Marco Andretti cruised to his second Menards Infiniti Pro Series victory after leading all 25 laps in the inaugural Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Andretti crossed the finish line more than12 seconds ahead of second place ...
Marco Andretti cruised to his second Menards Infiniti Pro Series victory after leading all 25 laps in the inaugural Liberty Challenge at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Andretti crossed the finish line more than12 seconds ahead of second place finisher Wade Cunningham, who takes the points lead by virtue of his fourth consecutive second place finish.
The Liberty Challenge marked Andretti's third appearance in the Pro Series. He made his debut at St. Petersburg, Fla. street circuit where he earned the pole and the victory, a feat he duplicated this weekend.
Andretti led the field onto the front straight for the start but Jeff Simons, who started third, made a bold move to assume the lead at the first corner. Simmons failed to negotiate the corner and slid wide at the exit of the turn. Andretti drove his normal line through the corner while Simmons barged back onto the track in third place. With the field balked by Simmons' off track excursion, Andretti led the first lap by 1.7 seconds.
Wade Cunningham made a good start from the outside of the second row and slipped past Simmons while he was tending to the lawn outside turn one.
"The start was a bit hectic," said Cunningham. "There was a little bit of a gap behind Simmons, so I pulled in there. We went through together, and he went through to the lead." Simmons went off the track "and came back right in front of me on the exit of turn two. That slowed me down and unfortunately Marco got a really good lead from that first lap. Once he broke away. I just couldn't catch him."
Once Simmons returned to the track he was unable to challenge Cunningham. He ran comfortably in third until lap 13 when his engine expired. Simmons was credited with a 13th place finish.
The top five remained unchanged throughout the final 12 laps of the race with Chris Festa finishing third followed by Nick Bussell and Jaime Camara in fifth.
Bussell started on the outside of the front row but was relegated to fifth at the first corner after Chris Festa made contact with him as part of his move from sixth to fourth.
"I knew at the start of the race I had to knock off a couple of people," said Festa. "It's always a good opportunity to take care of a couple of cars. Unfortunately I hit Nick Bussell a little bit. It was an accident. I didn't mean to do it but it wasn't very hard so we were both able to keep going."
Bussell was clearly disappointed with his results. "I don't know what happened at the start," he said. "I got punted down in turn one and it lifted the rear tires off the ground and moved me out of the way. I lost a couple of spots and track position was critical."
Jaime Camara started fifth and finished fifth despite losing two positions at the start. Festa passed Camara at the entrance to turn one which left the door open for Marty Roth to follow on the inside. Camara and Roth raced side by side through the first infield portion before Camara relinquished the position. On the following lap, Camara found his way past Roth but was too far behind Bussell to mount a challenge.
Arie Luyendyk Jr. finished sixth followed by Travis Gregg, who entered this event with the series points lead. Gregg now trails Cunningham 227-217 in points. Jamie Camara retains third place in the points with 181.