11 Apr 19
San Gabriel Valley Tribune
A summary of the history of the Long Beach Grand Prix races from 1975 to 2018.
British driver Brian Redman, forced to adopt a conservative race strategy due to handling and differential problems, capitalizing on the misfortune that befell early race leaders Tony Brise, Al Unser and Mario Andretti to claim a stunning victory Sunday in the Long Beach Grand Prix.
“I don’t like to win in this fashion,” said the proper Yorkshire gent. “I’ll be the first to admit that I backed into it. But winning is always nice, no matter how one attains it.”
Redman and his red, black and white Boraxo Lola T-332 Chevrolet won by a margin of 29.946 seconds over second-place Vern Schuppan of Australia, driving a Jorgensen Eagle prepared by Dan Gurney in the F5000 race.
Clay Regazzoni of Switzerland, clocking lap speeds faster than his qualifying runs, embarrassed a world-class field of Formula One drivers and won the United States Grand Prix West over the streets of Long Beach.
“Regga” powered his crimson Ferrari 312 B3 to a 42.4-second victory margin over Ferrari teammate and world driving champion Niki Lauda of Austria.
Mario Andretti sat in a chair on a platformed rostrum 4 feet above the ground, surrounded by a sea of newsmen, perhaps as many as 300. He turned in the direction of Team Lotus racing director Colin Chapman and there was a glint in each man’s eye.
“Well, I tell you, this is one of the greatest moments of my life, something I will cherish forever,” Andretti said. “Colin and I have paid our dues. Now, this is the reward. With Colin alongside me, I feel on top of the world.”
This was the manner in which Andretti savored his dramatic victory in the second Long Beach Grand Prix, passing a faltering Jody Scheckter three laps from the finish to become the first American driver to ever win a Formula One event on U.S. soil.
Carlos Reutemann roared into the lead on Lap 39 when his Ferrari teammate Gilles Villeneuve made a spectacular crashing exit, and Reutemann went on to score a front-winning victory in the Long Beach Grand Prix before a crowd of 100,000, including a paid-attendance record of 75,000.
The Argentine driver they call Lole steadily outdistanced the field to pass the checkered flag 11.061 seconds in front of defending champion Mario Andretti, driving a Lotus 78.
Gilles Villeneuve went from the doghouse to the penthouse and along the way, he routinely won the Long Beach Grand Prix.
The boyish French Canadian driver has had controversy follow him most of his career, and it didn’t desert him as he wheeled his flame-red Ferrari 312 T4 to an unchallenged 29.38-second victory over Ferrari teammate Jody Scheckter.
Even as he stepped from the cockpit of the car, the adulation of the fans ringing in his ears, Villeneuve had a black mark against him in the eyes of the race stewards. He may have driven a flawless race, but he was the perpetrator of a nonstart that forced a 24-minute delay in the $600,000 city street race.
Sometimes it’s pretty hard to stay awake in front of the TV set on a lazy Sunday afternoon. But young Brazilian driver Nelson Piquet had the same problem at 190 mph en route to a front-running victory in the $750,000 Long Beach Grand Prix.
The final 30 laps of the race, Piquet enjoyed almost a one-minute advantage over the field. With no pressure from behind, he said his biggest enemy was a tendency for his mind to wander.
“It’s much more difficult, the concentration when you are easy in front like I was today,” he said, taking occasional swigs from a magnum of Moet & Chandon Champagne.
Alan Jones opened defense of his world driving championship by scoring a calculated victory in the Long Beach Grand Prix.
The 34-year-old Australian rancher fell to third early in the $1.25 million street race, then surged past teammate Carlos Reutemann on the 32nd lap to take the lead, which he held to the finish of the 80-lap, 162.6-mile race.
Jones took the checkered flag 9.19 seconds ahead of Reutemann. The top two finishers drove identical Williams FWO7-B cars prepared by Britain’s Frank Williams.
Niki Lauda completed a storybook comeback to Formula One racing by winning the accident-marred, race track-scarred and protest-altered Long Beach Grand Prix.
The 33-year-old Austrian driver and his space-age MP4 B Ford Cosworth took the checkered flag by a margin of 14.6 seconds over Keke Roseberg of Finland, driving a Saudia-Williams FWO8.
