87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Postscript Tight, close racing; Penske continues success; Andretti's tough ending INDINAPAOLIS, Monday, May 26, 2003 -- The 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race will go down in history as one of the more competitive ...
87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race Postscript
Tight, close racing; Penske continues success; Andretti's tough ending
INDINAPAOLIS, Monday, May 26, 2003 -- The 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race will go down in history as one of the more competitive races that the 94-year old Indianapolis Motor Speedway has ever seen.
The race produced the third-closest margin of victory, the closest 1-2-3 finish and the smallest margin ever between first and fifth.
Gil de Ferran, driver of the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, scored his first Indianapolis 500 victory, defeating his teammate, two-time '500' champion Helio Castroneves, by just .2990 of a second, the third closest finish in Indianapolis 500 history.
Tony Kanaan, driver of the No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished third, just 1.2475 seconds behind de Ferran, and making the finish the closest 1-2-3 finish in Indianapolis 500 history. The previous closest was in 1986 when Bobby Rahal, second place Kevin Cogan and third-place Rick Mears had a first-to-third difference of 1.881 seconds.
Tomas Scheckter, driver of the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, finished fourth, 1.6845 behind de Ferran, while rookie Tora Takagi finished fifth, 1.9606 behind de Ferran.
"It was difficult to pass if you were behind someone," Scheckter said. "The field here is so close and competitive that any one of us (in the top five) could have won it at the end."
In addition to the close margins at the end, throughout the race there were 14 lead changes among eight drivers. Nine cars were on the lead lap and 16 cars were running at the finish.
Penske continues success at Brickyard: Penske Racing wrote yet another chapter in their long and storied history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Gil de Ferran winning and teammate Helio Castroneves finishing second.
It marked the second time in three years Penske cars have finished 1-2 at Indianapolis. In 2001 Castroneves won the race and de Ferran finished second. De Ferran's win also gave owner Roger Penske his 13th victory at Indianapolis, extending his record.
Penske has won the last three Indianapolis 500-Mile Races, finally equaling Lou Moore as the only owner to win three races in a row. Moore scored victories in 1947-49 with Mauri Rose winning in 1947-48 and Bill Holland winning in 1949.
Penske had scored back-to-back victories in 1984-85 (Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan), 1987-88 (Al Unser and Rick Mears) and 1993-94 (Emerson Fittipaldi and Al Unser Jr.), but he had failed to score three consecutive victories until this year.
"One of the things I pride myself in is getting here and staying connected," Penske said. "I spent more time here than I ever did. Because Gil (de Ferran) was coming back, I wanted to be sure that he had the support he needed. With Helio winning twice, I knew that he was going to get a lot of coverage, because he had three-peat potential."
Penske Racing has now won five consecutive Indianapolis 500-Mile Races in which Penske-owned cars have qualified. Emerson Fittipaldi won in 1993, and Al Unser Jr. won in 1994. The team failed to qualify in 1995 and did not enter the race from 1996-2000. Helio Castroneves won in 2001-02, and Gil de Ferran won in 2003.
Since 1979, when Penske Racing scored its second victory, the team has won 12 of the 19 races they've qualified for.
Rookies impressive: Six of the nine rookies finished in the top 15 of the 87th Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. Tora Takagi, driver of the No. 12 Pioneer Mo Nunn Racing Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone, finished fifth. He was the highest-placing rookie.
"I am very happy with this result in my first Indy 500 race," Takagi said. "My car was always fast this month. I wish I could have finished about two places higher, because I think we were capable of finishing at least third. But overall, I am happy with being the highest-finishing rookie in the race. That is a great honor.
"Now I understand what everybody was trying to tell me about the Indy 500. It is a very special place and a very special race. Not just the race, but all of the nice things that happen before the race, all of the traditions."
By finishing seventh, Tony Renna, driver of the No. 32 Cure Autism Now/HomeMed Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, gave Kelley Racing its highest finish the team has ever had in the "500."
"It's very satisfying to give Kelley (Racing) their highest finish in the '500,'" Renna said. "We just ran a consistent race and stayed out of trouble. It was a great time. The guys gave me a great car. We just worked at it all race long to develop the car and bring it in."
Roger Yasukawa, driver of the No. 55 Panasonic ARTA Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 10th, Buddy Rice, driver of the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, finished 11th, Vitor Meira, driver of the No. 22 Metabolife/Johns Manville/Menards Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, finished 12th and Shinji Nakano, driver of the No. 54 Beard Papa's Dallara/Honda/Firestone, finished 14th.
A.J. Foyt IV, driver of the No. 14 Conseco/A.J. Foyt Racing Dallara/Toyota/Firestone, finished 20th and was running at the finish, 11 laps down. The seven rookies running at the finish is a record since the Bank One Rookie of the Year Award was established in 1952. In 1998 and 2002, six rookie drivers were running at the finish.
Andretti's tough ending: Michael Andretti's driving career at Indianapolis ended much the way his father's did in 1994, with an early exit. Andretti's No. 7 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone had a throttle linkage problem that ended his day on Lap 94, and he finished 27th. In 1994, when Mario Andretti competed in his final '500,' he fell out on Lap 23 with fuel system problems and finished 32nd.
"Same song, a different day," Mario Andretti said. "Obviously, the thing that is so disappointing is that it was such a fluke mechanical thing in the engine, just the throttle body that came apart. The first thing he said to me was, 'Why did it have to happen to me?' I feel for him, obviously."
Michael Andretti has now led 426 laps in his career at Indy and is 11th on the all-time lap leader list. He has led the most laps of any driver that has not won the "500."
"It was a weird deal," Michael Andretti said. "That always seems to happen to me. That is life. I'm a little disappointed. I'm happy and sad, a million different emotions right now. I'm happy that I'm retiring, knowing that I could have won the last race. I just wanted one lap this year, the last one. We didn't get it."
Andretti ends his career with one of the most impressive resumes in motorsports. He scored eight top-10 finishes at Indianapolis, including four top-five finishes. His best result was second in 1991, and later that year he won the CART championship. He was runner-up in the CART championship five times (1986, '87, '90, '92, '96) and holds the CART record for victories with 42.
Andretti now will concentrate on being an owner in the IRL IndyCara Series team, as he is co-owner of Andretti Green Racing, which will field three cars for the remainder of the season. While he never won at Indy as a driver, he will return as an owner.
"I really want to run this team," Andretti said. "I really want to work on it. Maybe I haven't been meant to win this race as a driver. Maybe I'm meant to win 20 of them as an owner. We'll see."
Scheckter has impressive day: Tomas Scheckter, who finished fourth in his second race, led the most laps with 63. Last year he also led the most laps with 85. He joins Frank Lockhart as the only driver to lead the most laps in each of his first two starts.
"It was a pretty good day for us," Scheckter said. "We led a bunch of laps and gave ourselves a chance to win today. Team Target did an unbelievable job all month. Obviously, it would have been great to win, but I'm happy with our day." Lockhart led 95 laps en route to victory in a 400-mile, rain-shortened race in 1926 and led 110 laps in 1927 before falling out of the race after 120 laps with a broken rod and finishing 18th.
87th Indianapolis 500 Notes:
*Helio Castroneves led laps 1-16. When he relinquished the lead on Lap 17 to Scott Dixon, it marked the first time that Castroneves had ever given up the lead in the Indianapolis 500. When he won in 2001, he led only once, the final 52 laps. In 2002, he again led only once which was the final 24 laps.
*Two-time defending champion Helio Castroneves finished second, marking the eighth time in Indianapolis 500 history that the defending champion has finished second.