Marco Andretti enjoys his second INDYCAR victory with his team and family Photo courtesy INDYCAR
The Indy cars put on a great 250-lap show at Iowa Speedway Saturday night, with plenty of slicing, dicing, smacking and sliding involved. At the end of 250 trips around this .875-mile oval, Marco Andretti entered Victory Lane for the first time since August of 2006 at Infineon Raceway Sears Point.
The third-generation driver had a brilliant duel with former teammate Tony Kanaan, this pair officially swapping the lead a couple of times from the 188th lap to the close, with Kanaan finally giving up the ghost with 18 to go. Andretti's margin of victory was 0.7932 seconds over Kanaan, with Scott Dixon marauding his way from 23rd to third at the checkers. Andretti's race was no walk in the park - he started 17th.
This was a race where reigning titleholder Dario Franchitti led handily for 172 laps, including some dices with the eventual winner. When he exited the pits after a final stop, the handling wasn't there. The car was good in front, but suffered from an oversteer imbalance in traffic. Franchitti would finish fifth behind rookie JR Hildebrand, who drove an excellent race to finish where he started, in fourth place.
The balance of the top 10 were Ryan Briscoe, Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves, Ryan Hunter-Reay, rookie James Hinchcliffe and second-starter Danica Patrick. There were 13 cars on the lead lap with Ed Carpenter, Justin Wilson and Alex Lloyd completing the group. Sixteen cars were classified as finishers: Oriol Sdrvia, Graham Rahal and Alex Tagliani were each a lap in arrears.
Andretti won this race because of excellent pit work on the final stop that got him out ahead of Franchitti, who was passed by the three cars classified in front of him by the time 250 laps were in the books. He credited the crew for their quick work: "We're down a little bit on the bigger ovals but when it comes down to handling we're alright. These guys did a great job with the pits and they got me the lead back," Marco said. "We had some good racing with TK - tonight was good fun. I can't express how much tonight means to me; the win feels as good as my first one five years ago and hopefully we can start making this a habit."
Kanaan praised Andretti's maturity and noted, "These are the kind of races that make it good to be a race car driver - hard fought for us and great for the fans. You always want to win but if you finish second knowing that you did all you could, fought your hardest, you can't be upset. If anybody had a doubt that Marco could win a race, if they watched the race today he won it fair and square. I think he deserved it and he had a good car. He was strong all night long."
For Dixon, coming from the back to the front was almost like a win. "We didn't have the best car out there but it was a tough race with lots of traffic," he said. "All in all a great day for both cars. We made some changes and got to work on the car, which was really loose. It feels like a win coming from 23rd to third!"
As expected on this short oval, there were quite a few incidents and five full-course cautions throughout the race. The first came for rookie James Jakes, who was the first to make contact in the second turn SAFER barrier; rookie Ana Beatriz and Long Beach winner Mike Conway came together in the same turn, causing a long cleanup period.
The third Turn 2 caution flew for former point leader Will Power, who was using a damaged car as it was (he and rookie Charlie Kimball came together in the pits), the fourth was for Sebastian Saavedra who, too, lost it in the second turn and the fifth and final caution period came when polesitter Takuma Sato visited the second turn SAFER barrier. A popular place indeed.
While Franchitti led the most laps (172), Andretti was second (42) and Kanaan was third with 25 laps led. Sato led seven laps and Hildebrand took the lead for four
The Iowa Corn 250 marks the end of this portion of the oval races in the IndyCar Series docket of 17 races total. The next event starts a string of three road/street contests on the streets of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, which takes place in two weeks.
Franchitti is the point leader with Power second. Dixon has moved to third in points, while Oriol Servia dropped to fourth and Kanaan holds fifth place in the season-long tally. Briscoe, Graham Rahal, Andretti, Hildebrand and Tagliani complete the top 10.
© 2011 Anne Proffit