Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on June 8, 1992 · Page 20
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 20

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Monday, June 8, 1992
Page 20
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Fill-in driver Tracy finds confidence on Belle Isle by Steve Crowe Free Press Sports Writer There's a new fresh-faced kid on the Indy-car block. You just couldn't tell from the blank expression he wore after finishing 16th in Sunday's Detroit Grand Prix. Paul Tracy, 23, Roger Penske's selected-events-only driver and Sunday's substitute for injured Rick Mears, showed he deserves to rub more than elbows with racing's big wheels. L,-.In only his seventh career start, Tracy mounted the day's most impressive pass: An absolutely gutty inside overtaking of leader Michael Andretti in the first turn of Lap 38. " Too bad its significance was lost on Tracy, who didn't know until he was told by boss Roger Penske via radio a few laps later that he was in P-l the Team Penske term for first place. It also made Tracy the first driver to lead an Indy-car lap after graduating from Indy Lights, the official Indy-car support series he dominated two years ago.- Johansson roars from 12th to 3rd "By Doug church .Free Press Sports Writer v.; ., Forgive Stefan Johansson if his view .of those in front of him in Sunday's Detroit Grand Prix wasn't crystal-clear in his first IndyCar race. "I couldn't hear a damn thing on the "radio all day long," Johansson said. -"I'm sure everybody has that problem, but I was a little bit confused at times about whether I was in fifth place or 10th or 11th." He needn't have worried. Holding fast to the race's dominant theme, Johansson took advantage of the action in front of him on the lead lap, eventually moving up from the 12th starting position to a rookie-best third-place finish behind winner Bobby , Rahal and runner-up Raul Boesel. ;, Johansson's finish tied an all-time IndyCar record for debut finishes. Dan-' ny Sullivan finished third at Atlanta in ! 1982 and Alan Jones was third at Elkhart Lake, Wis. in 1985. T " Detroit has been good to Johansson ; in the past. The veteran road racer finished second in the 1985 Formula One race on the old downtown course, ' his best showing on the F-l circuit. Sunday's experience seemed a bit J surreal for the 35-year-old Swede who J, lives in Monaco. !,-' "I had hoped that if things went ; right and I was fortunate, I could do h well," Johansson said. "But being realistic, no, I didn't think I'd be in the top 'iliree. This is fantastic. L. "The race was obviously much better than I ever dreamt of when I came ;over here." 't i Johansson's strategy for moving up Uate in the race was to let those in front lot him make all the moves, since ! passing was close to impossible for ; most drivers. He was running fifth with seven laps to go when Paul Tracy in fourth place bowed out with a gearbox malfunction on Lap 7 1 , allowing Johansson to move up a spot. Tracy's incident prompted a full-xourse yellow flag. On the restart, Johansson was one of just four cars on $ie lead lap. He moved up to his third-place finishing position when Michael Andretti spun on the back straightaway. "When I saw Michael, my biggest Concern was the gap to go between him .and the wall," Johansson said. "He was trying to keep going even before we got through, so my main concern was not to hit Michael." a Like Teo Fabi, Johansson was a late addition for the race and was chosen inainly for his experience and success jn road racing. He was selected to drive the car Monday by owner and regular driver Tony Bettenhausen, who chose to sit but this week because of the effects of a Jnreck at last month's Indianapolis 500. - "I actually did the deal at Indy, and Jhe hunch turned out to be a very, very good one," Bettenhausen said. "Stefan just did a really good job," Be said. "He drove the car hard all day Sing and at one point had the fifth-$stest lap of the race. He ran competi-Jtve times all day." There were a couple of tense moments in the race for Bettenhausen and flie rest of the Johansson camp. X "On our first pit, I thought we had a flat,'? Bettenhausen said. "But we got Jqky and caught a yellow, so he got a whole new set of rear tires. That really made a big difference. You could see it op the lap times after that." m' Like Fabi, Johansson will be going Do the 24 Hours of LeMans in two eeks and won't compete in the next fodyCar event, June 21 in Portland. , But Bettenhausen, who will drive all the oval races on the circuit, was pleased with his one-shot deal in De-froit. "I'm tickled to death," he said. ; 1 "I guess I'm just disappointed to end the day, and leading hasn't really sunk in yet," Tracy said. "But I leave