Marlboro Challenge

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The Marlboro Challenge was an all-star CART series race held from 1987–1992, sponsored by cigarette brand Marlboro. After 1992, the race was discontinued, in part because Phillip Morris reorganized its race sponsorship after the Marlboro Grand Prix of New York fell through. The race was considered a non-points exhibition race, and did not count towards official statistics.

Twelve drivers qualified for the 1987 race, although only 10 started the race. In the other editions, 10 drivers were selected. The selection criteria were: all race winners and pole position winners since the previous year's Marlboro Challenge; previous year's season champion; and defending Indianapolis 500 winner. If the field was still small, it could be filled out by top race finishers (most second places, third places, etc.) in the current season's standings.

It was normally held in conjunction with the final race weekend of the season. The race distance each year was approximately 100 miles, which normally required one pit stop for fuel. The distance was typically one half the accompanying points-paying race distance (≈200 miles). It was held at three different locations during its history:


Season Date Location Driver Chassis Engine Team
1987 October 31 Tamiami Park United States Bobby Rahal Lola Cosworth Truesports
1988 November 5 Tamiami Park United States Michael Andretti Lola Cosworth Kraco Racing
1989 October 14 Laguna Seca United States Al Unser, Jr. Lola Chevrolet Galles Racing
1990 October 6 Nazareth United States Rick Mears Penske Chevrolet Penske Racing
1991 October 19 Laguna Seca United States Michael Andretti Lola Chevrolet Newman/Haas Racing
1992 October 3 Nazareth Brazil Emerson Fittipaldi Penske Chevrolet Penske Racing

Marlboro Million

During its tenure, from 1988–1991, the race was part of the Marlboro Million bonus program, which was similar to NASCAR's Winston Million. Any driver who won the Marlboro Grand Prix at the Meadowlands, the Marlboro 500 at Michigan, and Marlboro Challenge in the same season, would win a $1,000,000 bonus. The first driver to win two of the three races was eligible for a $150,000 bonus. The award was never achieved, and no driver won two of the three races in the set in a year.

In 1991, Rick Mears was leading the Marlboro Challenge on the final lap when his car sputtered in the final turn due to low fuel pressure. He had won the Marlboro 500 earlier that year, and would have won the $150,000 bonus had he held on over the final few seconds to win.

Marlboro Million results

Season Meadowlands Michigan Challenge Notes
1988 Al Unser, Jr. Danny Sullivan Michael Andretti
1989 Bobby Rahal Michael Andretti Al Unser, Jr.
1990 Michael Andretti Al Unser, Jr. Rick Mears
1991 Bobby Rahal Rick Mears Michael Andretti Mears finished 2nd in the Challenge