Last week, in posting about the 2014 Indianapolis 500, I wrote that the finish of Hunter-Reay over Castroneves had displaced the 1982 finish of Johncock over Mears as the second closest finish. This turns out to be incorrect as the 2006 finish of Sam Hornish, Jr. over Marco Andretti was closer than the 1982 finish. Hornish beat Andretti by 0.0635 seconds, while Johncock beat Mears by 0.16.
Indy 2006 was the last run on the track by Michael Andretti, the son of the 1969 winner, Mario Andretti, and the father of rookie Marco Andretti. After Mario's win in 1969, it was expected that he would win the race again someday, but it never happened, even as Mario came close a few more times. Danny Sullivan pulled off the upset in 1985, even after spinning around Mario. In 1987, Mario was dominating the field, leading 170 of 177 laps and building such a big lead that he actually backed off, and in doing so caused an imbalance that led to his engine letting go. They called it the "Andretti Curse," as Mario never did win again at Indy, and never did his son Michael. But late in the 2006 race, Marco passed his father for the lead and looked like a sure bet to win as a rookie. Then along came Sam Hornish.
Earlier, Hornish had pitted on lap 150; as he started to pull out of the pits, the fuel hose was still attached. Quick thinking averted disaster, and Hornish was able to stay on the lead lap. Car owner Roger Penske took responsibility for the near catastrophe, saying that he gave Hornish the go before the hose was out. By lap 187, Hornish was in sixth place, but still just trying to hang on to the lead lap.
Marco Andretti made a pit stop on lap 190 while Michael Andretti gambled by staying out. While Marco was in the pits, a crash led to the final caution of the day. The race went green with four laps left, with Michael leading Marco, and Hornish making a pass to move into third. On the next lap, the son passed the father to take the lead. On the second to last lap, Hornish made a move to the inside to pass Marco, but the rookie shut the door. It looked for a moment as if that was Hornish's best chance to take the lead, and that Marco would now run away with the race. Getting the white flag, it looked like Marco's lead was insurmountable, but Hornish wasn't through, and no matter what, he was not going to lift off the gas.
Hornish made his move coming out of turn four and sling-shotted past the rookie to take the checkered flag.