Published: Sunday June 26, 2011 MYT 4:03:00 PM
Marco Andretti wins IndyCar race in Iowa
NEWTON, Iowa (AP): Marco Andretti grabbed the lead from Tony Kanaan with 18 laps left and held on to win Saturday night's IndyCar race at Iowa Speedway, his first victory in five years.
Kanaan, who won last year's race at Iowa's .875-mile (1.4-kilometer) oval, made a final run at Andretti, but Andretti managed to get his second career win, five years after he captured the road course race at Infineon.
"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."
Points leader Dario Franchitti was in front for much of the race, but he faded following a restart 51 laps from the end. The Scot finished fifth, though he grabbed sole possession of the points lead from Will Power.
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."
Scott Dixon started 23rd and finished third, followed by JR Hildebrand.
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 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 an increasingly bumpy second turn and hit the wall.
Power, the co-points leader entering the race, also ran into the wall just 90 laps in. He suffered a minor concussion and will have to be cleared by doctors to race in Toronto in two weeks.
Franchitti jumped in front eight laps into the race and held a comfortable margin over a handful of challengers for the first 150 laps.
Andretti completed his long journey from his starting position of 17th to pass Franchitti about two-thirds of the way in, but the Scot retook the lead a few laps later. Franchitti had won two of the last three races at Iowa, but he didn't have enough late to challenge Andretti or Kanaan, 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.
Danica Patrick opened the race second, her best starting position since Nashville in 2008. But 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 into ninth after James Jakes hit the wall for the night's first caution flag. She finished the race in 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. Kimball sustained heavy damage to the side of his No. 83 car, while Power stayed on the lead lap - though he had fallen way back.
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 his tumultuous night.
Power left Iowa in second place in the standings, 20 points behind Franchitti. But five of the next six IndyCar races are on road/street courses, and Power has proven to be the best on those since the start of last year.