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2006 Indy 500 Finish Stirs Emotions, Memories Like Few Other Races

The 2006 Indianapolis 500 featured one of the most dramatic finishes in the history of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,” as three-time INDYCAR champion Sam Hornish Jr. earned his long-coveted first “500” victory after passing Marco Andretti on the front straightaway with the checkered flag in the air.

Here's a look back from 2007 at that magic carpet ride of 10 laps from the two drivers involved in the duel and other observers:


Sam Hornish Jr.

The thing I remember most was how much the outcome of the race changed so many times during the last 10 laps. At Lap 190, all the guys you thought had a chance to win it ultimately didn’t because the scenario kept changing. Pit strategies and other stuff started to play out, and it shuffled everything, not just once but like two or three times.

I remember (Tony) Kanaan and (Dan) Wheldon really battling, and in my mind I’m thinking it’s probably going to be one of those guys. Then Michael (Andretti) was leading and we’re under yellow, and I was thinking, ‘Michael actually might win this thing, which was kind of neat because of his history here.’

When Marco passed Michael, I remember thinking, ‘Well, maybe Marco will win this as a rookie!’ But then I started running Marco down, and that’s the first time I actually thought, ‘Hey, I’m catching him,’ and it started to play in my mind that I could actually win it.

The first time I caught him he blocked me a little bit, and I figured that was the end. I didn’t think I’d have another chance. But just a moment or so later, there in the really late stages, I had the same thought process, ‘Hey, I’m catching him,’ all over again. Then I had the opportunity to win it, and I think it honestly took me six months to really let it sink in. In the moment I crossed the finish line, I didn’t really grasp what just happened, not right away.

You always wish you could win by more, but you’ll take the win however you can get it, especially at Indy.


Marco Andretti

A lot of things go through my mind when I think about that race, and not just the last 10 laps. Man, at one point my team (Andretti Green Racing) was 1-2-3-4 in the standings! That, and the pass I made on my dad, really stands out. Of course, I also remember seeing that Penske car coming up fast behind me, and I knew at that moment that the race is never over until you cross the finish line.

But I wouldn’t go back and change anything, even if I could. There were a million things throughout the 500-Mile Race that could have won it for us, but you can’t look back and say, ‘I wish I would have…’

As soon as the race was over I was saying: ‘I don’t want to wait a whole year to come back here and do this again! I can’t wait!’ That race has gone through my mind every hour of every day ever since. Even though a year has passed, it seems like just yesterday. Overall, I’m happy with how things worked out. As a 19-year-old rookie, it was awesome. As a competitor I wish we could have won it, sure, but I still wouldn’t change anything.


Bob Jenkins, IMS Public Address announcer

During the final 10 laps, I was moving from the tower to Victory Lane because it was my responsibility to do the winner’s interview while driving around the track in the Pace Car.

I remember getting to pit lane and Michael was leading, and it looked like he was going to win. I approached Michael’s PR person, Al Larsen, and said something like, ‘It looks like I might be talking to Michael after the race!’

The next thing I know Marco is leading, and I talked to Al again about the interview, but the driver’s name had changed!

All of a sudden on that final lap as they came to the flag, Sam made that incredible pass and denied the Andrettis once again. I knew at that point that Sam had not had a particularly good race, and it had looked like he would be denied, too. But then he came on at the end, and that changed everything.

This will be a finish that will stand out for a while. We seem to have such a finish every now and then; the 1992 race was probably the most recent. But a new generation of race fans have come on since then, and this will be their great memory for a while, until the next memorable finish.


Dave Argabright, IMS Radio Network, Motorsports Author and Writer

I was stationed at the north end of the pits and during the closing stages of the race moved toward the finish line to help with post-race interviews. I was absolutely certain we were going to see a historic finish where either Michael or Marco Andretti was going to win the ‘500.’

My vantage point in the pit area provides limited sightlines, and I watched the final lap on the large video screens. I didn’t think Sam Hornish had a chance at catching Marco, and I was amazed to see him come on so strong at the finish and snatch the victory at the last possible moment. For an instant it all seemed surreal, like it couldn’t really be happening.

I was standing in Michael Andretti’s pit, and I vividly remember the profound crash of emotions the people there experienced. One crewman slammed his headset to the ground. It wasn’t out of poor sportsmanship, but rather out of utter, total despondency.

That moment will stay with me for a long time, because it perfectly illustrates the deep, instinctive passion surrounding the Indianapolis 500.


Mike Harris, National Motorsports Writer, Associated Press

I've known Michael Andretti most his life and his son Marco all of his life, and it was hard not to, quietly, root for one of them to win the ‘500’ and put an end to the so-called ‘Andretti Luck’ at the Speedway.

As the final 10 laps wound down, I saw Michael take the lead when Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti pitted, and I thought about how much his winning would mean to his dad, Mario. Until that last caution flag, it seemed Michael had it won. I was already putting together the lead to my race story with a happy ending for Michael, who came out of retirement for the opportunity to race against his son and, of course, another chance to win the race that is the Holy Grail for the Andrettis.

When Marco passed his dad with three to go, I started revising the story in my head, again with a ‘my how things have changed for the Andretti’s’ twist. But Sam Hornish Jr. was the fastest guy throughout the Month of May, and he was relentless. Once he got by Scott Dixon and Michael Andretti, it seemed inevitable that he would overtake Marco … and he did. I really like Hornish, but he sure spoiled one good story on the way to writing a good story of his own.


Dave Calabro, IMS Public Address announcer

I was with Tom Carnegie calling the race, and I had an inkling that this might be Tom’s last ‘500’ after 60 years. So, I was savoring the moment with Tom as he called those last 20 laps. When Michael Andretti jumped into the lead, I thought, ‘What a story!’

We had watched Marco making incredible, daring moves all day, and he made you almost jump out of your seat. Then Sam, we knew what he was able to do, to watch him sawing on the wheel and working the corners as he was trying to catch Marco, it was like magic.

It was thrilling as they came off Turn 4, I remember the entire place was on their feet, just going crazy. As they crossed the line, I was screaming to Tom: ‘He got him! He got him!’ I was like a 10-year-old kid. Tom and I were laughing and just completely caught up in the moment. It’s something I’ll never forget, no matter how many years may pass.

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