IRL: Indycar Series News and Notes 2006-08-28

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines 1. First win special for Marco Andretti 2. Final Four -- Points race tightens after Infineon 3. Drivers reap post-race rewards 4. Dana Leadership awards to be presented 5. Of note 1. First win...

Today's IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series headlines
1. First win special for Marco Andretti
2. Final Four -- Points race tightens after Infineon
3. Drivers reap post-race rewards
4. Dana Leadership awards to be presented
5. Of note

1. First win special for Marco Andretti: Michael Andretti knew his son Marco had inherited the family's gift for driving at a very early age.

"He was very good at driving golf carts," said Michael Andretti of one of his son's first driving experiences. "He had to stand and push the throttle and steer. He couldn't sit on a chair, on the seat. On his first day of school, we were waiting at the end of our driveway. We had a golf cart there. The school bus comes there, pulls up. He turns around, and he's gone with the golf cart, crying, saying he's not going to school. I'm running after him, trying to catch him. He's driving it so fast. I knew at that point. He was probably five."

Fourteen years and several powerful racing vehicles later, Marco Andretti joined his famous father and grandfather as a winner of a major open-wheel race.

At 19 years, five months and 14 days, Andretti became the youngest driver to win a major open-wheel race, and he accomplished the feat at a pace far quicker than his father or grandfather -- Michael Andretti was 23 years, 6 months and 7 days old when won at Long Beach in 1986, while Mario Andretti was 25 years old when he won the Hoosier Grand Prix in 1965.

"I couldn't be happier because we fulfilled all the goals that we set at the beginning of the year," said Marco Andretti, who clinched the season-long Bombardier Rookie of the Year Award with the win. "Rookie-of-the-Year at Indy, the series. We got our win, you know. So definitely it's the best feeling all year for sure.

That the win came at Infineon Raceway was even more special for the third-generation driver. Marco won the Indy Pro Series event at the track in 2005 and posted other top finishes in other developmental series.

"I just have a lot of laps here, which definitely helps," he said. "I said even before this race that the majority of my success was here. This place has a big lead now."

YOUNG AND SUCCESSFUL:

Marco Andretti became the first teenager to win a major open-wheel event on Aug. 27 when he won the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway. Here's how the milestone compares to other young athlete accomplishment:

Tiger Woods was two months shy of his 21st birthday when he won his first PGA tournament, the Las Vegas Open in 1996.

Pele was 17 when he made his World Cup debut for Brazil in 1958, he scored three goals in a semifinal win over France and two more in Brazil's championship win over Sweden.

Competing in only his third decathlon, Bob Mathias, 17, won the 1948 Olympic gold medal.

Wayne Gretzky was 17 when he turned pro with the Indianapolis Racers of the WHA. In 1980, now with the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL, Gretzky won the Hart Trophy as MVP as a 19-year-old.

Bob Feller was a 17-year-old high school student when he debuted for the Cleveland Indians in 1936. He struck out 15 in his first major-league start and later tied the record of 17 strikeouts in one game. He went 5-3 that summer before returning to Iowa for his senior year of high school

Tracy Austin, only 16, became the youngest champion in U.S. Open history in 1979, and Austin would become, in 1980, the youngest sports millionaire ever, and would win another U.S. Open title in 1981. But accumulated injuries forced her to retire in 1983, and nothing much came of an attempted comeback a decade later.

Boris Becker became the youngest player ever to win the men's Wimbledon singles title, achieving the feat at age 17 in 1985. Then he repeated in 1986. He also competed on Germany's Davis Cup team as a teenager.

In 1977, 17-year-old Steve Cauthen won $6.1 million in purses, more than any other jockey in history, and was named the Associated Press male athlete of the year and SI's Sportsman of the Year. He rode Affirmed to a Triple Crown in 1978, becoming, at 18, the youngest jockey in history to accomplish that feat.

Dwight Gooden was just 19 and straight out of Class A ball when he stormed through the National League with the New York Mets in 1984. Gooden went 17-9 with a 2.60 ERA and led the NL with a rookie-record 260 strikeouts (in 218 innings). Gooden finished second in the NL Cy Young voting to Rick Sutcliffe.

2. Final Four -- Points race tightens after Infineon: For the fourth-consecutive week, Marlboro Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Sam Hornish Jr. exchanged the IndyCar Series point lead.

