Indianapolis 500 win
defined Team Penske’s
1994 season, but the
rest of its PPG Indy
Car World Series
season wasn’t too
shabby, either. Running
2.65-liter, turbo Ilmor
V8s in the PC- 23,
Penske’s drivers won
11 of 15 races outside
of Indy, with Unser Jr.
(BELOW) adding seven
of those to his
Brickyard victory as
he led a Penske 1- 2-3
in the final points.
AND THE REST
secret was safe – even when two former
employees tried to get Little Al to confess...
“My dad and Uncle Bobby came into
my motorhome at Phoenix that April and
drilled me about whether we had a new
engine for Indy, and I told them I couldn’t
say yes or no,” says Unser, laughing at the
memory. “I told them they’d both worked
for Roger, so they knew I couldn’t tell them.
“Well they got up, stormed out and
slammed the door. I pissed them off.”
When IMS opened for practice, Fittipaldi
and Tracy made a few laps while Unser
was completing a 500-mile test at MIS.
“That was the day we knew it was
reliable and I couldn’t wait to get to
Indianapolis,” recalls Unser.
But Indy practice was far from routine
for Team Penske’s talented trio.
“I ran about 228mph just warming up
and got called in after five laps,” says
three-time CART champion Unser. “Roger
said, ‘You’re done, get out of the car.’ He was
concerned that USAC was going to lower the
boost, because there was a rule that said
they could do that at their discretion. So we
did very limited running and nobody was
allowed to go out and post big numbers.
“But Emerson figured out how to keep
his times down while still developing his
car by using the backstretch, so he had a
few laps at 232 while everyone else was
running 226, 227.”
The chances of an all Penske/Mercedes
front row got wiped out the day before
qualifying when P. T. walloped the wall.
“We were in qualifying trim and I was
going for it,” he explains. “I went into Turn 3
at about 245mph and didn’t make it out. It
rang my bell pretty good, so I wasn’t able
to qualify until the second weekend.”
But Unser claimed the pole at
228.011mph and Fittipaldi was third at
227.303, with Raul Boesel’s Lola-Ford
sandwiched in between at 227.618 mph.
Tracy ran 222mph and started 25th.
“It was so impressive to drive, but had
such a different feeling because of the
torque,” says Fittipaldi, who’d been
quickest all week and was disconsolate at
not winning the pole. “The acceleration
was amazing, but we weren’t supposed to
talk about it because Roger was worried
about what USAC could do to us.”
The leadup to the 78th Indianapolis 500
was more of a resigned sigh by 30 of the
(ABOVE) Al Unser Jr. passes teammate Emerson
Fittipaldi after the Brazilian, who’d led 145 of
the first 185 laps, before hitting the Turn 4 wall
attempting to lap...Little Al. As Unser Jr. recalls,
“I was glad to see Emmo uninjured standing by
the car, and then I let out a big cheer.”
EMMO THROWS IT AWAY...
As Roger Penske
(ABOVE) recalls it, his
with Ilmor founders
Paul Morgan and
Mario Illien on building
a pushrod engine for
Indy was short and
sweet. “I said to them
one day, ‘Let’s do a
pushrod engine that
will last the race.’
And, quite honestly, it
took about five
seconds and Mario
said, ‘Let’s go.’”