Michael was replaced on the Newman-Haas Indy Car team by Mansell, and in the weeks leading up to the race, Mario and his new teammate seemed to get along best when they stayed out of each other's way—something they seemed disinclined to do on Sunday. Mansell, who had complained privately to his crew that Andretti had barely spoken to him all month and had stolen some of his racing setups during practice to boot, began stalking Andretti on Lap 46, and it was eight laps and several wheel-to-wheel blocking maneuvers by Andretti before Mansell could get past him.
Andretti was disconsolate after the race, and it was difficult to determine whether his anguish was the result of his car's having handled poorly on a fresh set of tires in the final 50 miles of the race or because Mansell had drained most of the glory out of Andretti's afternoon by bettering him on racing's biggest day. If the wheels fall off this fragile partnership, it will probably be because the two former F/1 champions (Andretti won the title in 1978) generate almost as much ego as horsepower. "I wouldn't trade my career for his," Andretti had said dismissively earlier in the month. "I have nothing to apologize for. I've accomplished a hell of a lot more than he has, so what am I worried about?"
If this was not the fastest starting field in Indy's history, it was easily the most fertile in memory. Paul Tracy, whose crash on Lap 96 allowed Fittipaldi to scramble all the way around the track under a caution flag and move back into the top 10 at the halfway point, spent three days during race week in Toronto, where his wife, Tara, gave birth to their first child during carburetion testing on Thursday. With characteristic Team Penske efficiency, labor commenced Wednesday night, the checkered flag came down on the birth of seven-pound, eight-ounce Alysha with five minutes left in carburetion testing, and Dad was back at Indy by Friday.
"Paul is not doing the timing right," said his teammate Fittipaldi, who shook down Tracy's car for him. "You should count nine months before Indy and take it easy." Luyendyk's wife, Meike, expecting twins in July, began experiencing false labor contractions on Thursday, demonstrating the family's competitive spirit. And Eddie Cheever raced while his wife, Rita, remained in her native Italy ready to deliver at any moment. "What it proves," said Cheever, "is that drivers have far too much free time."
Rita Cheever's husband was not at her side only because he had barely qualified for the race a week earlier—by bumping defending Indy Car champion Bobby Rahal from the field. Rahal and co-owner Carl Hogan had spent the early part of the season nursing along their balky chassis, and it finally cost them when Rahal failed to make the field for the first time in his 12 years at Indy. Rahal might have seen it coming if earlier in the month someone hadn't jostled the Borg-Warner championship trophy and knocked the glasses off Rahal's sculpted likeness thereon. By last weekend, life-sized cardboard cutouts of Rahal bearing such unkind messages as NEED 4 TICKETS and WILL WORK FOR FOOD stood in front of the RV camps outside the track.
Fittipaldi had reached an equally low ebb in his career 12 years ago, when, nearly broke, he abandoned Formula One and went to Brazil to tend his orange groves for two years. He joined the Indy Car circuit in 1984, a move he likens to "being born again." After finishing third at Indy in '90, he was forced out late in the race with mechanical problems in '91. That afternoon he sat in the garage and wept as Mears took the checkered flag. "It was a race I felt like I had won," Fittipaldi said on Sunday. "That Indianapolis for me is the most emotional race in my career."
Fittipaldi—who eschewed the traditional swallow of milk in the winner's circle to swig orange juice instead—was among the vanguard in the growing wave of international drivers at Indy that crested last week with tidal force, when the top four finishers were foreign. "When they talk about the foreign element, it's like they're talking about some——plague," said the Dutch-born Luyendyk, who, like Fittipaldi, lives most of the year in the U.S. "We're one of you."
And, in Fittipaldi's case, like no one else.