Andretti Prevails After Fierce Iowa Battle
After a battle that at times seemed more akin to a street fight than a race in rural Iowa, Marco Andretti came out on top of a no-holds-barred duel with Tony Kanaan to win the Iowa Corn 250 Saturday night and end a 77-race IZOD IndyCar Series victory drought.
Andretti and Kanaan were just two of a six-car lead pack that emerged following the final round of pit stops on Lap 188 of the Iowa Speedway oval, but the two soon asserted themselves at the front, leaving the previously dominant Dario Franchitti and others in their wake.
The pair then put on a short-oval racing clinic, passing, re-passing, running side-by-side and using lapped cars as ‘picks’ over the final 50 laps on the .89-mile banked oval, the shortest track on the 2011 IZOD IndyCar circuit. Only with two laps to go did Andretti finally squeeze out a car-length advantage, which he held to the checkers to score his first IndyCar win since Infineon Raceway in his rookie season of 2006.
Continuing a six-season tradition of equality and reliability, all 25 Honda-powered drivers completed the race weekend on the tight, yet very fast, Iowa Speedway short oval without a single failure of the Honda Indy V-8 engine. The teams logged a total of 7,801 trouble-free miles during the Iowa race weekend.
Early in the 250-lap contest, Franchitti appeared headed to his second victory in as many weeks, leading a race-high 172 laps before his handling deteriorated just slightly after the final round of pit stops. Although he faded to fifth place in the closing laps, behind teammate Scott Dixon and rookie JR Hildebrand, Franchitti pulled 20 points clear of a tie for the drivers’ championship lead after rival Will Power spun and made heavy contact with the Turn 2 wall on Lap 90.
Power, one of six drivers to crash in Turn 2 tonight, was treated for concussion-like symptoms. All other drivers involved in the various incidents during the race apparently escaped serious injury.
After oval-track races on three consecutive June weekends, the IZOD IndyCar Series now takes a one-week break before resuming with its annual two-race Canadian swing, starting at the July 10 Honda Indy Toronto.
Marco Andretti (#26 Andretti Autosport Honda) started 17th, finished 1st, 1st win of 2011 and 2nd career IndyCar victory: “I needed this [win]. Track position was the name of the game tonight and the guys did a great job in pits all night. At the end, fighting with [Tony] Kanaan, I drove like I had eyes in the back of my head. It was great racing with Tony, but there was no mercy between us at that point. Our cars aren’t quite the fastest on the super speedways, but when it comes to handling [on short ovals and road courses] we’re all right.”
Tony Kanaan (#82 KV Racing Technology Honda) started 3rd, finished 2nd: “It was a fun race [but] crazy at the end. If it hadn’t been for the win, [Marco Andretti] and I would’ve had a little ‘talk’. But I would have done the same things in his position. He had a great race and deserved the victory. I’m proud of our team, all my guys did a great job tonight. If we keep this up, the wins will come to us.”
Scott Dixon (#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda) started 23rd, finished 3rd: “This was a great night for us, to come from the back of the field and run up front feels like a win for us. It was a crazy night, especially early on, but that’s what makes the races at Iowa so much fun. Hat’s off to Marco [Andretti], they were racing tough up front, and he drove a helluva race.”
Roger Griffiths (Technical Director, Honda Performance Development) on tonight’s race: “We’re very pleased for Andretti Autosport, and this is the best result of the season for KV Racing, which inches ever closer to it’s first IZOD IndyCar Series victory. Once again, we had no problems with the Honda Indy V-8 engine over the course of the weekend. Tonight’s race closes a run of very exciting oval races with the ‘500’, the ‘Texas Twins’ and last week’s race at Milwaukee. IndyCar has proven once again that the diverse nature of the tracks on its schedule brings a lot of excitement. We’re sure that as we go across the border into Canada for the Honda Indy Toronto that the excitement will continue.”