Motor racing historians, looking back on the 1993 and '94 seasons, may consider them aberrations, blips from the norm to be detailed in an explanatory footnote or two.
In 1992, Michael Andretti, driving for the Newman-Haas team, was the dominant force in Indy car racing. He won five races and seven poles, barely losing the championship he won the year before. In that same year, Nigel Mansell, driving for Frank Williams in Formula One, won a record nine races and 14 poles to clinch the world championship earlier than any driver in 21 years.
Then things got all mixed up.
Andretti skipped off to Formula One in 1993 to drive for McLaren, an experiment that ended in disappointment and despair. He didn't win a race and, before the season ended, returned to the United States to announce that he would drive an Indy car for Chip Ganassi in 1994. This season, he has two victories and is the only driver other than one from Roger Penske's team to win in 12 races.
Mansell, turning his back on defending the F1 championship--a move that nearly gave his British racing fans apoplexy--came to the U.S. to drive in Andretti's old spot for Newman-Haas. With a car that had won five times in 1992, Mansell repeated Andretti's record of five victories and seven poles. This time, however, it was enough to make the Englishman the first rookie to win an Indy car championship.
For a few days, Mansell was the only driver ever to hold the Formula One and Indy car titles at the same time, having clinched his American championship shortly before Alain Prost took the F1 crown.
This season has not been so successful for Mansell. He has yet to win and has only three podium finishes--seconds at Long Beach and Cleveland and a third at Phoenix. In three of his last four races, Mansell has finished no better than 18th.
In 1995, all will return to the way it was.
Mansell will be back in Formula One with Williams, and Andretti will be back with Newman-Haas.
Mansell will close out this Indy car season by running the final four races, at Vancouver Sunday, followed by Elkhart Lake, Wis.; Nazareth, Pa., and his swan song with Newman-Haas at Laguna Seca Raceway on Oct. 9. Then he will return to F1, allegedly for $1 million a race, to drive in Grand Prix events on Oct. 16 at Jerez, Spain; Nov. 6 at Suzuka, Japan., and Nov. 13 at Adelaide, Australia.
"Paul Newman and I have enjoyed our success with Nigel," Haas said in a statement. "We became friends and we made history together. Along with our major sponsors . . . plus all of our associate sponsors, we thank Nigel for his contributions to Newman-Haas Racing and the worldwide attention he brought to the PPG Indy Car World Series."
Mansell gave an early warning of his switch when he made a guest appearance for Williams at the French Grand Prix on July 3. Although he did not finish, his performance convinced Williams that a year away from F1 racing had not dimmed his skills.
"I think Nigel enjoyed his race in France, and the fact that he is prepared to come back for the final three (races of 1994) seems to confirm this," Williams said.
Although it has not been announced, Andretti will leave Ganassi and return to his old team next season. One thing will be different: Michael's father won't be his teammate again. Mario Andretti has announced that he will retire at the end of this season.
Who will replace Mario? Rumors have Paul Tracy leaving Penske for the ride. Danny Sullivan, an unemployed former Indy 500 winner, has been mentioned. But the best bet is Teo Fabi, who is leaving Jim Hall's Pennzoil team after Laguna Seca.
Fabi, a veteran of six Indy car seasons, is no stranger to Newman-Haas. In 1992, when he was otherwise racing sports cars in Europe, Fabi sat in for Mario Andretti at Detroit while Mario was recovering from broken toes suffered at the Indianapolis 500. It was Fabi's first Indy car ride in two years, but he impressed by qualifying third and finishing sixth.
Motor Racing Notes
STOCK CARS--Saugus Speedway will hold the final round of the Frontier Toyota sportsman championship series Saturday night with a 75-lap main event as part of its fourth annual Cerebral Palsy Night. The series included three races at Bakersfield's Mesa Marin Raceway and three at Saugus. The race will also close out competition for the NASCAR Winston Racing Series championship, which was clinched last week by Sean Woodside of Saugus. Also scheduled is a special race for mechanics. . . . Sportsman races will also be held Saturday night at the Orange Show Speedway in San Bernardino, Cajon Speedway in El Cajon and Blythe Speedway. A destruction derby is on the Cajon program. . . . Kern County Raceway will feature mini stocks and dwarf cars Saturday. . . . Sunday night, Santa Maria Speedway will hold the fourth annual Don Roberts Hobby Stock Grand Prix, a pair of 50-lap main events for drivers from throughout California.