A single-point separates the pair, who have an identical number of wins (four), second-place finishes (one) and third-place finishes (one) through the 13 IndyCar Series events.

"Let me tell you, it's no question it's a situation that it's really close," said Castroneves, who leads Hornish following a fifth-place finish in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. "We came here to take as much points as we could. This is part of the game, which is fun. Now let's go to Chicago. It's kind of every man for himself."

Castroneves, however, doesn't have his eye on just his teammate. Trailing behind the Penske duo are Target Chip Ganassi drivers Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon, who are 19 and 21 points back, respectively. Castroneves knows a mistake could open the door for a title rival other than Hornish.

"We don't want to give the championship to Target (Chip) Ganassi," Castroneves said. "We're going to try everything we can to win this championship, whether it's going to be me or Sam. My opinion, obviously it should be me (laughter), but I don't think Sam would agree with that."

The Target duo recorded a fourth (Dixon) and sixth (Wheldon) at Infineon, and though title hopes are dwindling, neither Dixon nor Wheldon is ready to concede the title.

"As fast as we've been all year, and as aggressive as everyone knows I can be, no one is going to want to mess with me in Chicago," Wheldon said. "I have nothing to lose now, and I'm not ready to give up and neither is the Target team. We're still in this. We just have to win at Chicago and the rest will be in the "Racing Gods"' hands. We've worked very hard all year to make a championship possible, and it's not over yet."

3. Drivers reap post-race rewards: Marco Andretti reaped the benefits from winning an IndyCar Series event.

As the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race winner, Andretti was presented with a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT Camera and an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece from TAG Heuer, the official timekeeper and watch of the Indy Racing League. TAG Heuer presents an engraved Aquaracer Automatic timepiece to the winner of each IndyCar Series event.

The Aquaracer concept is founded on providing the accuracy that all water sports demand. Based on the design and features of the timeless 2000 series, launched in 1982, TAG Heuer's watchmakers and designers have created an original, prestigious sports watch that is water-resistant to 300 meters.

Andretti also collected the Firestone Performance Award and its $10,000 prize for leading Lap 59 (Mile 133) of the race, while Dan Wheldon claimed the Lincoln Electric Hard Charger Award and its $2,000 prize for being the race leader who started furthest back. Ed Carpenter won the K&N Award and its $2,000 prize for being the highest-placed eligible finisher. Scott Dixon claimed the Marlboro Pole Award and its $10,000 prize.

4. Dana Leadership awards to be presented: Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman will present the first Paul Dana Leadership in Biofuels awards Aug. 28 during a ceremony at the Indiana State House.

The award is named in memory of IndyCar Series driver and biofuels advocate Paul Dana, who was killed in a racing accident in March. Dana, driver of the No. 17 Team Ethanol car, was working with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture on several biofuels initiatives and promotions.

The first three award recipients, announced in May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, are Jon Lantz of Countrymark Coop, Mike Ladisch of Purdue University and Kellie Walsh of the Central Indiana Clean Cities Alliance.

5. Of note: A film crew from HBO's "Real Sports" was at Infineon Raceway and will be at Chicagoland Speedway to produce a story about IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick. Noted writer Frank Deford, who will narrate the piece, received a pace car ride from Patrick before the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma. The crew will also visit Patrick's hometown of Roscoe, Ill., and Sugar River Raceway, where Patrick's go-karting career began-- Sam Hornish Jr., winner of the 90th Indianapolis 500, received a gold ring with a checkered flag motif from Marlboro Team Penske owner Roger Penske before the race.

***

The final IndyCar Series event of the 2006 season is the Peak Antifreeze Indy 300 presented by Mr. Clean at 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 10 at Chicagoland Speedway. The race will be telecast live by ABC and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPN Deportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. ESPN2's coverage of the Carneros 100 and Valley of the Moon 100 will be broadcast at 2 p.m. on Aug. 31.The fifth season of Indy Pro Series competition concludes with the Chicagoland 100 on Sept. 9 at Chicagoland Speedway.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Andretti , Scott Dixon , Dan Wheldon , Mario Andretti , Marco Andretti , Paul Dana , Chip Ganassi , Roger Penske , Sam Hornish Jr. , Danica Patrick , Ed Carpenter
Teams Team Penske