John Watson came from almost as far as his native Northern Ireland — 22nd starting position — to win the Long Beach Grand Prix in one of the most stunning performances in Formula One racing history.
The 36-year-old driver, one of Grand Prix racing’s “senior citizens,” drove a John Barnard-designed McLaren MP4⁄1 C Cosworth to a 27-second cushion over Marlboro McLaren teammate Niki Lauda of Austria, the defending champion.
Halfway through the Long Beach Grand Prix, Mario Andretti’s lead over second-place Emerson Fittipaldi had grown to 12 laps or almost two minutes.
If his helmet hadn’t blocked their view, the estimated 65,000 fans in the grandstands would have probably gotten a glimpse of Mario yawning.
“I got on the radio to Darrell (crew chief Darrell Soppe),” said Andretti, “and said, ‘Talk to me, Darrell, tell me what’s happening.’ It got pretty lonely out there.” Andretti and the No. 3 Budweiser Lola T-800 pretty much had everything their own way all afternoon, winning the 10th running of the city street race by a margin of 63.2 seconds over Geoff Brabham.
Mario Andretti’s ability as a driver is well-chronicled. But most do not know he is a master strategist, too. He demonstrated that in front of 67,000 spectators by winning the 11th Long Beach Grand Prix, more with his brain than with his arms and legs.
Before the start of the 90- lap, 150-mile race around the downtown streets, Andretti calculated he could run the distance with only one pit stop for fuel and tires — a bold and risky plan by the defending champion of the race.
A little less than two-thirds into the race, it appeared that the game plan had backfired — Danny Sullivan was in the lead in the Miller American March and drawing away by almost a second a lap toward a dramatic first outing with the Roger Penske team.
But Sullivan ran out of fuel twice in the last 12 laps — highly uncharacteristic for the normally flawless Penske organization — and Andretti breezed to a 60.13-second victory over Emerson Fittipaldi.
Dee Ann Andretti has a new trophy to add to the family collection on Victory Lane in Nazareth, Pa. But instead of the name of her husband “Mario Andretti” embossed across it, the trophy bears the name “Michael Andretti,” her 23-year-old son.
On Sunday, Michael kept the Andretti name synonymous with Long Beach by winning a bumper-to-bumper, tooth-and-nail confrontation with Al Unser Jr. over the final 24 laps in the 12th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix.
Perhaps race promoter Christopher Pook should look into a format change for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Ever since the Indy cars arrived on the scene in 1984, the scenario has gone something like this: Mario Andretti enters the race, Mario Andretti wins the pole, Mario Andretti wins the race.
That’s what happened during the 13th edition of the city street race, witnessed by an announced crowd of 82,500. Surely some among them went home scratching their heads, saying, “Hey, I’ve seen this race before.”
They call him “Little Al.” But to the drivers in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Al Unser Jr. probably looked more like Andre the Giant. He also looked unbeatable — and he was.
Two days short of his 26th birthday, the freckle-faced driver from Albuquerque scored a popular front-running victory before an enthusiastic turnout of 84,000 spectators and a national television audience. He accomplished what no one before him could — beat an Andretti at Long Beach. It took five years to do it and it also took someone from a famous racing family to alter the course of history at Long Beach.
Al Unser Jr. won the race, but he certainly didn’t win the admiration of fellow driver Mario Andretti. Within minutes after Little Al took the checkered flag in the 15th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Andretti, livid with anger, stormed into the impound area where Unser Jr.’s car was parked for post-race inspection and said in sarcastic overtones: “Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it. I hope we can do it again sometime.” The bitter confrontation after the race was triggered by an equally charged “meeting” during the race.
Andretti and Unser Jr. were nose-to-tail entering the 84th lap of the 95-lap race over the city streets, and the estimated 85,000 in the stands and millions watching on national television were anticipating a give-no-quarter, take-no-quarter duel to the finish. But it never materialized.
Al Unser Jr.’s home is in Albuquerque, N.M., but come every April, his heart and soul are in Long Beach.
