ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Marco Andretti won his Menards
Infiniti Pro Series debut Sunday, grabbing the lead with a
three-wide pass and pulling away to an easy victory in the St.
The 18-year-old, third-generation driver, racing after the death
of a close friend in a car accident Saturday, started from the
pole. He lost the lead to rookie Wade Cunningham on the 13th of 40
laps on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn downtown street circuit, but kept the
pressure on the New Zealander and finally got back in front on lap
``After I made the mistake, I knew I wasn't done,'' Andretti
said. ``I thought, `No more mistakes.' We got lucky with lapped
He got his chance when Cunningham was slowed by the lapped car
of Marty Roth. Andretti squeezed beneath the other two cars and
shot ahead. He was not challenged again, finishing 1.42 seconds --
about half the final straightaway -- ahead of runner-up Cunningham.
``I was having some brake problems and I just caught that lapped
car in the wrong spot,'' Cunningham said. ``He slowed my momentum
and Marco took advantage of it.''
Andretti won the pole Saturday, only to have it taken away for a
technical violation. He was then restored to the top qualifying
spot through an appeal.
He was able to put aside the turmoil Sunday as well as his
grief. And he did it in front of his father, Michael Andretti, and
grandfather, Mario Andretti, both former racing champions.
Marco, whose regular ride this season is in the Star Mazda
Series, hopes to drive at least a couple more Infiniti Pro events.
He said loves the Infiniti Pro cars, adding, ``They suit my driving
His entry at this event was fielded by his father's Andretti
Green Racing team.
``What a job,'' Michael said. ``With everything he's been
through this weekend, he drove like a champion already. There's a
lot more to come.''
Nick Bussell, another first-year driver, was third, followed by
two more drivers with great racing bloodlines, Al Unser, son of
two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and grandson of
four-time Indy winner Al Unser, and Arie Luyendyk Jr., son of a
two-time Indy winner. Both the younger Unser and Luyendyk are 22.