A Family Dream Falls Short at Indy

A Dream finish for Mario Andretti and his family were within four laps of a family dream finish in Sunday's Indy 500. At the final restart, with 4 laps to go, Mario's son Michael, who has never won the famed Memorial Day 500 mile race, was leading the pack to the start/finish line. Only 2 positions back was his son Marco. The Andretti pit seemed to be ready to celebrate, but Mario had the look of someone who had been out on the track, and knew anything could happen in the final four laps.

A lap after the restart, Marco had completed a pass to move to second place and the family dream was set with father and son positioned 1st and 2nd.

Another lap, and the younger Andretti passed his father to take the lead, and seemed to be speeding away from the pack. The family dream finish was still in place, only with the generations reversed.

Then Sam Hornish Jr struck. He passed Michael Andretti and moved to second place. He then caught up to Marco, and threatened to pass him as well. With a lap to go, he made his move, only to be blocked, and began to lose ground, falling several car lengths back. It looked like Marco would cruise to victory in only his first Indy 500.

But Hornish Jr caught up to the youngest Andretti again in the final turn, and with an amazing move to the bottom of the track, passed Andretti at the last instant, crossing the yard of bricks at the finish line a mere .06 seconds in front.

Hornish Jr's run to the front came following an earlier penalty when a pit road mistake resulted in him leaving his pit box with a part of the fuel hose still connected to his car. The penalty put him nearly a full lap down, but the next caution allowed him to close the gap on the leaders. And the rest, as they say, is history.

And the result is the continuing frustration of the Andretti family. Marco wasn't happy with second place. "Man, I don't want to wait for next year," he said. "It's a bummer. Woulda, coulda, shoulda, I mean -- second place is nothing."

His father Michael was also disappointed in their 2nd and 3rd place finishes. "It's a heartbreak, another one," he said. "But, in a couple of days, I'll probably sit back and think, 'Oh Wow!' I thought he had won. It was a fairytale, a dream."

If the race had ended a lap or two earlier, before Sam Hornish Jr entered the picture, it would have been even more of a dream.

Published on May 29, 2006 in