Can his accountant be far behind? On Sunday, For a record third year in a row, Little Al won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, a race that was once the property of the Andretti family but has now become an Unser stronghold. Since starting his amazing streak in 1988, the freckle-faced 28-year old has led 248 of 285 laps over the seaside street circuit and amassed $359,228 in official prize money. His take was $143,908.
The answer: Two laps and one straightaway. The question: How many laps didn’t Al Unser lead in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach?
Little Al choreographed yet another Long Beach masterpiece by storming to his fourth consecutive victory in the city-street race to equal a CART-PPG Indy Car World Series record.
“I just hope it keeps going,” said the 28-year-old member of the famous Unsers of Albuquerque. “I just hope (Long Beach Grand Prix president) Chris Pook never changes the course. It’s one of my favorites.”
Some 80 laps into the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, teammates Al Unser Jr. and Danny Sullivan were positioned 1-2 and clipping off the laps toward a storybook finish for the Galles-Kraco Racing team.
“I was thinking about Little Al,” Sullivan said. “We were running for so long like that I literally thought, ‘Well, let’s just not make any mistakes and have a nice 1-2 (finish).’ ” Sullivan didn’t get his wish. What he got instead was the victory.
But it came at a cost. With three laps to go, Unser Jr. swung wide into Turn 6 at the end of the Seaside Way straightaway and Sullivan dived deep under his teammate in a daring passing attempt. Little Al, apparently unaware of Sullivan’s position, swung back into his teammate’s path. The two collided, Sullivan’s nose and wing touching Unser Jr.’s right rear tire.
The IndyCar record book will show that Paul Tracy won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. That’s accurate — but it may not be the entire truth.He may well have won it because of what happened two weeks ago at the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. Tracy led that event for 151 laps, then tangled with a car driven by Jimmy Vasser. No win, no points, no nothing.
A few days after the race, four-time Indy 500 winner Rick Mears, now a consultant with Penske Racing, had a little heart-to-heart talk with Tracy, the team’s fledgling 24-year-old driver.
“Rick said, ‘Whenever you’re out there (racing), you’ve got to treat everyone (other drivers) like they’ve got blinkers on and they don’t have mirrors on their cars. “They just can’t see ya,’ ” Tracy said, smiling.
Al Unser Jr. got a speeding ticket on his way to a record-smashing fifth victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Speeding ticket? In an auto race? Yup.
In his haste to rejoin a race he had led for 19 laps, Little Al exceeded the mandated 60 mph speed limit in the pit lane following a pit stop for fuel and tires on Lap 39. CART racing officials flagged him back into the pits one lap later for a stop-and-go penalty, giving the lead to Emerson Fittipaldi and dropping Unser Jr. into second place, more than 15 seconds behind his Penske Racing teammate.
It was the only mistake Little Al made all day
About 25 minutes after the end of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, Indy Car news manager John Procida began the winner’s press conference with a statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the pre-race press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.” Truer words were never spoken. For the sixth time in the last eight years, Unser Jr. drove to victory in Southern California’s “200 mph Beach Party.” A crowd estimated at 120,000 attended the 21st annual rite of spring and horsepower.
Gil de Ferran’s biggest disappointment turned out to be Jimmy Vasser’s biggest surprise. De Ferran, the record-setting pole-sitter for the 22nd Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, led 100 laps of the PPG Indy Car World Series race.
Unfortunately, they weren’t the ones that counted the most — the final four laps.
The 28-year-old Brazilian driver and his yellow Pennzoil Special thoroughly dominated the $1.4 million event before a sun-splashed crowd of 88,000 and was merely reeling off laps toward the checkered flag and the second Indy Car victory of his two-year career.
But on Lap 102 of the 105-lap race, the clamp that holds the turbocharger hose to the engine worked loose and de Ferran immediately lost about 500 horsepower. Imagine Vasser’s surprise when he maneuvered his Honda-powered Reynard onto the Seaside Way back straightaway and found de Ferran crawling along at a relative snail’s pace of 70 mph. Bye, bye five-second deficit. Hello, victory.
A racing fan with a big heart and an equally big wallet may have been partly responsible for Alex Zanardi’s victory in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Zanardi and a few friends were finishing their dinner the other night at the Pine Avenue Fish House when the 30-year-old Italian asked the waiter for the check.
