Then Rahal's left rear tire blistered, a problem most of the cars were having. On the turns, Rahal had to fight his March's steering as well as the road. "It was all I could do to hang on," said Rahal. "I knew there was no way I was going to catch Danny, so I figured second was better than putting it in the wall somewhere."
Suddenly all eyes were on Moreno, the man in fourth, separating father and son. Al Sr. had Moreno in his sights and he knew he had to pass him to win the championship. If Al Jr. finished the race in his present position—third—he would get 14 points. Fifth place would be worth only 10 to Al Sr. Fourth would bring 12. With 12 laps remaining and the senior Unser four seconds behind Moreno, Penske said to him over the radio, "It's up to you." Al Sr. inched up on Moreno, who was also driving with a blistered left rear tire. Moreno dived under a slower car to lap him in the first turn, and Unser went right with him because he couldn't afford to lose him. It was a banzai move, right in front of his crew, and it took their breath away. "Had to do it," he said later. "No choice."
On Lap 108, with four laps remaining, Unser outbraked Moreno and passed him going into the second turn to take over fourth place.
Sullivan's March took the checkered flag 16.8 seconds ahead of Rahal. Chalk up another one for the Penske team, which has won seven of the last nine Indy Car championships. Danny (Hollywood) Sullivan, who shines in the flashy races, won $57,634 for a season-record total of $950,432. His next stop: a guest spot on Miami Vice.
After he had taken the checkered flag in third, Al Jr. slowed and awaited his dad, who crossed the finish line five seconds later. As father pulled up beside son, they exchanged a look that went deeper than just two rivals acknowledging a hard-fought battle. The two cars completed a victory lap in tandem.
When Little Al finally pulled into his pit and parked his Lola, he didn't get out. He didn't move much, in fact. He flipped up his helmet visor and stared wearily through glazed eyes, dead ahead. The crowd around the car remained still and silent, waiting for him to make some kind of move. Only now did Little Al's disappointment seem truly to show. He had so wanted to pay his father the compliment of beating him, and he had lost by the smallest possible margin, 151-50.
Then he got out, slowly, removed his helmet and fire-retardant balaclava, and smiled. "How do you feel?" someone asked. "I feel good," he said softly, meaning it.