Grand Prix of Portland Rewind: The 80's - Legendary Domination

The Race Winners:

June 17, 1984 - Al Unser Jr.
June 16, 1985 - Mario Andretti
June 15, 1986 - Mario Andretti
June 14, 1987 - Bobby Rahal
June 19, 1988 - Danny Sullivan
June 25, 1989 - Emerson Fittipaldi

In 1984, Portland International Raceway underwent some $800,000 worth of improvements. The most noticeable change to the track configuration itself was the addition of a chicane (known as the 'Festival Curves') toward the end of the main front-straight which also serves as a drag strip.  This entire straight was also repaved.  These track updates along with other facility upgrades allowed major league auto racing in the form of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) Indy car racing to be hosted at the track for the first time on the 1.915-mile circuit.

A “Who’s Who” of motorsports launched the rich history of the Grand Prix of Portland.  Unser, Andretti, Rahal, Sullivan and Fittipaldi – each Indianapolis 500 champions with their faces sculpted on to the coveted Borg-Warner Trophy – were the only CART race winners at Portland International Raceway during its first decade.

The most memorable race came on Father’s Day 1986, when Mario Andretti nipped son Michael to capture the checkered flag.  After holding a full lap lead, it was a gift from son Michael to dad Mario as Michael ran out of gas on the 104th and final lap due to a fuel pick-up problem leaving the last seven gallons in the car’s tank.  Mario won by 0.070 of a second equal to four inches at the line.

See the video of Michael's Father's Day gift to Mario.

"I feel sorry for Michael, but after all it is Father's Day," said Mario, who had not won a race since the previous year’s Portland CART Indy car race.

"I've been blessed with a lot of great moments in my career," Mario said. "But this has to be one of the greatest because . . . blood is thicker than water. It's something that's so special because the odds of this happening are so slim. How sweet it is."

Check back next week when we cover the 90's.

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