Mears checks sponsor-less Luyendyk in Marlboro

August 05, 1991|By Steve Crowe | Steve Crowe,Knight-Ridder

BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Arie Luyendyk, struggling through a sponsor-less season, drove like a man repossessed.

But pole-sitter Rick Mears just kept driving away, winning yesterday's Marlboro 500 in front of a crowd of more than 50,000 at Michigan International Speedway.

It was Mears' first 500-mile victory in 11 tries at the track owned by his boss, Indy-car kingpin Roger Penske. And it made Mears the first driver since Gordon Johncock to win 500-mile events at Indianapolis and Michigan in the same year. Johncock, who drove the pace car yesterday, won both in 1982.

Mears' Penske-Chevrolet finished 3.14 seconds ahead of Luyendyk's Lola-Chevy -- the margin by which Mears won the Indianapolis 500 in May for the record-tying fourth time.

Finishing third was Al Unser Jr. -- four laps behind Mears and one ahead of fourth-place Mario Andretti. Mears, whose $173,182 winner's share made him Indy-car racing's first $10 million man, averaged 167.230 mph.

"Can I get a loan?" Luyendyk asked Mears during the post-race news conference. "Maybe you can sponsor my team now."

Seven of the 21 cars finished, matching the race's all-time low in 1986. The two-hour, 59-minute race of attrition was slowed by nine cautions for 52 laps. There were 18 lead changes among eight drivers. Mears led five times for 71 laps, including the last 30.

Michael Andretti, who had won four of the previous six races, led for a race-high 82 laps before yielding to a blown engine on Lap 144 and finishing 14th.

Despite being in third place on the Lap 188 restart, Luyendyk's car was next-to-last in line when racing resumed. A stop-and-go penalty was assessed to Luyendyk for passing the lapped car of John Andretti just before the restart.

After getting back up to speed after the penalty pit stop, Luyendyk had fallen more than 23 seconds behind Mears. By Lap 222, Mears had lengthened his lead to 30 seconds.

The victory, Mears' second this year, was his eighth on an oval, including the four at Indy and three at Pocono. Asked what personal goals remained unaccomplished, Mears said simply:

"The next one."

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