in there and took off. For his first time out there, he had a heck of a ride. No matter what happened, he should be very proud of that."

When the two cars came out of Turn 4 on the final lap, Hornish moved the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Honda/Dallara to the inside.

Marco initially moved to block, but then held his line as Hornish gained ground and pulled alongside Marco's No. 26 Andretti Green Racing Honda/Dallara. Hornish hit the stripe a car length ahead of the younger Andretti.

"I don't know where that came from," Marco Andretti said. "I could have thrown a block on him, but that's risky. I know from my dad's career that you have to take advantage of every opportunity here. I can't wait to come back."

Michael Andretti, who came out of retirement to mentor his son through his first Indy 500, held on for third place, followed by Dan Wheldon, who led nearly three-fourths of the race, Tony Kanaan, who appeared to be in position to win with 10 laps remaining, and Scott Dixon, who, like Hornish, was penalised and fell out of contention during the late stages.

Dario Franchitti finished seventh - AGR's fourth car among the top seven - followed by Danica Patrick, Scott Sharp and Vitor Meira.

Hornish was assessed a drive-through penalty when the fuel hose got stuck in the car as Hornish left the pits on the 150th lap.

The incident ripped the hose from the nozzle, which stayed attached to the fueling buckeye on the car, and splashed fuel on the fueller, who fell down after the car ran over his feet.

"We just had to clean up and get our senses," Penske said. "I just tried to be calm and keep everyone cool."

Hornish alertly stopped so his crew could remove the nozzle from the car, but his car was halfway out of the pit box. IRL IndyCar Series rules state that a car outside the box with a fuel hose attached must be given a drive-through penalty.

"Not everything went our way today, but we stuck together as a team," Hornish said. "We had a good plan, and we were fast when we needed to be."

The penalty dropped Hornish from second to seventh, but he recovered to end a personal streak in which he hadn't finished the race, nor had he finished better than 14th in six previous Indy 500s.

"It's a great feeling," Hornish said. "I wouldn't trade it for anything else."

The penalty and Hornish's ensuing charge was just a small part of a wild finish that left fans standing and stunned at race's end.

Wheldon, who led 148 laps, appeared to be in command until Kanaan passed him in Turn 3 on the 183rd lap. As the two cars reached Turn 1, Wheldon narrowly averted a spin, apparently caused by a punctured tyre.

"I hate to admit it, but this is what makes the race so exciting," Wheldon said. "We seemed to dominate, so it's disappointing that we got a puncture and had to pit out of sequence."

After Wheldon pitted, Felipe Giaffone hit the wall, bringing out a yellow flag on the 191st lap. At the time, Kanaan was leading Franchitti, but neither car had enough fuel to make it to the finish.

When both drove to the pits, yet another AGR driver, Michael Andretti, inherited the lead, with Marco second, Dixon third and Hornish fourth.

"If it was under my control, I probably would have won it today," said Kanaan, who finished fifth after the late pitstop. "A lot of things need to fall in place together. We'll try it again and again and again. One day we'll get it."

Marco quickly passed his dad for the lead after the restart with four laps remaining, but Hornish - clearly piloting the fastest car on the track - came charging up to challenge the rookie.

"I knew I had a shot at it," Marco said. "I thought if I just defended my line once that I would have had it."

Instead, Hornish took the lead when it counted most. When asked afterward when he knew he'd made the finish-line pass, Hornish replied simply, "I didn't."

He did by the time he got to the traditional drink of milk, and he also understood, as did his boss, the future represented in one amazing finish.

The quickly emerging rookie with the famous name is edged at the finish line by the guy everyone considered the best oval specialist in the business.

"When we got Sam, we knew we had the best oval racer of his time," Penske said. "Everyone kept comparing him to Rick Mears, but we kept wondering when we were going to give him his chance. This was it."

After the victory, Hornish, who grew up in a small Ohio town not far from Fort Wayne, Indiana, and came to the race annually with his father, struggled to maintain his emotions.

"It's tough to put this into words," Hornish said. "There were so many ups and down. It was the three Cs - calm, cool, and collected.

"I knew if I made it to the end that I'd have a chance at it, and I did."

90th Indianapolis 500 results:

Pos  Driver             Make            Laps
 1.  Sam Hornish Jr     Dallara-Honda   200
 2.  Marco Andretti     Dallara-Honda   200
 3.  Michael Andretti   Dallara-Honda   200
 4.  Dan Wheldon        Dallara-Honda   200
 5.  Tony Kanaan        Dallara-Honda   200
 6.  Scott Dixon        Dallara-Honda   200
 7.  Dario Franchitti   Dallara-Honda   200
 8.  Danica Patrick     Panoz-Honda     200
 9.  Scott Sharp        Dallara-Honda   200
10.  Vitor Meira        Dallara-Honda   200
11.  Ed Carpenter       Dallara-Honda   199
12.  Buddy Lazier       Dallara-Honda   199
13.  Eddie Cheever Jr   Dallara-Honda   198
14.  Max Papis          Dallara-Honda   197
15.  Kosuke Matsuura    Dallara-Honda   196
16.  Roger Yasukawa     Panoz-Honda     194
17.  Jaques Lazier      Panoz-Honda     193
18.  Airton Dare        Panoz-Honda     193
19.  PJ Jones           Panoz-Honda     189
20.  Bryan Herta        Dallara-Honda   188
21.  Felipe Giaffone    Dallara-Honda   177
22.  Townsend Bell      Dallara-Honda   161
23.  Jeff Simmons       Panoz-Honda     152
24.  Al Unser Jr        Dallara-Honda   145
25.  Helio Castroneves  Dallara-Honda   109
26.  Buddy Rice         Panoz-Honda     108
27.  Tomas Scheckter    Dallara-Honda    65
28.  Arie Luyendyk Jr   Panoz-Honda      54
29.  Stephan Gregoire   Panoz-Honda      49
30.  Larry Foyt         Dallara-Honda    43
31.  Thiago Medeiros    Panoz-Honda      24
32.  Jeff Bucknum       Dallara-Honda     1
33.  PJ Chesson         Dallara-Honda     1
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