INDIANAPOLIS - Teammates are not supposed to squabble in public like this, but the Andretti Green Racing team will have a tough time putting a positive spin on a 200 mile-per-hour confrontation between two of its drivers during yesterday's Indy 500. There were probably 300,000 eyewitnesses and a few hundred million more saw the spat on television.
Just past the midway point in the race, AGR's Tony Kanaan was leading and at least threatening to end his long string of heartbreak and disappointment at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Kanaan had led 202 laps in the Indy 500 prior to yesterday's race and finished in the top 10 four times in six tries, but victory had eluded him.
Kanaan led the Indy 500 for a seventh straight race yesterday when polesitter and eventual winner Scott Dixon tried to pass him on the high side of the track, and Kanaan's AGR teammate, Marco Andretti, shot to Kanaan's low side, leaving Kanaan two negative options as the air was pulled off his car.
"Either I hit him, or I hit the wall," Kanaan said about Andretti's action. "Instead of taking two cars from our team out of the race, I decided not to do that, and I hit the wall."
Kanaan, a former IndyCar Series champion who was fourth in points entering the race, was done for the day with more than 90 laps left. He finished 29th, and was visibly upset with his young teammate.
"I think you should ask him what happened," Kanaan said. "We are going to solve our problems behind closed doors."
Andretti, who had an animated postrace discussion with his father, Michael, one of the AGR team owners, said he regretted the incident with Kanaan but had to keep his attention on the rest of the race.
"I felt so bad at the time, but I had to focus on the issues at hand," Andretti said. "I thought we could win this, but I didn't have the car at the end that I had earlier in the race."
DANICA DIRECT: Indy 500 crowd favorite Danica Patrick, who started fifth and ran with the group of leaders through the first 170 laps, got clipped by Ryan Briscoe on pit road, and her car was too damaged to continue. Patrick finished 22nd and was miffed at Briscoe for slicing into her as he shot from the pits with about 30 laps left in the race.
"It's real unfortunate because we worked our butts off all month," Patrick said. "It seems relatively obvious what happened. You just don't come out of your pit box and jump across three lanes."
RAHAL WRECK: Indy 500 rookie Graham Rahal, the son of 1986 champion Bobby Rahal, had his first Indy 500 end early with a crash just 36 laps into the event. Rahal's car moved up the track as he attempted to negotiate through turn four, and he hit the wall hard enough to knock the right front wheel bracket off. He was the first driver out of the race and finished 33rd, last in the field.
Rahal said he was trying to avoid the slower car of Alex Lloyd, who drives for the Rahal Letterman team of Rahal's father.
"I was trying to be patient there, and I don't know what Lloyd was doing, but when he came up just a couple of feet, I couldn't hold it."
FOYT FIRE: A.J. Foyt IV, running in his fifth Indy 500, had his car catch fire in the pits during an early caution period. After Foyt's crew had fueled the car and put on four new tires, fuel spilled out onto the side of the car and ignited. The fire was quickly doused by the safety crew, but Foyt was soaked with the foam fire extinguishing agent and had to get out of the cockpit while a cleanup and repairs took place. He re-entered the race 19 laps down and finished 21st.
HEMELGARN CAR: The Indy 500 entry of Toledo businessman Ron Hemelgarn and his Hemelgarn Johnson racing team finished 17th in yesterday's race. The Hemelgarn car, driven by Buddy Lazier, battled performance issues and came in five laps down.
STAR POWER: Three hours before the start of yesterday's Indy 500, NFL hall of famer Marcus Allen walked through the garage area virtually unnoticed. So many stars attend the Indy 500, it's tough to stand out in that crowd. Actor Paul Newman and David Letterman are here as IndyCar Series team owners, while Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors both entertained the crowd, singing before the start of the race.
Olympic gold Kristi Yamaguchi served as the honorary starter for the race, the first woman to fill that role. Actors Frankie Muniz, Anthony Edwards, Jason Priestley, Luke Perry, and Marlee Matlin were joined at the race by World Cup skiing champion Bode Miller, boxer Thomas Hearns, NBA guard Barron Davis, model Whitney Thompson, and Richard Branson, chairman of Virgin Airlines.
RACE FACTS: There were 18 lead changes, with nine different drivers running out front. Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon led the most laps -115 - and led on seven occasions. There were 69 laps run under caution.