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MOTOR RACING / INDIANAPOLIS 500

A $1,155,304 Sunday Drive for Fittipaldi

June 01, 1993|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

INDIANAPOLIS — While Indianapolis Motor Speedway crews were picking up Monday after more than 425,000 people made the world's biggest one-day picnic out of the Indianapolis 500, winner Emerson Fittipaldi was picking up $1,155,304 at the annual Victory Banquet.

Fittipaldi, 46, won his second Indy 500 on Sunday after a daring pass of race leader Nigel Mansell with 15 laps remaining. The race was won in the style of Rick Mears, Fittipaldi's former teammate, who retired last December after winning the 500 four times.

Mears didn't win No. 5, but he was a major contributor to Fittipaldi's No. 2 in his role as consultant engineer.

"For sure, Ricky was a great help to the team," Fittipaldi said. "He helped with my race setup before qualifying, and we helped make some adjustments when we ran with full fuel tanks in practice."

Mears' usual winning pattern was to drop back early in the race and pace himself and his car, making changes along the way until he had the car in perfect balance for a late-race drive to the checkered flag.

Fittipaldi was as far back as 12th, 45 seconds behind the leader, at mid-race before moving patiently forward. He never had the lead until his pass of Mansell.

"He drove a textbook race," Mears said. "Emerson just drove the way you need to around here. He kept everybody in sight, ran strong all day, and then, when it was time to stand on the gas at the end, that's when he went for it."

Fittipaldi revealed Monday that he made one major adjustment late in the race that caught Penske car engineer Nigel Bennett by surprise.

"He set the car up in a way I thought was a big risk, but he said to trust his experience and I'm glad we did," said Bennett, who designed the Penske chassis.

Fittipaldi also made another change in Indy tradition late Sunday after pulling his car into Victory Lane. Instead of the traditional swig of milk, the winner opted for orange juice.

Why the change? He owns a 500,000-tree orange grove in Brazil that provides juice for several distributors. Later, however, he did take a taste from the bottle of milk.

Fittipaldi, who retired in 1982 after winning two world Formula One championships, then returned to racing in 1984 as an Indy car driver, also lauded car owner and team manager Roger Penske.

"I drove for Lotus, McLaren and for my own team in Formula One, and I drove for Pat Patrick before Penske in Indy cars, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is the best I have ever worked with," Fittipaldi said. "Roger is so determined, he gives so much of himself, he is an inspiration to his drivers."

*

Third-place finisher Nigel Mansell was an easy choice for rookie of the year and a $10,000 bonus. The only other rookie finishers were Sweden's Stefan Johansson, 11th, one lap down; and France's Stephan Gregoire, 19th, five laps down.

Robby Gordon of Orange, the only American rookie, and Brazil's Nelson Piquet, another former Formula One champion, dropped out early with engine problems.

Mansell becomes the fifth driver to win both a Formula One championship and Indy 500 rookie of the year. The others were Jimmy Clark, 1963; Mario Andretti, 1965; Jackie Stewart, 1966; and Denis Hulme, 1967.

Curiously, Graham Hill won the 500 as a rookie in 1966, but rookie of the year went to Stewart, who finished sixth after dropping out while leading on the 190th lap.

Indy Notes

A.J. Foyt's appraisal of being a car owner after driving in 35 consecutive Indy 500s: "It's like a nightmare, to be honest with you." . . . The 24 finishers were the third most in 77 years. In 1976, when the race was halted by rain after only 255 miles, there were 27 cars running. In 1911, the first year, 26 of 40 cars were running when Ray Harroun took the checkered flag after 6 hours 42 minutes of racing. . . . Kevin Cogan led four laps to become only the second driver to lead after being the slowest qualifier. The other was Howdy Wilcox in 1923. . . . Only 14 drivers who led the first lap won the race. Raul Boesel led the first 17 laps, only to finish fourth.

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