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FAST LANE FOR PHOENIX
Sam Moses
June 12, 1989
By investing millions to run the U.S. Grand Prix through its streets, the desert city hoped for a rich return
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June 12, 1989

Fast Lane For Phoenix

By investing millions to run the U.S. Grand Prix through its streets, the desert city hoped for a rich return

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As it happens, Phoenix snared the race at a time when Formula One competition is in serious decline. It has become a game of finance and technology, and the McLaren- Honda team has emerged as vastly superior by virtue of the tidal wave of yen supplied by Honda for engine development. McLaren- Honda includes an army of Japanese technicians and engineers, most of whom seldom emerge from the electronics trailers that, through sophisticated telemetry, monitor scores of engine functions every minute the McLarens are on the track.

So it was hardly surprising that Senna took the pole position, the 34th pole in the 29-year-old driver's career, breaking the late Jimmy Clark's record of 33. Senna led through the first 33 laps of the 177-mile race, until his car faltered and eventually retired with ignition problems. That allowed his teammate, two-time world champion Alain Prost of France, to win by 39.696 seconds. It was Prost's 36th Grand Prix win, nine more than recorded by Jackie Stewart, who is second on the alltime list.

But a sentimental victory of sorts went to Eddie Cheever, the man who may turn out to be the savior of the Phoenix race. The only American among the world's three dozen F/1 drivers, the tall, handsome and articulate 31-year-old lives with his wife, Rita, and new daughter in Rome and Monte Carlo. But he was born in Phoenix. It was Cheever's 123rd Grand Prix in 11 trying years on the circuit, and his third-place finish in an Arrows-Ford on Sunday was only the second time he had finished that high since 1983.

But was the event a success as far as Phoenix was concerned? Was it worth the millions in city funds to impress corporate big shots and TV-watchers in distant lands, even though only 31,000 fans, a lot fewer than expected, paid to watch? Well, maybe hometown boy Cheever had something to do with it, but the folks who did show up seemed to enjoy the day thoroughly. And, hey, Bernie Ecclestone, isn't that what this sport is all about? Bernie?

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