Andretti Autosport turn all-front row start into disastrous debut at Pocono Raceway

  • Article by: DAN GELSTON , AP Sports Writer
  • Updated: July 7, 2013 - 10:20 PM

LONG POND, Pa. — So much for the happy Andretti homecoming.

Andretti Autosport's Pocono Raceway debut was a bust from the first lap.

James Hinchcliffe hit the wall not long after the green flag waved. Ryan Hunter-Reay got collected in a freak pit-road accident. Marco Andretti — the hometown favorite and polesitter — ran out of contention as his fuel ran low.

Andretti Autosport had an all-front row start Sunday as the IndyCar Series returned to Pocono for the first time since 1989.

From romp to stomped, some of the traditional Indy heartache followed owner Michael Andretti to his home state.

"Andretti Autosport 1-2-3 didn't last long," Hinchcliffe said. "I feel so bad for the team. The guys worked so hard."

Pocono piled on as E.J. Viso battled a wonky car and finished 21st.

The race that started with three teammates on the front row ended with three teammates on the podium: Scott Dixon, Charlie Kimball and Dario Franchitti made it 1-2-3 for Chip Ganassi Racing.

With the command to start the engines still fresh, Hinchcliffe was the first driver to exit the race. His No. 27 Chevrolet smacked the wall heading into the first turn of the first lap. He banged his knees and limped away from the damaged car.

His race was over. His day at Pocono continued in ABC's broadcast booth.

"I had a moment like that in qualifying and I guess I used up my luck, talent saving it," he said. "We didn't have enough this time. (There) is just no way I thought though that was the kind of accident that would have taken us out, especially on lap one."

Hunter-Reay was next to go. Takuma Sato caused the damage when he tagged Hunter-Reay's car near the entrance of pit lane. Hunter-Reay was forced to the garage with damage to his right front wheel and front wing. He returned about 20 laps later and finished 20th.

Sato's car approached Hunter-Reay with tires locked up and smoking.

Hunter-Reay was the one fuming.

"We were just coming into pit lane, minding our own business, and we get creamed from behind," Hunter-Reay said. "It's unfortunate. We've come from further back to win the championship. We're determined to do it again."

Sato never returned and was 22nd.

"I think I misjudged it," Sato said. "We came off the corner and I lost the back end and slid into Ryan. Extremely sorry to Andretti Autosport and crew."

That left Andretti, who had turned Pocono into a one-man show. He topped the speed charts of both practice sessions, and then smashed the track record with a two-lap average speed of 221.273 mph to win the pole.

Pocono is considered a hometown track for the Andrettis, who hail from nearby Nazareth. Marco's father, Michael, owns the team. His grandfather, Mario, was one of racing's greatest drivers and is still a regular at the track.

The local kid led the field to green — then led the race for 88 laps. He was ahead of the field, even as the team realized fuel would be an issue.

"We knew early," about fuel concerns, Andretti said. "I think we should have responded quicker."

They didn't do it fast enough. Andretti simply didn't have enough fuel to go to the distance in the 400-mile race and finally ran out just after his No. 25 Chevrolet crossed the finish line. He finished 10th and made the long walk back to the garage.

"We were just so dominant," a despondent Marco said. "I'm just absolutely gutted."

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