here with the confidence that I can run with these guys, and that's not a bad going-away gift." About 50 laps into the race during a caution prompted when Scott Pruett's car struck a tire barrier in Turn 8 Penske's pre-race plan was working to perfection. It included taking on fuel only during Tracy's first pit stop, saving several precious seconds. Penske told Tracy via radio: "Stay back. Get your tires warm. I know the plan. Just use your head. I want you to finish." The plan went awry when Andretti attempted to pass Tracy coming out of Turn 9 on Lap 57. After touching wheels, the cars scraped the outside guard rail, allowing Bobby Rahal to overtake the pair for good. Then the stamp of finality came for Tracy on Lap 71, when he coasted to a stop on the back straightaway because of a broken gear box. "We had a strategy that Roger set up, and it just worked beautifully," Tracy said. "The car was working beautifully. And until the end, it was just unbelievable." BY THE NUMBERS: State of the race? Very good, according to Detroit Renaissance president Bob McCabe. Sunday's Belle Isle crowd, estimated by organizers at about 50,000, was an improvement over last year's 43,595. But the three-day total was an estimated 145,000, well off last year's 216,336 for the final weekend of downtown street racing. This year's announced two-day paid attendance total was 85,000, up from last year's 76,336. "I think it would obviously be wonderful to have twice that many, and I think we'll do that in the long run," McCabe said. He blamed Sunday's "threatening weather" and the "reality of the weather (rain) this morning" for the vast expanses of prime viewing areas that remained vacant. "But enough people wanted to come that we were still selling tickets at 1:45," about 45 minutes after the Indy-car race started. NAME GAME: Like his fellow Indy-car drivers, Robby Gordon who guided a Chip Ganassi-owned Lola-Ford Cos-worth to a 17th-place finish was afforded weekend use of a red Cadillac Allante convertible, Sunday's pace car. Before Sunday's race, his was parked at the front of a long line of drivers' Allantes along Picnic Way, a few steps from Turn 3. But the rookie racer's loaner came with a factory flaw: His name was spelled "Robbie Gordan" on both doors. SPARE PARTS: Rahal, the Detroit runner-up the last two years, admitted that the downtown course had its charm. "I enjoyed the old circuit," he said. "It was extremely rough and it beat you up, but that was the chal lenge." Of the new one, which winds around the scenic western tip of the island: "Obviously, it would be nice if there were a few more places where you can pass. But it's tough to pass anybody anywhere on the circuit today. "Maybe a little straighter lines in more places instead of all those kinks would make it even better." Rahal's other victory this year, at Phoenix in April, also was on a track where he finished second the last two years. . . . Hottest island rumor: That CART co-founder Pat Patrick of Jackson, who sold his Indy-car team last winter to Rahal, will be back next year with a Ford Cosworth-powered car. Shelley Unser, wife of Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr., was among those putting a comedic edge on Michael Andretti describing the Belle Isle course as "Mickey Mouse." She wore a Mickey Mouse T-shirt to the track Saturday. "I swear I didn't 3 ,1-- A TONY SPINADetroit Free Press Crowds of spectators watch as Indy-car racers negotiate the first turn on the Belle Isle course of the Detroit Grand Prix. HOW THEY FINISHED FIN ST DRIVER COUNTRY CAR LAPS REASON 1991 1. 2 Bobby Rahal Dublin, Ohio Lola-Chevrolet-A 77 . Second 2. 6 Raul Boesel Brazil Lola-Chevrolet-A 77 Did not compete 3. 12 Stefan Johansson Sweden 1991 Penske-Chevrolet-A 77 Did not compete 4. 1 Michael Andretti Nazareth, Pa Lola-Ford Cosworth XB 77 19th 5. 10 Danny Sullivan Aspen, Colo. Galmer-Chevrolet-A 76 10th 6. 3 Teo Fabi Italy Lola-Ford Cosworth XB 76 Did not compete 7. 18 Eric Bachelart Belgium 1990 Lola-Cosworth 76 Did not compete 8. 5 Emerson Fittipaldl Brazil Penske-Chevrolet-B 76 First a 7 Al Unser Jr. Albuquerque, N.M. Galmer-Chevrolet-A 75 Third 10. 20 Brian Bonner Boston Lola-Chevrolet-A 75 Did not compete 11. 11 Eddie Cheever Aspen, Colo. Lola-Ford Cosworth XB 74 12th 12. 15 Scott Brayton Coldwater, Mich. Lola-Chevrolet-A 73 Ninth 13. 21 Jeff Wood Wichita, Kan. 1991 Lola-Buick 73 24th 14. 19 Ted Prappas Los Angeles 1991 Lola-Chevrolet-A 73 25th 15. 24 Jay Hill Lake Geneva, Wis. 1991 Lola-Cosworth 71 Did not compete 16. 4 Paul Tracy Canada Penske-Chevrolet-B 70 Gearbox Did not compete 17. 13 Robby Gordon Orange, Calif. Lola-Ford Cosworth XB 66 Suspension Did not compete 18. 11 Christian Danner Germany 1991 Lola-Cosworth 59 crash Did not compete 19. 