As a driver, Michael Andretti was 0-of-16 in the Indianapolis 500.
There was always talk of an “Andretti curse” at the famed Brickyard that prevented anyone with the last name Andretti from enjoying success there.
After winning the Indianapolis 500 for the first time as a team owner, in 2005, with the late Dan Wheldon as his driver, Andretti said it was time to put the curse to rest, a sentiment supported even more by today's victory—even though Dave Skretta, writing for The Associated Press, apparently felt the need to resurrect it for a race-day column.
With Michael's son Marco finishing third, Skretta noted, "On one hand, Hunter-Reay won during a dominant day for the entire team. On the other, his family name is still chasing the checkered."
But there is no argument that Andretti's success at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the short span of a dozen years, has been anything short of sensational.
Scoring his third win in the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday with driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport beat the best of the best, including Team Penske with its 15 Indy 500 wins and Target Chip Ganassi Racing with its four.
Son Marco Andretti finished third, sophomore driver Carlos Munoz was fourth and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch, who is a shoo-in for rookie honors, was sixth.
Marco was competitive throughout the race, leading for several laps. But after the final restart following a red-flag stop to clean up debris from Townsend Bell’s wreck, the younger Andretti faded.
“He drove a perfect last six laps,” said an excited Andretti about Hunter-Reay during a Victory Lane interview with ABC Sports.
“It was Hunter-Reay’s turn,” Andretti admitted.
“It’s a dream come true, man, it hasn’t even sunk in yet,” said Hunter-Reay. “I’m a proud American boy, that’s for sure."
He is the first American driver to win the race since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
For Busch, it was the near-halfway point to his planned long day of racing.
“Well I'm not halfway yet,” said Busch in a post-race interview. “It was an incredible journey to sniff the lead of the Indy 500 in that lead group. I'll tell you, though, the top five are incredible in this series at getting all they can out of their car, being able to keep it under control and being able to race for position.
“I felt like I could hang on to that lead pack. I gave it my all, and I know the car was better than I was, but I'm very satisfied with the sixth place."
Even more impressive is that Andretti’s organization had been able to put together a team of players around Busch and give him a car that was not only fast, but comfortable enough for him to be competitive throughout the race.
Andretti has built a powerhouse organization that includes entries in the Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda Championship and the USF2000 National Championship.
This year, Andretti Autosport will also have an entry in the new all-electric FIA Formula E championship, which features race cars similar to Formula One cars.
For years, Andretti failed to capture that one accolade that was missing from his racing resume.
It had to be a bittersweet moment for Andretti as he watched another of his drivers drinking the milk after victory in the 500.
“I’m happy for Ryan,” he added. “If it couldn’t be Marco, then he would have been the next one.”
Rival team executives Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were both drivers before becoming successful owners. But no one remembers them as drivers.
The time is coming, very soon perhaps, when Andretti’s success as a team owner may have people asking, “Didn’t he used to be a driver?”
*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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