Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tracy, Unser Jr. Help Put Team Penske Back on Top

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tracy, Unser Jr. Help Put Team Penske Back on Top

Article excerpt

Team Penske, curiously missing in action for almost two years, has been found safe and sound. And that's very bad news for the rest of the competitors in the PPG CART World Series.

Moments after Paul Tracy and Al Unser Jr. - both of whom wear the red-and-white Penske colors - sizzled to first- and third-place finishes, respectively, Sunday in the 225-mile Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix at Nazareth Speedway, Unser issued this declaration:

"The team is back. The snake bite that we had is healed; it's over. Now, hopefully, we can get back to the normal Penske way - which is dominating everything." Roger Penske, a former driver who got into the car-owner business in 1969, molded the winningest team - 96 victories - in Indy-car racing. But almost two years ago, Penske's Midas touch suddenly and inexplicably began showing signs of rust: The team hadn't steered an Indy car to a checkered flag since Unser prevailed in Vancouver on Sept. 3, 1995, a distant 20 races ago. Meanwhile, teams and drivers that had become accustomed to choking on Penske's exhaust eagerly geared up and took advantage. But look out now. . . . "This is one of the greatest races of my life," Tracy said after he held off hometown hero Michael Andretti before a speedway-record crowd estimated at more than 50,000. Tracy, 28, hot-footed his Marlboro-sponsored Penske/Mercedes to his 11th career win - but his first since June 1995 in Milwaukee, a span of 27 frustrating starts. There was plenty of work to do in the fourth event on the series' 17-race schedule, and second-to-last (after the Rio 400 on May 11) before CART brings its show to Gateway International Raceway for the Motorola 300 on May 24. Andretti, 34, spent a good chunk of the cool, cloudy afternoon with his Swift/Ford Cosworth plastered directly on Tracy's tailpipes as they parried around and around the fastest one-mile oval in the world. "We had everything, except one thing: time. We just didn't have enough laps," said Andretti, who has 36 wins in his 14-year career. "I think we had the best car out there." During practice and qualifying, though, Tracy clearly was commanding the fastest machine. …

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