200th Race - First street race special to Andretti
One in a series highlighting the 200th Indy Racing League IZOD IndyCar Series points-paying race this weekend.
With four (and occasionally five) drivers competing for Andretti Autosport, it's understandable if Michael Andretti might be hard-pressed to select one event that stands out in eight seasons of IZOD IndyCar Series competition.
But the former Indy car racing champion is up to the task (after a brief grace period for deliberation).
"Although it is tough to say that anything would be bigger than winning our first Indy 500 in 2005, I actually think the sweep at St. Pete earlier that year is biggest in my mind," Andretti said of the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series street circuit race. "It was the first race we ever promoted, we won the pole and the race with Marco (Andretti) in Firestone Indy Lights, we won the pole with Bryan (Herta), the race with Dan (Wheldon) and we swept the top four spots in IndyCar.
"The odds of something like that happening to you; the deck is really stacked against you.
"Once we got to the final few laps of that race and Dan took the lead, I wasn't even paying attention to the front. All my focus was on Bryan in fourth; just hoping he could hold off Vitor (Meira). Bryan had a broken shock or something like that and I knew he had his hands full. But that was the key spot for us. I knew we had the race covered at the front. The only question was whether we could sweep and we did. It was a pretty amazing day."
Since it started competing in the Indy Racing League in 2003 as Andretti Green Racing, the team has won three IZOD IndyCar Series championships and two Indianapolis 500 victories. It also has fielded cars for the past two Firestone Indy Lights champion.
Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan and Danica Patrick will represent Andretti Autosport in the 200th IZOD IndyCar Series race this weekend at Kentucky Speedway.
The team was re-named Andretti Autosport in November 2009 after the former shareholders of Andretti Green Racing completed a transaction that resulted in the restructuring and rebranding of the Indianapolis-based company. Michael Andretti is president, CEO and chairman of the board.
Kanaan, the 2004 series champion, gave the team its first pole start - at Homestead-Miami Speedway in its initial race in 2003. Michael Andretti started second. Three weeks later, at Phoenix International Raceway, Kanaan delivered the first victory. He also gave the team its last victory (of 36) - at Iowa Speedway in mid-June.
Kanaan, who entered in the IZOD IndyCar Series in the 2002 Indianapolis 500 with Hollywood Mo Nunn Racing, also selected the 2005 St. Pete race as his most memorable in the series.
"Sweeping the top four spots at St. Pete in 2005 is definitely my all-time favorite race," said Kanaan, who has made 129 starts and holds records including consecutive top-10 finishes (22) and consecutive races led (12). "It would be easy to say that it was Fontana 2004 when I clinched my championship, or it was the race in Texas when I won in 7-Eleven's back yard. People would expect something like that to be my favorite moment.
"To me, the way I look at it, it doesn't have to be about a win or a championship. I've made huge friends in racing and the time that I spend with them is very special. That team, back in 2005 with the four of us - me, Dario (Franchitti), Dan and Bryan - that was a 'dream team.' We kept saying that and people didn't really believe us that much back then. We probably didn't even realize quite how good we had it right then. But, to be able to do that, it was very special.
"It's hard enough to go 1-2 not to mention 1-2-3, and we went 1-2-3-4."