“The waiter said, ‘Don’t worry. A racing fan took care of it.’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Where is he?’ And they said, ‘He left a half hour ago.’ I mean, I was absolutely amazed.
“Only in America. … I want to let him know I’m really grateful.” The racing fan may have been anonymous, but the fourth win of Zanardi’s CART Indy Car career was very public — witnessed by a record crowd of 90,000 on a brilliant Southern California day.
Bryan Herta must feel like he wears a target on the back of his driver’s uniform — and Alex Zanardi is the arrow. For the second time in his career, Herta was within sight of his first CART Indy Car victory, only to have Zanardi hit the bulls-eye with a dramatic pass in the closing seconds to steal the checkered flag away.
Herta’s latest heartache occurred in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach when Zanardi weaved through the field from 18th place, caught and passed Herta on the next-to-last lap and went on to claim perhaps the most improbable victory in the 24-year history of the city street race.
Someone needs to stop Chip Ganassi before he gets on a plane headed home to Indianapolis and ask the Target/Ganassi Racing. owner if he could please give the Long Beach streets back to the city. There are hard-working, tax-paying citizens who need those streets to get to work.
After all, Ganassi doesn’t need the streets anymore, at least until next April. His 1999 work schedule at the Beach ended about 3 p.m. in what has become Team Target’s home away from home — the winner’s circle at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Anyone who saw Team Target’s Jimmy Vasser win in 1996 and Alex Zanardi speed to back-to-back victories the past two seasons can’t be surprised about the fourth consecutive triumph on the streets of Long Beach. Until you consider the latest Team Target Long Beach winner — Juan Pablo Montoya — is a 24-year-old rookie who, previously, had a CART FedEx Championship resume of two races.
It was similar to the rights and lefts of any street course Paul Tracy has driven during his 10 years as a CART FedEx Championship Series driver.
But there was something about these particular streets — the ones making up the 11-turn, 1.968- mile Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach — that was perplexing to Tracy. “We were really lost all weekend,” said Tracy, one of two drivers for Team Kool Green.
The fences surrounding the Grand Prix course were reinforced this year at the request of the drivers in the CART FedEx Championship Series.
The biggest concern among the drivers, of course, was to keep the cars on the circuit and debris caused by collisions from entering the grandstands. However, on the day before the 27th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix, Tony Kanaan acknowledged that there was another reason.
“We complained about the fence so now you can climb,” Kanaan said to fellow driver Helio Castroneves. And climb Castroneves did on a sunny, windswept Sunday after mastering the circuit.
An Andretti saved the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach once again. No, the race’s status hasn’t legitimized the way Mario Andretti’s victories in the event’s infancy accomplished two decades ago.
Rather, his son, Michael Andretti, rescued the estimated 100,000 assembled from an otherwise uneventful race when he edged fellow American Jimmy Vasser in a thrilling conclusion to the Grand Prix.
Call it the “Paul Tracy Triad.”
Driving the No. 3 Forsythe Racing Ford-powered Lola, the 34-year-old Canadian became the first CART driver to open the season with three consecutive victories by capturing his third Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach as the estimated 95,000 in attendance were treated to one of the most Prix Association, and the series, in turn, performed like a major leaguer in a contract year in front of 75,000 in attendance. “It’s a good number for me,” said Tracy, who held up three fingers as he made a victory lap around the course.
“It’s a number I had for nine years of my career. … “Three wins in a row, three wins for the championship and three wins here. “It was a great day for the team.”
Paul Tracy snuffed out the intrigue at the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach nearly as quick as a flick of the much-ballyhooed push-to-pass button. Starting in the second row after qualifying third, Tracy used what runner-up Bruno Junqueira called a “banzai” maneuver on the first turn of the race to seize the lead en route to cruising to his fourth victory here and second in a row.
“I call it a good pass,” said Tracy, who tied Mario Andretti for second on the all-time LBGP wins list. “When the green flag waves, it’s time to go race. I don’t wait for four or five laps to start racing.”
