Aug 19, 2014, 1:31 PM EDT
As the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series season entered its final stages, a tight championship battle was ensuing between Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves and Target Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon.
But in the penultimate race of the year at Sonoma Raceway, their ongoing pursuit of the IRL title was overshadowed as third-generation driver Marco Andretti notched his first career IndyCar win on the technical Northern California road course.
It took some risk and luck for the son of Michael and grandson of Mario to break through and become the youngest driver ever to win a major American open-wheel event.
On Lap 44, Andretti pitted his No. 26 Andretti Green Racing Honda and then chose to stay on track when a caution came out at Lap 51. That forced the then-19-year-old driver to save fuel later on in the closing laps of the race.
A win for Andretti was very much in doubt, but with less than 10 laps left and AGR teammate Dario Franchitti closing in on him, another AGR driver, Bryan Herta, spun out at Turn 7 to trigger a caution.
That helped ease Andretti’s fuel issues, and he was able to hold off Franchitti in the end to secure his inaugural victory.
“I knew that Dario [Franchitti] is normally the king of saving fuel,” Andretti said. “After he got by Tony [Kanaan], I knew it definitely wasn’t over, and he would push me hard during the final laps.
“I had to run some pretty fast laps at the end, but we just needed to stay consistent, save the tires and fuel, and it all worked out.”
Meanwhile, some of his fellow competitors wondered if Herta had done his team a solid with his late spin.
“There’s no doubt he spun on purpose,” Wheldon said after the race according to ESPN’s John Oreovicz. “Bryan definitely took one for the team today and that’s not how any race should be decided.”
For his part, Herta denied the accusations, maintaining that he simply got on the throttle too early going into Turn 7 before looping his No. 7 Honda around.
While that debate raged, Castroneves’ fifth-place finish enabled him to take a one-point lead over Hornish going into the season finale at Chicagoland Speedway.
In the Windy City, however, it was Hornish who drove away with his third IRL crown. Wheldon won that race, with teammate Dixon in second, Hornish in third, and Castroneves in fourth.
But the result brought Hornish and Wheldon into a tie atop the standings, and Hornish claimed the title via tiebreaker – his four race wins trumping Wheldon’s two.
As for Andretti, he’d have to wait until 2011 before he added his second IndyCar race win at Iowa Speedway.
The IndyCars return to Sonoma Raceway this Sunday for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra for your online and mobile devices.
Jul 29, 2015, 6:05 PM EDT
IndyCar penalizes Honda for five engines that did not “attain their life cycle.”
Jul 29, 2015, 5:10 PM EDT
Rahal is second in the points and takes his career best season to his home track of Mid-Ohio.
Jul 29, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
Johnson will make his first start of 2015 this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
Jul 29, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud looking for first top-fin finish since Detroit race one.
Jul 29, 2015, 12:02 PM EDT
In eight IndyCar races at Mid-Ohio, Scott Dixon has a record five wins.
Jul 29, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
There’s still a good seven to 10 high-quality drivers without a win in IndyCar, 2015, who could add to the list of winners.
Marcos Ambrose looks to salvage lost season in V8 Supercars, has had no issues ‘moving on’ from NASCAR
Jul 28, 2015, 8:50 PM EDT
Even though it has been pretty much of a lost season for him in Australia’s V8 Supercars series, Marcos Ambrose believes he can still find some success before the racing year is over.
‘Race With Restraint’ proves grassroots racers want, will use more safety equipment at affordable rate
Jul 28, 2015, 6:56 PM EDT
The first attempt at bringing top-of-the-line safety equipment to the grassroots racing masses was an unqualified success.
Jul 28, 2015, 4:32 PM EDT
Hector Arana Jr. hopes 2015 is about time to finally be his time.
Jul 28, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
Fast facts heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200, courtesy of IndyCar PR staff.
Jul 28, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT
To paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the demise of NHRA’s Pro Stock class have been greatly exaggerated.
Jul 28, 2015, 12:31 PM EDT
Simon Pagenaud swaps firesuit for street clothes when driving the Penske Truck Rental truck, playing “mover” this weekend.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:38 AM EDT
The latest car for Austin Cindric is a Lamborghini at Mid-Ohio this weekend.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:23 AM EDT
Zanardi still wants to race the Indy 500, if possible.
Jul 28, 2015, 11:04 AM EDT
Singapore Grand Prix circuit to adjust Turns 11 to 13.
Jul 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT
Sherwin-Williams joins the Hulman Motorsports family as Official Paint and Finishing Partner.
Jul 28, 2015, 9:55 AM EDT
We check in with NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell for latest “Ten with Townsend” insights, post the Iowa race and heading into Mid-Ohio.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:51 PM EDT
Good news, Ricciardo made the podium. Bad news, his trophy didn’t survive it.
Jul 27, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT
Jakes kept his visor down after all on a pit stop in Iowa.
Jul 27, 2015, 3:13 PM EDT
A quick look back at Chaves’ short track debut.
- It’s “never-say-die” for Graham Rahal with three races left 0
- Paralyzed driver Michael Johnson returning to track in Pro Mazda 0
- Simon Pagenaud ‘agonizingly close’ to wins at Mid-Ohio, not to success in 2015 0
- With three races left, who could still win in IndyCar, season 2015? 1
- Marcos Ambrose looks to salvage lost season in V8 Supercars, has had no issues ‘moving on’ from NASCAR 6
- NHRA: Big changes coming to Pro Stock this weekend, next season 20
- Report: Alex Zanardi keen to make Indianapolis 500 debut 7