Marco Andretti wins IndyCar race in Iowa
Andretti grabbed the lead from former teammate Tony Kanaan with 18 laps left and won Saturday night's IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway, his first victory since 2006.
Kanaan, who won last year's race at Iowa's .875-mile oval, made one final run at Andretti through the bottom of a turn. But Andretti went high, blew past Kanaan and hung on for his second career win, the other coming at the road course at Infineon 78 starts ago.
"All I've gained is experience. We've been in position to win a lot of races. We've come up short. It's more, I think, relieved is the word. I've never doubted the team. I've never doubted myself," Andretti said. "I always said as soon as the stars were aligned and a little bit of luck goes my way that we'd be sitting here."
Scott Dixon started 23rd and finished third, followed by JR Hildebrand.
Points leader Dario Franchitti was leading much of the race before fading following a late restart. The Scot finished fifth, though he grabbed sole possession of the points lead from Will Power.
Power, the co-points leader entering the race, hit the wall just 90 laps in and finished 21st. Power suffered a minor concussion and will have to be cleared by doctors to race in Toronto in two weeks.
Kanaan, who crashed three years in a row at Iowa before winning in 2010, watched firsthand as Andretti struggled for years to end his winless streak.
The gregarious Brazilian had a little fun with Andretti after a spirited battle for the win went to Andretti.
"I told him at the podium. I said 'I hope it won't take another five years for you to win another one,'" said Kanaan, who finished a season-best second. "He's been driving great and he got it."
This was the first IndyCar night race in five events at Iowa. The switch produced the most exciting race yet at Rusty Wallace's speedy little oval tucked between the cornfields.
Franchitti jumped in front eight laps in and held a comfortable margin over a handful of challengers. Andretti completed his long journey from 17th to pass Franchitti about two-thirds of the way in, but it didn't last as the Scot went high and back ahead a few laps later.
Franchitti won two of the last three races at Iowa, but he didn't have enough late to challenge Kanaan or Andretti, who swapped the lead for the final 62 laps.
"The drought, so to speak, I think, just made me appreciate what we have here in IndyCar racing," Andretti said.
Takuma Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar pole, then nearly became the first one to lose it when he collided with Alex Tagliani in a late practice run long after qualifying.
Sato's KV Racing Technology-Lotus team was able to put his primary No. 5 car back together in time for the race, and Sato hung close to the leaders for much of the race.
But Sato, like many drivers before him, lost control through the increasingly bumpy turns and drilled the wall.
Danica Patrick opened the race second, her best starting position since Nashville in 2008. She was hardly much of a factor once the green flag dropped.
Patrick quickly fell back as Franchitti maneuvered to the front, and she slipped back into ninth after James Jakes hit the wall for the night's first caution flag.
Patrick finished 10th.
Power's problem's began shortly thereafter, as he ran into Charlie Kimball as he was leaving pit row and Kimball was coming in.
Power's night would only get worse. The rear end of his No. 12 Team Penske car flew open and smacked into the wall, ending a tumultuous night in painfully fitting fashion.
Power left Iowa in second place, 20 points behind Franchitti. But five of the next six IndyCar races are on road/street courses, and Power's proven to be the best on those since the start of last year.
But he'll have to pass medical evaluations by the IndyCar medical staff first.