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MAY 31, 2006

An impressive performance in America

The Michael Schumacher furore in Europe has taken up much of the coverage of motorsport in recent days and has eclipsed a very impressive performance in the Indianapolis 500 by 19-year-old rookie Marco Andretti.

The grandson of F1 World Champion Mario Andretti and son of F1 driver Michael Andretti finished second in the 500 at his first attempt, the best showing by a rookie for many years. There have been two rookie winners of the 500 but neither Juan Pablo Montoya nor Helio Castroneves were really newcomers but had not raced at the speedway because of the politics of the IRL-CART split. Both Jacques Villeneuve and Christian Fittipaldi finished second on their debuts in 1994 and 1995 but prior to that one has to look back to Roberto Guerrero in 1984 (who was second but two laps down) and to 1963 when Jim Clark was second at his first run in the 500. The only other man to do it was George Amick in 1958.

This year's 500 was the second closest finish in history. Sam Hornish Jr was delayed in the closing laps and with four laps to go began a charge. With two laps to go Marco Andretti took the lead from his father Michael. Hornish quickly passed Michael as well and on the penultimate lap Marco and Hornish nearly collided, causing Hornish to lose some ground. It was not enough as out of the last corner Hornish had the momentum to pass Andretti before they got to the finish line.

Marco Andretti showed that as far as he was concerned being runner-up was not enough.

"Second place is nothing," he said.