Skip to main content

One of these years, they're just going to break down and play the Canadian anthem for Michael Andretti.

The Team Motorola driver is an Italian American, born and raised in Pennsylvania, so he gets the Star Spangled Banner treatment when he takes the podium at his favourite race. But, really, get the guy a passport.

His remarkable last-to-first charge at the 16th Molson Indy yesterday was his seventh victory on the 1.755-mile street course that runs through the Canadian National Exhibition grounds and along Lake Shore Boulevard.

Story continues below advertisement

No one in Championship Auto Racing Teams history has won more at a single venue -- Andretti surpassed the record of six he shared with Al Unser Jr. And no active driver has won more races than the 41 that Andretti has beside his famous name. He heads to next week's Michigan 500 second in the drivers' standing with 73 points, 11 behind Kenny Brack of Team Rahal.

And he's got Canada to thank for much of his success, having won three times in Vancouver, as well. No wonder he's happy that CART will be racing in Montreal next year. "Awesome," he said of the prospect.

His record-setting performance made for a one-two Canadian sweep, of sorts, for the crowd of 73,628, the largest to attend the race and part of a record 169,023 that turned out for the weekend.

Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., had the best run of his career by finishing second. He was the best of the three Canadian passport holders that started the day, and it was the best finish of Player's-Forsythe's troubled season.

Mexico's Adrian Fernandez, the only driver-owner in CART, did some nifty work to earn his team's first podium spot by finishing third.

But it all pales compared with the combination of race effort and plain luck that saw the 39-year-old Andretti maintain his run of magic in Toronto.

He's the only driver to win from the pole, which he did in 1991. He's won from as far back as sixth on the grid, in 1994 and 1995. He's finished second twice.

Story continues below advertisement

But he's never weaved his way through the entire field. Using his patented outside pass on the sharp right-hander at the end of the Lake Shore straight -- "vintage Toronto" he called it -- Andretti kept on the gas all day and impressed even himself.

"This was a big one, I tell you," he said. "After the first lap I thought the race was over . . . but we passed I don't know how many cars today, and that was a lot of fun, but I still never thought we'd end up where we did. Obviously when we come from the back, you need a lot of help."

The defending champion started from the 13th spot, his worst qualifying effort in his 15 races here. And things really looked like they weren't going to go his way when he bumped into Scott Dixon in Turn 3 on the first lap, stalled his car, and found himself in 26th place.

But Andretti knows a few things about the demanding Toronto circuit, and one of them is that it eats cars for lunch, so there was no need to throw in the towel.

"It's dicey, it's a tough race to finish," he said. "It's hard racing, close walls and it's tough on the equipment as well."

Sure enough, the crashes and mechanical failures just kept on coming. Only 11 of 26 cars were still running by race end, as the 95-lap race took on a herky-jerky rhythm, with 11 full-course cautions eating up 35 laps.

Story continues below advertisement

As a result, the field remained tightly bunched while -- as if by some script -- the competition began melting away.

When the day began it looked like Marlboro Team Penske would carry the event. Gil de Ferran started on the pole and after the first quarter of the race looked untouchable, opening a seven-second bulge on Team Kool Green's Dario Franchitti, who in turn was seven seconds up on Brack. But things kept going wrong for everyone else, and right for Andretti. De Ferran got clipped in traffic; Franchitti's car broke down, and then Brack's did, too.

Meanwhile Andretti was clever enough to take advantage of being last when it came time to use the pits.

"Sometimes a bad break can turn into a good break," Andretti said. "We made four stops in this race. We were able to take advantage of those early yellows. Since I was in the back of the pack I just kept coming in and topping off. So I knew we were going to be in good shape. I was always able to run a full-rich and that was a big advantage."

By the midway point, he rounded one corner and could see the leaders not too far in the distance and thought, for the first time, that he might have a shot at them.

By the three-quarter point Andretti had worked his way to second spot and, just as if he ordered it, he got another caution period that allowed him to make one more fuel dash with 24 laps to go. Only Tony Kanaan of Mo Nunn Racing beat him out the pits, but he hadn't taken on enough fuel and had to dash back to the pits the very next lap, giving Andretti the lead.

Story continues below advertisement

So with his car behaving properly and rich with fuel, he was finally in his accustomed place at the CNE circuit, running strong and with the pretenders dropping in the distance.

"I love coming here," he said afterward. "Can't wait until next year."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter
To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies