PHOENIX, April 10 -- Brazil's Emerson Fittipaldi beat out teammate Al Unser Jr. and defending Indy Car champion Nigel Mansell Sunday to win a crash-filled Slick 50 200 PPG Indy Car World Seriesrace at Phoenix Interational Raceway.
Fittipaldi claimed his 21st career Indy car victory in front of fellow Marlboro Team Penske racer Unser Jr. and Mansell, who placed third, one lap down.
Rounding out the top five were Sweden's Steffan Johansson, who was three laps down, and Jimmy Vasser of the United States, who finished four laps down.
Fittipaldi averaged 107.437 mph and finished 13.48 seconds ahead of Unser.
But the race was marred by two spectacular crashes, including one where a wheel flew off Michael Andretti's car and sailed into the crowd, injuring a spectator in the leg.
In what was perhaps the worst crash since Johnny Rutherford flipped upside down on the frontstretch in 1980, occurred on the 63rd lap. Teo Fabi passed the slower car of Japan's Hiro Matsushita. The right front wheel on Matsushita's Lola touched the left rear wheel of Fabi's Reynard, sending both cars crashing into the third turn wall. Canada's Paul Tracy went high on the track to avoid the crash, but slammed into both cars.
As all three cars came to rest between turns three and four, rookie Jacques Villeneuve came around the third turn, full throttle, and slammed into the side of Matsushita's Lola. The impact was so severe, the nose of Villeneuve's Lola hit dead center in the side of Matsushita's Lola, splitting Matsushita's car in half. Dominic Dobson of the United States tried to avoid the collision, but rode over the back of Matsushita's engine.
The crash brought out a yellow flag condition rather than a red flag, which would have stopped the race until the debris could have been cleaned up. The race was slowed until the 90th lap, when the green flag came out with Fittipaldi in the lead ahead of Unser Jr.
Mansell was in fifth place, but one lap down at that point. Earlier in the race, Mansell -- who was forced to start in a backup car after crashing his primary Penske/Ilmor in Saturday's final practice session -- started third but took the lead on the 10th lap.
But Mansell's lead would end when Willy T. Ribbs crashed into the first turn wall on the 29th lap. All the leaders pitted on the following lap, except the Penske cars of Tracy, Fittipaldi and Unser. After his car was serviced in the pits, Mansell stalled the engine on his Kmart/Havoline Lola-Ford and was rolled back to his pit stall where the engine was refired.
The extra time in the pits put Mansell one-lap down into 12th place.
The race was restarted on the 43rd lap with Tracy, Fittpaldi and Robby Gordon as the top three. The two Penske cars were running away with the race until the major multi-car crash on the 63rd lap.
When the race was restarted on the 90th lap, Mansell began to cut through the field. He got his lap back when he blew past Fittipaldi in the second turn on the 113th lap, putting him up to fourth place.
Another major crash took place on the 166th lap when Mario Andretti crashed on the backstretch, coming to rest near the inside of the third turn. His son, Michael, attempted to slow down, but made contact with another car, breaking the suspension on his left front wheel. The wheel flipped over and was punted into the crowd by Scott Goodyear's car. The wheel flew into the crowd and into a hospitality tent outside of the third turn, hitting a spectator. The spectator suffered a leg injury, but was otherwise all right.
Mansell was unable to gain his lap back when the race was restarted on the 175th lap.