CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland Preview

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE ========================================================= PREVIEW OF THE BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 --------------------------------------- RACE FACTS: THE BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S...

MARLBORO RACING NEWS -- THE OFFICIAL INDYCAR NEWS SERVICE =========================================================

PREVIEW OF THE BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 ---------------------------------------

RACE FACTS:

THE BUDWEISER/G.I. JOE'S 200 is event number six of the 16-race 1994 PPG Indy Car World Series. The race covers 102 laps (198.9 miles) of this 1.95-mile, nine-turn natural-terrain road course.

THE TRACK, Portland International Raceway, is located in northern suburban Portland, Oregon in West Delta Park. The crowds at PIR comprise the largest single-day sporting event in the state.

TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying (one lap/1.95 miles) -- Emerson Fittipaldi; June 20, 1992; 1 min., 0.658 sec.; 115.730 mph. Race (102 laps/198.9 miles) -- Michael Andretti; June 21, 1992; 1 hr., 53 min., 25.246 sec.; 105.219 mph.

DEFENDING RACE WINNER is Emerson Fittipaldi, who also won in 1989. He holds the track pole record and scored the top qualifying position in 1986, 1991 and 1992. Nigel Masell is the defending pole winner.

RACE TIME is 1 p.m. PDT, Sunday, June 26. Broadcast airs live, 4-6:30 p.m. EDT on ESPN and the Kmart IndyCar Radio Network.

BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. (June 14, 1994) -- Marlboro Team Penske is on a role heading into Portland, Ore., for the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200. With five straight wins under its belt, the three-car Penske operation has been unbeaten since Michael Andretti's victory at Surfers Paradise three months ago. First Emerson Fittipaldi won at Phoenix in April, then Al Unser Jr. went on a three-race win streak through Milwaukee two weeks ago and finally, Paul Tracy scored his first win of the year at Detroit last week.

As defending winner, Fittipaldi is one of the favorites to win this year's Budwesier/G.I. Joe's 200. Not only did Fittipaldi win at Portland last year, but also in 1989, when he won the PPG Cup title. He's also been on the pole three times at Portland, setting a track record in 1992 which still stands.

"I really enjoy Portland," said Fittipaldi. "It's great to visit the Pacific Northwest which is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. The track in Portland is very challenging, and I've been lucky to run well there. Last year we had a great race with Nigel, and it was very tricky because the rain came and went. The track and weather conditions were changing all the time. It was a very tough race, but it was also a lot of fun.

"I'm sure it will be very tough again at Portland this year," added Fittipaldi. "The Ford engine is very strong, very competitive and engine power is important at Portland. I expect Nigel to be very tough in the race. And of course, my teammates will also be very tough to beat. I'm sure to be fighting hard all weekend with Al and Paul."

PPG Cup championship leader Al Unser Jr. has won three of the six races run so far this year, the Indy 500 included. Unser has also led 321 laps, 15 more than Fittipaldi, who's currently ranked second in laps led.

"Yes, it's been a very good year so far," said Unser. "The Marlboro Team Penske organization puts in a tremendous effort. Everyone works very hard, and we also work together. The drivers, the engineers, the guys working on the cars -- this is a real team effort. Roger has a company motto -- effort equals success -- and now that I've been with the team for six month, I'm beginning to appreciate what that means.

"We have a great car this year," added Unser. "We've been able to make it work at every racetrck we've been to. We've been competitive in every race, and we should be very strong at Portland. I won the first race there 10 years ago on Father's Day, and I'd love to be able to do it again."

Teammate Paul Tracy scored his first win of the season in Detroit last week after sliding into Unser. Tracy apologized to Unser after the race in Detroit, and said he's looking forward to racing in Portland.

"I apologized to Al," said Tracy. "I told him it was my fault. I didn't mean to do it. I've never taken anybody out on purpose in my life, and I told him it won't happen again. We're working together as a team, just like we have all year, and like everyone who works for Roger Penske. It's like Al and Emerson say, this is a real team effort. That's why we're running up front at every race."

Tracy finished third at Portland last year, and says it was the race that got his 1993 season rolling toward finishing third in PPG Cup points. "That was an important race for me last year," said Tracy. "It's where I got the ball rolling after not finishing a few races. So I'm looking forward to racing in Portland this year. I've got a good feelig about it."

PPG Cup champion Nigel Mansell battled fiercely with Fittipaldi in last year's Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200. Mansell led the first 27 laps before spinning and recovered to beat Tracy for second.

"Emerson and I had a great race last year," said Mansell. "I really enjoyed it, except for sliding off under braking, of course. This year the Penske team has a tremendous car, and they're doing a superb job of working together as team. I take my hat off to them. I have no doubt they will be very difficult to beat in Portland, just as they are everywhere else."

Also among the favorites at Portland is Michael Andretti who scored three straight victories there 1990-1992. This year, Michael has been the only driver to beat the Penske team, and he's currently ranked third in points behind Unser and Fittipaldi.

"I'm looking forward to Portland," said Andretti. "That place has been good to me and I think we've got a shot at being competitive there. We've been strong in some races, and not so strong in some others so far this year. I'm hoping Portland will be one of those where we'll be able to run with the Penskes, but it'll be tough. They've got a great car, and they're definitely on a roll."

Fourth in points going into the Budweiser/G.I. Joe's 200 is Robby Gordon who's been a contender in every race this year and the top ranked driver without a win. Gordon was a strong third in Detroit last week and believes he'll run up front in Portland.

"We've been very competitive in all the races," said Gordon, "and we should be in the hunt in Portland. We're working away at it all the time and one of these days we're going to win a race. Some people seem to be giving up to the Penskes, but we're not. On the right day, in the right circumstances, we can beat them."

Other contenders include Bobby Rahal, who's moved into the the top 10 in points with consistently strong finishes in the last three PPG Cup races. Rahal raced a new Honda engine in Detroit last week and is hoping for more progress in Portland.

Rahal/Hogan Racing won't be the only team with the Honda engine at Portland. Comptech racing announced they would join the PPG Indy Car World Series beginning with round seven, fielding a new entry for Oregon resident Parker Johnstone. Acura, Honda's luxury car division, will sponsor the team.

Other top rookies to watch in Portland include current rookie point leader Jacques Villeneuve, two-time Trans-Am champion Scott Sharp and Indy Lights champion Bryan Herta. All of these drivers will be trying hard to beat the Penskes at Portland Int'l Raceway next week.

-- This report is provided by "Marlboro Racing News", an on-line service which provides news, statistics and photographs on IndyCar racing at no charge to qualified media. Interested members of the media are invited to participate. Please call Jim Thompson at 213/256-3625 or via Internet: jim.thompson@wnsnews.com

The information contained in this report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise redistributed without the prior permission from Marlboro Racing News. -- David S. Reininger * Herndon, Virginia USA * "I never take chances." reininge@cap.gwu.edu * -Wilbur Shaw chasin' races *

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Robby Gordon , Al Unser Jr. , Scott Sharp , Michael Andretti , Bobby Rahal , Paul Tracy , Bryan Herta , Nigel Mansell , Emerson Fittipaldi , Roger Penske
Teams Team Penske