By: Spencer Neff
August 29, 2019 | 8:51 AM
This Sunday, the NTT IndyCar Series will return to the Portland International Raceway. For the 1.967-mile permanent road course, it will be the 26th IndyCar race it has hosted.
Following a 10-year absence, the track returned to the schedule a year ago. In the 25 previous races at this Oregon track, several memorable moments have occurred with it as the setting. In this edition of IndyCar Flashback, we take a look at one of PIR’s most memorable IndyCar events.
Mario prevails over Michael in Andretti Fathers’ Day 1-2
In his third IndyCar season, Michael Andretti had finally begun to hit his stride. After winning his first career IndyCar race at Long Beach in April, Michael became the season’s first two-time winner at Milwaukee in early June.
A week later, the series made its annual Fathers Day weekend trek to the Portland International Raceway. In qualifying, the second-generation driver missed out on a second straight pole and would start second to Emerson Fittipaldi of Patrick Racing.
After the start, Andretti quickly passed Fittipaldi for the race lead and led the first 31 laps. During that opening stanza, five cars dropped out of the races. Included in that group was Bobby Rahal, whose car owner Jim Trueman lost his battle with cancer just four days earlier.
By the end of the race’s opening run, Andretti’s lead stretched to over 11 seconds.
Unable to match the speed of Andretti’s Kraco Enterprises March/Cosworth, Penske Racing’s Danny Sullivan and Team Cotter Racing’s Roberto Guerrero were able to combine for three laps during the first set of pit stops.
Towards the end of the race’s second stint, Andretti was able to lap all but two other cars. Included in the list of lapped cars was Michael’s father, Mario.
Looking to snap a winless streak that dated back to the Portland race a year earlier, Mario looked on as his son continued to dominate. On Lap 64, Guerrero and Patrick Racing’s Kevin Cogan collided as they headed toward Turn 2.
Once the second pit stops cycled through, Andretti returned to the lead on Lap 35 and stayed up front for another 34 laps. Despite another four cars dropping out in this time, the race stayed green throughout.
After making his final pit stop, Michael would relinquish the lead to Sullivan. For Sullivan, he looked for his first win since his memorable Indianapolis 500 triumph a year earlier.
Sullivan’s day ended prematurely after a crash on Lap 82 while battling Andretti for the lead on the back straightaway. Due to the contact, Andretti stopped for his team to survey the damage but returned without losing the lead.
Despite concerns about fuel, Andretti did not take on any extra during this stop. In the waning laps, Michael began to turn down the turbocharger boost in his Cosworth engine.
As the race neared its conclusion, Michael appeared destined for his third win of 1986 despite Michael radioing his crew with doubts about their fuel situation.
As he neared the checkered flag, was not meant to be. With his son running out of fuel, Mario took advantage and got past to win by .07 seconds, the closest finish in series history to that point.
In Victory Lane, a dejected Michael extended Father’s Day well-wishes to Mario. With three Top 2 finishes, Michael extended his points lead over Tom Sneva to 13.
Following the new March chassis’ domination, this also marked Lola’s first win since Cleveland with Al Unser Jr. nearly a year earlier. In running an average speed of 107.759 mph, a new race record was set. In third, 1984 race winner Al Unser Jr. rounded out the podium.
Despite the mixed emotions of losing on the last lap to his father, Michael and Mario were able to continue their momentum in 1986 and thereafter.
After Mario added a win at Pocono and Michael won the finale at Phoenix, they had rebounded in earnest. In 1989, Michael joined his father as Newman-Haas expanded to a second entry. For the next five years, they would race as teammates.
In 1990, Michael was able to make up for the heartbreak of 86, as he led Mario in 1-2 finish at Portland. Later that year, Michael again led a father-son effort, besting Mario at Mid-Ohio. In 1991, Michael set a track record with an average speed of 115.208 mph. To date, this has yet to be eclipsed.
After another 1-2 at Toronto in 1991, they would finish 1-2 at Laguna Seca the following year. Interestingly enough that would be Michael’s last IndyCar race before a brief venture into Formula 1.
When Michael returned in 1994, he and Mario were not teammates. It would be. Mario’s last season in IndyCar.
Note: Thank you as always to everyone who participated in our poll on Twitter to select this week’s IndyCar Flashback.
There will continue to be a poll on our Twitter page (@Open_Wheels) to determine the race profiled for IndyCar Flashback prior to each race weekend. Keep an eye out each race week for the poll to cast your vote.
Header Image By INDYCAR