- Associated Press - Sunday, May 27, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Michael Andretti watched three of his cars dominate the first half of the Indianapolis 500. And by the end of Sunday’s race, they were no factor at all. Again.

“I don’t believe in curses, but I don’t know what it is,” Andretti said after losing yet another opportunity to win the 500. “It’s very frustrating.”

It was particularly frustrating given the promise this May had shown.

Three of the Andretti cars, those belonging to James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti, had been consistently among the fastest in practice and qualified in the top four spots for the race.

Throughout the first 100 laps, all three were packed tightly together again, running consistently among the top five.

But just before the midway point of the race, things suddenly started going wrong for Andretti Five.

Brazil’s Ana Beatriz spun out on lap 90. American Hunter-Reay’s rear suspension broke on lap 124. Twenty-three laps later, the car of Colombia’s Sebastian Saavedra rolled to a stop on the warm-up lane with an electrical failure, nearly taking out teammate Marco Andretti, who had just pitted.

Michael already knew his team was in trouble.

“If he wouldn’t have pitted when Saavedra went out, if he could have stayed out one more lap, think I think we would have had a chance,” Michael Andretti said.

Things only got worse.

The most galling mishap came on lap 188 when Spain’s Oriol Servia and Marco Andretti were running close together. Andretti dipped toward the white line and spun, hitting the outside wall in the first turn and forcing the Andrettis to wait one more year since their last drive into Victory Lane when Mario Andretti won the 1969 500.

Afterward, Marco Andretti was disappointed.

“Servia decided to run two-wide at Indianapolis for two consecutive laps and makes me turn in from the white line. I had no hope of making that corner because not only am I turning in from the white line, he just crossed my bow, so I was completely out of it. Nothing I can do,” the 25-year-old American said. “It definitely rang my bell.”

Canadian Hinchcliffe did manage to finish sixth, keeping him in the points chase.

But to Andrettis knew this was a blown opportunity.

“That was the car to win the race,” Michael said, looking at his son’s No. 26 car. “Unfortunately, we had a few mistakes called in the pits.”


PENSKE POWER: Roger Penske’s team won each of the first four IndyCar races this season and won the pole at Indianapolis, too.

By Sunday, they looked like just another race team.

Points leader Will Power finished 28th after being involved in the first crash of the day, hitting Mike Conway, who spun right in front of the Australian. A bouncing wheel from that crash hit the right front tire of Helio Castroneves’ car and he immediately started losing positions.

But that wasn’t the only problem the three-time winner had.

“First, we chose the wrong lane (on restarts), or second, it would never get the draft,” Castroneves said. “It was very weird. We tried high downforce, we tried low downforce. Certainly it was not what I was expecting.”

The Brazilian wound up 10th in his latest bid to become the fourth four-time 500 winner.

Penske’s other Aussie driver, Ryan Briscoe, did manage to finish fifth after winning the pole.


RESTART MADNESS: A year ago, drivers complained about the danger of double-file restarts.

On Sunday, they wanted them back.

After the race, drivers ranging from Scott Dixon to James Hinchcliffe complained about the tactics employed by some drivers to drop back from the pack and jump the restart, giving them enough momentum to make multiple passes.

It had some longing for the old days.

“Basically, the top four or five cars would start within two or three car lengths like you’re supposed to and from there on back, guys would drop back 15 spots and then power up. Tony (Kanaan) got to the front because he cheated and that creates a really dangerous situation,” Hinchcliffe said. “We’re going back to the double-file restarts on the rest of the tracks, and we need to go back to them here, too.”

It wasn’t just current drivers who were upset.

Bobby Rahal, the 1986 Indy winner, was so concerned about what he saw Sunday that he even complained to the officials about Kanaan’s late move to pass four cars on a single move,

“They said there wasn’t a problem with it, so I just told Takuma (Sato) on the last restart you’ve got to give yourself some room or you’re going to get run over,” Rahal said. “I thought it was amazing that there were no major problems on the restarts.”


NEWGARDEN TRAVAILS: Josef Newgarden’s first Indy start did not go as planned.

First, he struggled out of the gate. Then, his No. 67 car stalled on lap 164, knocking him out of the race with mechanical problems. Newgarden finished 27th, completing 161 laps.

“It’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get to finish the race,” Newgarden said. “There were drivers who were crazy at the beginning and others were taking it easy. It was similar to what I was expecting.

Newgarden wasn’t the Sarah Fisher driver having problems Sunday.

Teammate Bryan Clauson dropped out with a mechanical problem after completing 46 laps .


HOT, HOT, HOT: Forecasts calling for the hottest day in 500 history proved to be wrong.

It was only the second hottest, though few at the track realized that.

At one point during Sunday’s race, the track’s internal video system showed a graphic that the outdoor temperature was 93 degrees and the track temperature was 133, an image that prompted the public address announcers to tell fans they were part of history.

The hottest 500 came in 1937 when it was 92 degrees. .

But after the race, speedway officials announced that the National Weather Service had recorded the day’s high temperature as 91 degrees, tying the temperature from 1919 and 1953.


ROSEY APPEARNCE: Pete Rose attended his first 500 on Sunday.

Baseball’s hit king grew up in Cincinnati, about a two-hour drive from Indianapolis, and played and managed in his hometown before receiving a lifetime ban from the commissioner’s office in 1989 following an investigation of his gambling.

Until USAC official Dick Jordan invited Rose to join him at the track this year, Rose never had time to make the two-hour drive from Cincinnati to Indy.

“This is one of two sports deals you never get to participate in as a baseball player, this and the one in Louisville,” Rose said, referring to the Kentucky Derby. “You don’t get many Memorial Days off, usually have double-headers, so I’ve been to two Derbys and this is my first Indy 500.”

As for his Hall of Fame chances, Rose remains hopeful that he will make it in one day.

But he’s certainly not fretting baseball’s decision. He says he wraps up work each day in Las Vegas at 4:30 p.m. and goes home and watches baseball every night.

“You can’t worry about that,” he said, wearing wide-rimmed, yellow-tinted glasses. “I know what kind of players I was, and the fans know what kind of player I was. At this age, people ask if you had a good morning today and you say `Yeah, because I got up.’”


STILL THE ONE: The IndyCar Series announced Sunday that it has agreed to a two-year extension to continue its partnership with Apex-Brasil and the Brazilian Trade and Investment Promotions Agency.’

The deal lasts through 2014. The two groups have been working with IndyCars since 2008.

“The results exceeded our expectations generating so far over $2 billion in new businesses for Brazilian exporters, and at every race, we see more great results and discover more potential for growth,” Apex-Brasil president Mauricio Borges said.




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