8 Scott Pruett Crystal Bay, Nev. Truesports-Chevrolet-A 48 Crash 17th 20. 23 Ross Bentley Canada 1990 Lola-Cosworth 33 Electrical Did not compete 2L 9 John Andretti Indianapolis Lola-Chevrolet-A 26 Transmission Sixth 22 14 Scott Goodyear Canada Lola-Chevrolet-A 6 fire Eighth 23. 17 Brian Till Columbus, Ohio 1991 Truesports-Judd 5 crash Did not compete 24. 22 Buddy Lazier Vail, Colo. 1990 Lola-Buick 5 Broken shaft 18th 25. 25 Mike Groff Northridge, Calif. 1991 Lola-Chevrolet-A 0 Did not start 22nd i" jm w 'lit f 1 ivy. i ', i' ;( tit ' i ,jJr"- i. JULIAN H. GONZALEZDetroit Free Press Owners of the Newman-Haas racing team Carl Haas, right, and Paul Newman, center talk to driver Danny Sullivan, facing camera. do it on purpose," she insisted Sunday. "Really." ... j Best press-room joke to evolve from the controversy: Is it really true that Mickey Mouse wears a Michael Andretti watch? ... Of enjoying rapid success in his first year as an ownerdriver, Rahal said: "A lot of people said you can't do both, and I think I'm showing that you can." Co-owner Carl Hogan: "Well, Bobby did tell me it was going to be easy." . Hogan, during a caution with four laps left and the field bunched behind Rahal: "The strategy is for our car to get as fat as it can." ... Second-place Indy 500 finisher Scott Goodyear took a Lap 7 on-track fire in the rear of his Lola-Chevrolet into his own hands. He grabbed a bucket of water, then a fire extinguisher, from a corner worker and did hjs own dousing. jr "At that point, you only think about saving the car before it goes up in flames," Goodyear said. "I didn't know the nature of the damage; I just knew it was up to me to put it out." SECOND BEST . Bobby Rahal won Sunday's , Detroit Grand Prix after finishing : second two years in a row. The " two previous winners and their V margin of victory in seconds: YEAR DRIVER MARGIN 1991 Emerson Fittipaldi 0.287 1990 Michael Andretti 108.526 Rahal in right place, at right time Grand Prix, from Page 1C Z There was an opening, and believe me, you have to take any opening you get here. Once we were able to get by, it was adios. "You just see the gap and go. You don't think about it." : Three laps later, Rahal had built an 8.5-second lead over Andretti who led the first 37 laps and a nearly 1 1-second cushion on Tracy a Team Penske substitute for injured Rick Mears who led laps 38-56. The damage done to Tracy's car would soon end his Detroit day. On Lap 71 at the end of the back straightaway, he coasted to a stop, unable to put the car into gear. But his overtaking of Andretti for the lead was the stuff of which fledgling big-league racing careers are founded. On the day's most daring pass, in Turn 1 of Lap 38, Tracy found an inside line that left few inches to spare and Andretti in his exhaust. "But there was so much traffic I wasn't even sure what position I was in," said Tracy, who became the first graduate of the Indy Lights support series to lead an Indy-car event. Andretti's roller-coaster Sunday reached bottom coming out of Turn 6 on Lap 76, when his loose-handling car entered a spin that left it sitting sideways and in peril of being rammed by oncoming traffic. His recovery was good enough for fourth place, behind the second-place Lola-Chevy of Raul Boesel and the third-place Penske-Chevy of Stefan Johansson, making his Indy-car debut.? Neither threatened Rahal, whose margin of victory was 8.557 seconds over Boesel. Rahal averaged 81.988 m.p.h. in a race slowed by five cautions for 20 laps. "This race was hard; no quarter was given," said Rahal, who takes a 19-point lead over Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr. into the June 21 race at Portland, Ore. Unser Jr. finished ninth Sunday. "And it's not going to be any different two weeks from now." " Boesel Dick Simon's replacement for injured Hiro Matsushita since the latter wrecked at Indianapolis last month certainly hopes so. Sunday brought the Brazilian's best Indy-car finish in his 77 starts. "We decided to wait and let the race come to me, and it almost did,'? said Boesel, 34, whose finish was the best for a Simon-owned car since Arie Luyendyk's second-place finish at Portland in 1989. "I just hope we can keep fighting for the front now." In the end, Rahal's strategy embraced the kind of wisdom that aUowed the tortoise to overtake the hare. "I think it was all skill, myself," he joked. "I thought maybe I'd just sit back awhile and see what was going ori. But you definitely could see that one coming. I'm just glad I was in position to take advantage of it. h "I'm 39, Michael's 29 and Paul's what, 23? So maybe a bit of old age was good in this case. I think that's the difference between being 39 and 30.' V rt f4

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