Top 10 Indy 500s, No. 9: Sam Hornish Jr. beats Marco Andretti in race’s first last-lap pass
(Editor’s note: NBC Sports has selected the Top 10 Indy 500s of All-Time through an esteemed panel of former drivers, broadcasters, journalists and historians. The countdown begins today and will run through the 107th Indianapolis 500.)
The “Andretti Curse” struck again, but a young American talent still won the race.
That’s the finish of the 2006 Indianapolis 500 in a nutshell.
Marco Andretti, making his Brickyard debut as a 19-year-old, took the lead from his father, Michael, through the outside of Turn 1 on Lap of 198 of 200. The scion of a famous racing family seemed destined for the glory that nearly always eluded Andrettis behind the wheel at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
INDY 500 PRIMER: Questions and answers for the world’s biggest race
But Marco’s bid was crushed after the final corner as Hornish whipped past into first a few hundred feet from the finish line, giving Roger Penske his 14th victory at the Brickyard.
The last-lap pass in the 90th Indy 500 was the first in event history.
With their second- and third-place finishes, Marco and Michael made it 50 starts by Andretti family members without an Indy 500 victory since Mario Andretti’s lone win there in 1969. (Michael Andretti has won the Indy 500 five times as a team owner.)
“At Indy, you’re either first or it’s nothing,” Marco said in 2009. “That’s why you saw me bummed after my rookie race.”
“I waited for him to make the first move, and then I went harder with whatever direction he went,” said Hornish, who started on the pole position, led 19 laps and overcame a botched pit stop with a stuck fuel hose. “I figured he’s looking in the mirror thinking ‘Where’d he go?’ and then I’m beside him.
“It was just a great way to be able to win that.”
NBC Sports has ranked the Top 10 Indy 500s through a panel that judged through scores of 1-20 in five categories (with a total of 100 being perfect): quality of racing, memorable moments, strength of competition, historical impact and spectacle.
Here’s a look at No. 9 on the list:
Winner: Sam Hornish Jr.
Margin of victory: 0.064 seconds
Lead changes: 14 among six drivers (the top six finishers in the race each lead at least two laps)
Cautions: Five for 44 laps
Other contenders: Dan Wheldon led a race-high 148 laps in pursuit of his second consecutive Indy 500 victory (and in his first start at Indy for Chip Ganassi Racing), but a late tire puncture dropped him to fourth. … Tony Kanaan led 12 laps and finished fifth in the fifth of seven consecutive Indy 500s in which he led. … Scott Dixon led six laps to take sixth and was upset with Indy Racing League officials after being black-flagged for blocking Kanaan on Lap 175.
Winning move: Hornish swept around Marco Andretti on the inside after carrying a huge run off Turn 4, putting his No. 6 Dallara-Honda ahead at the checkered flag in the third-closest finish in Indy 500 history.
How the voters saw it: The range was narrow for ballots that had the 2006 Indy 500 in their top 10 as each total score fell between 88 and 93.