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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:
|1987||October 31||Tamiami Park||Bobby Rahal||Lola||Cosworth||Truesports|
|1988||November 5||Tamiami Park||Michael Andretti||Lola||Cosworth||Kraco Racing|
|1989||October 14||Laguna Seca||Al Unser, Jr.||Lola||Chevrolet||Galles Racing|
|1990||October 6||Nazareth||Rick Mears||Penske||Chevrolet||Penske Racing|
|1991||October 19||Laguna Seca||Michael Andretti||Lola||Chevrolet||Newman/Haas Racing|
|1992||October 3||Nazareth||Emerson Fittipaldi||Penske||Chevrolet||Penske Racing|
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
|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|