Fittipaldi’s Indy 500
A Brazilian in his Marlboro-sponsored car won the main event in America, but this was not another Senna/McLaren demonstration run, but the more unusual and welcome return to the winner’s podium for Emerson Fittipaldi driving a Penske-Chevrolet.
Starting from the front row for the first time in six starts at the 21/2-mile track, he was determined not to let this precious advantage slip away. Indeed he looked to have the 73rd Indianapolis 500 in the bag for most of the race but both Michael Andretti and Al Unser Jr in their Lola-Chevrolets had other ideas.
While Fittipaldi was benefiting from a good race set-up, which he and race engineer Mo Nunn had worked on in practice, the rest of the field were squabbling amongst themselves. At first Michael Andretti looked to be the only threat, and even grabbed the lead, but retired with a blown engine and then just as the race looked as if it might be becoming dull, Unser Jr enlivened proceedings.
With only a handful of laps to run, the two drivers battled it out, weaving in and out of the backmarkers, almost like a live version of a computer game, until the inevitable happened — they touched wheels. Fittipaldi managed to control his car despite a lurid moment, but Unser spun up the banking, hit the wall and slewed across the track to come to rest in the infield, the on-board camera happily whirring away amidst all the debris.
And so Fittipaldi won an emotional Indy 500 behind the pace car for the final lap of the race.