IPS: Andretti notches first career win in St. Pete

Marco Andretti became the youngest winner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series after his victorious drive in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. At 18 years and 21 days, Andretti replaces A.J. Foyt IV as the Pro Series youngest winner. Andretti...

Marco Andretti became the youngest winner in the Menards Infiniti Pro Series after his victorious drive in Sunday's Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. At 18 years and 21 days, Andretti replaces A.J. Foyt IV as the Pro Series youngest winner. Andretti also became the fourth series driver to win in his first race, joining Mark Taylor, A.J. Foyt IV and Phil Giebler.

Andretti started on the pole and began to pull away from the field when Jaime Camara and Jeff Simmons made contact in the first corner. The incident, which was covered by a local caution, provided Andretti with a larger gap over Wade Cunningham in second.

In the first ten laps, Cunningham closed the gap to Andretti but a brake problem kept the New Zealander from making a bid for the lead. When Andretti overshot turn ten, Cunningham was able to capitalize on the mistake, completing a pass for the lead through the turn 11/12 chicane.

Andretti recovered quickly from his mistake, slotted in behind Cunningham and continued to fill his mirrors for the next 18 laps. "I knew I wasn't done," said Andretti. "That was my mistake for the race. Then I put my head down and we got lucky with traffic."

With less than ten laps remaining the pair encountered Marty Roth as they reached the end of the long main straight. Roth, who was circulating at the tail end of the lead lap, was clearly slower, but the tight confines of the circuit would not allow another passing opportunity until the end of one of the straights.

"We were right behind Marty Roth as we got to turn two," said Cunningham. "When we got to turn four Roth braked really hard. I had to get on the brakes too. Marco got inside me and there was nothing I could do.

"With my brake problem I couldn't have passed Marco if he hadn't made that mistake and Marco couldn't have passed me if I hadn't come up on Marty Roth. I think we had the wrong brake pads for this circuit. I was really fast from turn 4 to turn 9 but when it came to the heavy braking zones I had to brake 100 feet further out."

Nick Bussell started fourth and finished third in what was a relatively uneventful race for the Ionia, Michigan driver. After missing the first lap melee and a lap 13 incident that eliminated Chris Festa from third place, Bussell ran by himself until a full course caution bunched the field on lap 22.

"I couldn't believe they didn't go to a full course caution after that first lap accident," said Bussell. That incident caused a gap between the front runners, eliminating any chance for passing while the tires were still fresh. After the lap 22 full course caution for Jon Herb's spin in turn 9, Bussell thought he might have a chance to overtake if either Cunningham or Andretti developed tire problems. Neither driver faltered, nor did Bussell, who finished a scant 0.804 seconds behind Cunningham.

Al Unser and Arie Luyendyk rounded out the top five.

Travis Gregg moved up one spot in the points battle and now leads the championship standings 110-107 over Wade Cunningham. Jon Herb, who left Phoenix with his first Pro Series victory and the points lead, slipped to third, one point behind Cunningham

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Mark Taylor , Jon Herb , Arie Luyendyk , A.J. Foyt IV , Al Unser Sr. , Marty Roth , Marco Andretti , Jeff Simmons , Nick Bussell , Phil Giebler , Travis Gregg , Wade Cunningham , Jaime Camara