Mercedes-Benz or no, Roger Penske's drivers find their way to Victory Lane.
This time, Marlboro Team Penske raced to a 1-2-3 sweep as Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. fought off Emerson Fittipaldi to win Sunday's rain-shortened Miller Genuine Draft 200 at the Milwaukee Mile.Paul Tracy, the third Penske-Ilmor driver, finished two laps behind in third as the 200-lap event was stopped eight laps short.
"The first thing Roger said to me is `We didn't need that Mercedes after all,"' Unser said with a wide grin.
It was the third straight victory for Unser and, with Fittipaldi winning the previous event at Phoenix, the fourth in a row for the team - both Penske records. Unser, who has 22 career victories, leads the PPG Cup standings with 79 points, followed by Fittipaldi with 54.
A week earlier, Unser and Fittipaldi dominated the Indy 500 with much of the credit going to the superpowered Mercedes engines that car owner Roger Penske had built just for that event, the only Indy-car race run under U.S. Auto Club rules.
With the more conventional Ilmor Indy V8 back in the sleek Penske chassis, there still was no doubt who was the class of the field Sunday as the three teammates led every lap.
"At Indy, we needed the Mercedes. It definitely was a big advantage for us," said Unser, in his first season driving for Penske. "It definitely helped us dominate the day at Indy, and here in Milwaukee a lot of it is the car. If the car can get through the corners, that pretty much dominates everything."
Fittipaldi, a two-time Formula One and one-time Indy-car champion, said, "The momentum this team has now I've never experienced in my whole career. I finished second in (the opener at) Australia and the team has won every race since."
Tracy, who finished a race for the first time this season, said, "I wish my car would have handled better, but Al and Emmo put on a great show and I was just sitting back waiting for the checker to come out."
It was an unusually clean race, with no caution flags until lap 158, when a large piece of debris on the backstretch brought out the pace car for the first time. By then, only Unser and Fittipaldi were on the lead lap.
Fittipaldi had a shot at his teammate on the restart as the two red-and-white cars started nose-to-tail. But Unser was able to retain control.
Another chance for Fittipaldi came on lap 171 when Stefan Johansson's engine blew, bringing out the second yellow flag. Again Unser, the 1990 Milwaukee winner, was able to hold off the Brazilian on the restart.
"I knew how tough Emmo is, especially on one-mile ovals, so I was doing everything I could to keep him behind me," Unser said
That's when the rain, which had been threatening on and off throughout the event, began falling, bringing out the third and last yellow on lap 181. The cars finished the race under the caution, just as they did a week ago at Indy after a late crash by Stan Fox.
Amazingly, Johansson was the only entry to go out in the 26-car race.
Michael Andretti passed defending race and series champion Nigel Mansell on the final restart to finish fourth, followed by Mansell, Robby Gordon, Bobby Rahal, pole-starter Raul Boesel and rookie Jacques Villeneuve, who was the Indy runner-up.
"It was difficult watching (the Penske cars) go by us," Andretti said. "It seems like every other lap there was a red-and-white car going by. We were first in class, I guess."
After taking the checkered flag, the three Penske cars made a side-by-side victory lap around the one-mile oval as the record Milwaukee crowd, announced at 45,254, scattered.
With the late cautions, Unser's average speed fell to just 118.804 mph.
Penske's race day was made complete when it was announced that Rusty Wallace, driving for his NASCAR stock car team, won the Budweiser 500 on Sunday at Dover, Del.