Mario Andretti overcame a nearly disastrous mistake and then made Bobby Rahal pay dearly for the slightest of errors.
Andretti brushed his tires against a wall on lap 64 of the 80-lap Cleveland Grand Prix Sunday, but he recovered in time to pass Rahal and win his second Indy-car race of the season by less than a second.
Danny Sullivan, the pole-sitter, was third, a fraction behind Rahal.
"We had no breather all day," Andretti said. "This was one of those races where you needed 100 percent."
Andretti, driving a Chevrolet-powered Lola, took the lead for good on the 68th lap when Rahal's Lola-Judd fishtailed momentarily coming out of the fifth turn on the 12-turn, 2.48-mile road course at Burke Lakefront Airport.
"He was on marbles," Andretti said of the loose gravel on the turn. "When I saw that, I accelerated, and to complicate matters, I almost got into him. When we got it all gathered up, we were both square going down the backstretch. Fortunately, I had the inside. It was the best drag race of the day."
Rahal, the two-time defending drivers' champion, said he considered trying to stay with Andretti but thought better of it. "It's awfully hard to go into the turn side by side, so I let him have it," Rahal said.
Andretti led the rest of the way, doing his best to block any advances by Rahal or Sullivan.
The victory was the 51st of his Indy-car career, 16 less than the career leader, A.J. Foyt.
His average speed Sunday was 124.295 mph, well off the race record of 128.421 set last year by Emerson Fittipaldi. Speeds were kept down because of a full-course caution flag for three laps after Rocky Moran hit a wall on lap 30, and by several yellow flags.
Sullivan and his Penske Racing teammate, Rick Mears, who had combined to win each of the last three Indy-car races, started in the front row of the 26-car field, and Sullivan breezed early. He led by nearly 12 seconds with 19 laps gone and was still up by almost 10 seconds when the Moran full-course caution tightened the field.
Sullivan's Chevrolet-powered PC17 picked up an oil heating problem during the slowdown, and he was unable to reopen his big lead. Rahal passed him on the 41st lap, Rahal's first lead of the year.
"Traffic played a role all day," Sullivan said. "I think it was one of the most competitive races we've had anywhere."
--- In Le Castellet, France, with the Formula One season almost half over, critics say the McLaren-Honda domination has taken the interest out of the races. But according to the McLaren drivers, Frenchman Alain Prost and Brazilian Ayrton Senna, there is still of lot of excitement in store.
Prost and Senna waged another intra-McLaren battle in Sunday's French Grand Prix, with Prost coming out on top for the fourth time this season. Senna, who has taken the other three races, was second, giving McLaren its fifth 1-2 finish in seven races.
Prost felt there was some excitement in the race when he darted inside Senna on the 61st of 80 laps to gain the lead. "This part of the race was very exciting for me because I was just waiting for the right moment," Prost said after his 32nd career Grand Prix victory.
He had the lead for the first 36 laps but lost it to Senna when Prost's tire change took a few seconds longer than Senna's.
He finally regained the lead as the leaders attempted to lap slower cars. Senna went wide on a curve, and Prost outbraked him and dove into the inside of the turn and emerged with the lead. With the victory, Prost extended his lead in the world championship standings to 54-39 over Senna.
--- At Watkins Glen, N.Y., Australian Geoff Brabham won a record-setting fifth straight IMSA GT event, taking first place with co-driver John Morton in the $188,500 Camel Continental at the Watkins Glen International circuit.
Brabham, wwho lives in Noblesville, Ind., and Morton, of El Segundo, Calif, in a Nissan GTP-ZX-T, beat the second-placed Porsche 962 of Chip Robinson, of Oldwick, N.J., and Derek Bell, of Pagham, England, by 21 seconds to win a purse of $66,000.