Marco Andretti became the youngest race winner in a major openwheel series after tasting victory in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway Sears Point. The third generation Andretti stretched his last tank of fuel 35 laps finishing...
Marco Andretti became the youngest race winner in a major openwheel series after tasting victory in the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway Sears Point. The third generation Andretti stretched his last tank of fuel 35 laps finishing 0.6557 seconds ahead of his Andretti Green Racing teammate Dario Franchitti.
"We got it," exclaimed Andretti. "I was trying all year."
Following in the footsteps of his famous dad and grandfather, Andretti brought home more family pride today when he notched the 2006 IndyCar Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year title.
"It's an honor to be the top rookie in the IndyCar Series. My goals going into the season were to win a race, finish high in the point standings and be the top rookie. So far, the NYSE team has done a great job helping me achieve those goals."
Franchitti was closing in the waning laps as Andretti was using his "caution map" which uses less fuel and increases lap times. Bryan Herta, also driving an Andretti Green Racing entry, spun which caused the fourth and final caution period of the day. Circling the track during the yellow allowed Andretti to save enough fuel to make it to the finish and when racing resumed there were five laps remaining.
Franchitti was unable to make a bid for the lead during the final five laps "It was a great team effort today," said the Scotsman. "I'm proud of Marco. It's a hard race. Racing 80 laps here is hard work."
Andretti Green Racing nearly scored the top three podium positions but Tony Kanaan, who was using the same strategy as Marco, was forced to stop for fuel with one lap remaining. Kanaan was running a distant third, holding most of the field at bay just before making his stop.
Vitor Meira, who finished third, was involved in a fierce battle behind Kanaan as his fuel starved car began to falter. Scott Dixon and Helio Castroneves were boxed in behind Kanaan, and they finished just behind Meira in fourth and fifth, respectively.
"From the beginning of the race, we saved a lot," said Meira. "Not only fuel, but brakes and everything. I think that's why we were able to do what we did at the end of the race."
Dixon, who led 40 laps, was disappointed with his finish. "We did everything we were supposed to do starting from the pole. We had the speed and we were pulling away."
Dixon had a ten second lead when "we had an airjack problem in the pits. That pretty much blew our chances for the race win and the championship."
Castroneves was pleased with retaining the championship lead but would have liked to have finished better. The dice behind Kanaan dropped him from third to fifth at the finish.
"There was more to lose than to gain," said Castroneves. "Tony was having problems, Vitor dove into me. It would have been a big accident and Scott Dixon took advantage of the situation. I could have finished better but sometimes you have to drive smarter than faster."
Castroneves moves to the series finale at Chicagoland Speedway in two weeks with a one point edge in the championship point standings over his teammate Sam Hornish, Jr.
Hornish finished ninth today.
Formula One, IndyCar Series and Champ Car World Series are considered the major openwheel racing series' on the International level. There are the ladder series' that feed into the top levels; they are GP2 Series, Indy Pro Series and the Atlantic Championship. There are may openwheel series that race worldwide where the young racers learn their trade.