May 28, 2006

Yowza

Sam Hornish Jr. snatches the Indianapolis 500 by 0.06 seconds.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a dream finish.

IndyCar rookie, 19-year-old Marco Andretti, was 6/100ths of a second short of winning his first Indianapolis 500, after Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. grabbed the lead in the final straight of the last lap, crossing the line only 0.06 seconds sooner.

Marco Andretti has never run an Indy 500 before. His father, Michael Andretti, who came out of retirement for today's race, has never won. Hornish has never finished all 500 miles. Four laps before the race, any one could have taken the checkered flag. Last year's Danica mania was fun, but this was a fitting finish to the 90th running of the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

This finish is the second closest in Indianapolis 500 history, the first being 1992's race, in which Al Unser Jr. beat Scott Goodyear to the flag by 0.043 seconds.

Incidentally, my personal favourite finish was the 1995 running, in which Jacques Villeneuve came back from a 2-lap penalty he was issued after mistakenly passing the pace car under a yellow flag - ironically becoming the official winner after Goodyear made exactly the same mistake ten laps from the end and was effectively disqualified after refusing to serve his penalty.

Imminent death of F1 predicted: pictures at 11

Meanwhile, in Monaco, my other favourite race ran today under controversy after race stewards ruled that Michael Shumacher, the provisional pole-sitter, deliberately stopped his car on the track during qualification to confound Fernando Alonso's attempt to take the pole. The result: Michael was stripped of his times and forced to start from the back of the grid (actually from the pit lane, because of an additional engine-change penalty. I guess if you have nothing to lose . . .).

This is disgraceful behaviour for a 7-time world champion and the most successful driver in F1 history, but he has a history of deliberately throwing races if it gives him a points advantage over his opponents - most infamously his deliberate collision with Villeneuve in 1997, which ironically handed the Canadian the championship that year after Schumi was stripped of his standing for the series. Naturally, Ferrari is claiming the stall was accidental and that any future claims of driver error in similar situations will be regarded with suspicion. (Yeah, but other drivers aren't quite so obvious about their cheating, are they?)

Alonso took pole position anyway, and then he won the race. Poetic justice sucks, doesn't it, Michael?