Andretti still sprinting with the 10 best Challenge awaits Mario, son, nephew

October 03, 1992|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Staff Writer

NAZARETH, Pa. -- Mario Andretti looked at the starting lineup for today's All-Star Marlboro Challenge and winced. Fate had done him wrong.

"The year I had the most points by winning the most poles, they put all the names in the hat and made us draw for starting positions, and I drew last," Andretti recalled. "Now, I have the fewest poles, and they decide the starting lineup will be based on points from winning poles and races. And I'm almost last again."

Is this any way to treat a motor sports icon?

Andretti laughed.

He's 52 years old, and that's one number no one else in the field is close to matching.

"I should be happy just being here," he said.

"It is very gratifying to be in this race. At my age, you're not expected to be among this group of guys. I'd like to keep the streak going as long as I can, and if I could somehow win this thing, it would be tremendous." Andretti has raced in all five previous Marlboro Challenges.

He should also be happy for a couple of other reasons. One, there will be an Andretti starting at the pole. Michael, Mario's son and the defending race champion, is on the inside of the front row, having won five races and five poles this season.

And two, Mario, who made the field thanks to his record 230 mph pole run at Michigan, won't be the last Andretti in the race. Nephew John will start in the last row.

The Challenge, scheduled at 1 p.m. today at Pennsylvania International Raceway in Nazareth, Pa., pits the year's top 10 drivers in a 100-lap, one pit-stop sprint race. The race pays $1 million in prize money, with $300,000 for the winner.

It is the first of two races at PIR this weekend, with the PPG IndyCar Series' Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix set for 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Also in today's Challenge are Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Scott Goodyear, Danny Sullivan, Paul Tracy and Raul Boesel, who is starting in place of Roberto Guerrero. Guerrero withdrew from the race, saying he wanted to focus on preparing his new team for the 1993 season.

"The Challenge is a hard race," Mario Andretti said.

"The track isn't very wide, which means passing is difficult. That's why for me, being in the back, it will be the worst."

Andretti said when he is pursuing the field he will be hoping a driver in front of him "has a hiccup" here or there, to open up passing room.

"It's always fast and furious, and for me, starting in the next-to-last row, it doesn't bode well," he said. "I'll have to be a miracle worker to get through these guys. In a group like this, it's like being in a group of hungry wolves. Every one of them wants to prove he's the best.

"But I think for the fans it will be fun. It's like no other race we run. It's 100 laps, which means it's flat out, and with no fuel mileage to worry about, it's go for broke from the very start."

NOTES: Michael Andretti won another pole, setting a track record at Pennsylvania International Raceway and making the IndyCar championship battle even tighter going into tomorrow's Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix. Andretti is in third place, 10 points behind leader Unser and nine behind second-place Rahal. . . . Andretti turned a lap of 181.435 mph yesterday, smashing the track record of 178.740 set last year by Rick Mears on the one-mile oval. In fact, the top six drivers climbed above 180 mph, and the top eight broke the mark set by Mears, who has been sidelined in recent weeks recovering from a wrist injury. . . . Fittipaldi earned the outside position on the front row with a lap of 181.129. Rahal was third at 180.874, followed by John Andretti, Michael's cousin, at 180.486, Mario Andretti at 180.135, Goodyear at 180.032, Scott Brayton at 179.218 and Eddie

Cheever at 179.142.

Marlboro Challenge

What: A 100-lap all-star race, featuring IndyCar's top 10 drivers

When: Today, 1 p.m.

Where: Pennsylvania International Raceway

TV: ESPN, delayed to 10 p.m. Oct. 11

Purse: $1 million, with $300,000 going to the winner

Starting lineup

The starting lineup, with wins and poles won, for today's Marlboro Challenge for 10 IndyCar all-star drivers:

Row 1

Driver.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Wins.. .. .. ..Poles

Michael Andretti.. .. .. ..5.. .. .. .. ... 6

Bobby Rahal.. .. .. .. .. .3.. .. .. .. .. .3

Row 2

Emerson Fittipaldi.. .. ...4.. .. .. .. .. .2

Al Unser Jr... .. .. .. ...1.. .. .. .. .. .1

Row 3

Scott Goodyear.. .. .. .. .1.. .. .. .. .. .0

Danny Sullivan.. .. .. .. .1.. .. .. .. .. .0

Row 4

Mario Andretti.. .. .. .. .0.. .. .. .. .. .1

Paul Tracy.. .. .. .. .. ..0.. .. .. .. .. .1

Row 5

John Andretti-x.. .. .. ...0.. .. .. .. .. .0

Raul Boesel-x.. .. .. .. ..0.. .. .. .. .. .0

x-qualified by PPG Cup points (Andretti with 84 and Boesel with 64)

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