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Penske Trio Should Again Dominate Field

October 07, 1994|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MONTEREY — The 1994 PPG Indy Car season concludes this weekend with the Toyota Grand Prix of Monterey at Laguna Seca Raceway, but there is little reason to expect anything more than the usual parade of red and white Penskes out in front Sunday.

Five times the Team Penske trio of Al Unser Jr., Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy has finished 1-2-3 this season. They have qualified 1-2-3 on three occasions and in the standings, Unser and Fittipaldi have clinched first and second and Tracy is solidly in third.

Team Penske has won 11 of 15 races and its drivers have led 1,500 laps of the 1,999 run this season.

And Tracy won last year's race here, leading 81 of the 84 laps around the picturesque 2.214-mile hillside circuit with its 11 turns. The three other laps were led by Fittipaldi, the pole sitter.

So the most exciting moment--certainly the most emotional--might occur after the race is over, when Mario Andretti takes a final tour of Laguna Seca in a pace car painted "Mario Andretti red" for a final salute to his fans after 31 years of racing. He is retiring from Indy cars after Sunday's Bank of America 300.

"For sure, it will be emotional," Andretti said. "I just hope we can have a good day. It would be great to make the podium (for a top three finish), but I would love to be running at the finish. I want to be on the track for the checkered flag."

Andretti has a record three poles in 11 Indy car races at Laguna Seca, but surprisingly, among his 52 victories none has been here. He has been second three times, once to his son Michael in 1992.

Michael Andretti returned to Indy cars this season and raced against his father, but not as his teammate.

On the track, the younger Andretti's bid to break up the Penske combine is about the only drama left. He has two victories--at Australia and Toronto--this season and is 12 points behind Tracy for third place and 14 ahead of Robby Gordon.

Gordon, the off-roader from Orange, is still looking for his first Indy car victory, although he has been on the pole twice this season, has led races and finished a strong second in Vancouver.

Qualifying will begin today and continue Saturday. The main event is Sunday at 1 p.m.

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