Sebastien Bourdais fought a two-front war at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The 26-year-old Frenchman was victorious on the first, holding off four-time race champ Paul Tracy to win one of the most action-packed races the 1.97-mile temporary street course has seen in years.
Time will tell whether a tirade he unleashed a few minutes later will impact the battle for the direction of the race itself. It’s been a long-term relationship,” said an emotional Bourdais, the defending Champ Car World Series champion, with eyes watering and voice stern. “We want to be back here. The fans want us back here. … It would (stink) to have the IRL here.”
This was the last year of a five-year deal between Champ Car and the Grand Prix Association, and the series, in turn, performed like a major leaguer in a contract year in front of 75,000 in attendance.
Sebastien Bourdais was worried. No one else in Long Beach could possibly have imagined why not the 80,000 fans watching along Shoreline Drive or anyone viewing the telecast.
The thin 27-year-old from Le Mans was dominating the field at the annual street race as if he was driving a Long Beach police car and everyone else was pulled off to the side — which was the case, literally, for Paul Tracy and three others.
Sebastien Bourdais has gone from one extreme to another. From the nightmare that was three bad days in Las Vegas to yet another dream run in Long Beach.
Bourdais survived three re-starts, including one with less than two minutes left in the race, to win for the third consecutive time here before about 90,000 fans.
“It feels really good for the whole McDonald’s team,” said Bourdais, who is part of Newman/Hass/ Lanigan Racing. “They worked their tails off all winter. I really, really couldn’t feel any worse than what I was feeling after Vegas, making all those mistakes.”
Sebastien Bourdais fought a two-front war at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The 26-year-old Frenchman was victorious on the first, holding off four-time champ Paul Tracy to win one of the most action-packed races in years.
Will Power started fourth in the Champ Car World Series main event. But seconds after the series swan song began, Power made a sweet move to the left of the first three cars and had the lead by the first turn. Power went on to lead 81 of 83 laps — he was in the pits during the two laps he did not lead — on his way to a dominating 5.094-second victory over Franck Montagny before about 70,000. Mario Dominguez was third, some 15.516 seconds behind Power.
“We had problems all weekend but we fixed everything for the race and my engineer did a great job,” said Power, who races for KV Racing Technology. “Knowing it all came together in the race, it was just (cool) in the car.”
Dario Franchitti had twice finished in second place to a driver from Target Chip Ganassi Racing at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach during his Champ Car World Series days.
But in a weekend filled with irony, Franchitti won the 85-lap Indy Racing League main event as a member of Team Ganassi. “You know what they say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em,” Franchitti said seconds after he stepped out of his car. “… Yeah, the Target cars do have a great history here.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay started second behind pole-sitter Will Power, but he passed Power on Lap 18 when Power slowed for a moment and pulled toward the outside. Power said afterward his car got stuck in first gear.
Taking full advantage, Hunter-Reay took the lead for good, for all intents and purposes, winning the 36th running of the race by more than five seconds. The only time Hunter-Reay did not lead after overtaking Power was briefly during two subsequent pit stops. Hunter-Reay led 64 of 85 laps.
Justin Wilson finished second and Power was third. Hunter-Reay, of Andretti Autosport, said he dedicated the victory to his mother, Lydia, who had died five months earlier of colon cancer.
Mike Conway was only 10 months removed from a frightful crash at the Indianapolis 500 when he took to the streets of Long Beach. Conway had suffered a broken leg and compression fracture of a vertebra the previous May 30 at the Brickyard, and the Dreyer & Reinbold Racing driver was out the rest of the season.
He came back with Andretti Autosport and won the Grand Prix when he overtook Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchitti on Lap 72 of 85. Briscoe, of Penske Racing, finished second. Franchitti, of Team Chip Ganassi, was third. Afterward, Conway spoke about his road back from the accident at the Indy 500.
“Initially, I saw the injuries I had, and I wasn’t sure when I’d get back,” said Conway of England. “Things like that can definitely stop your career. But I was determined not to let it.”
Will Power didn’t seem to have a terrific chance to win the 38th Grand Prix. His and several other cars powered by Chevrolet engines were forced to start 10 grid positions back from where they qualified because of unauthorized engine changes.
Power of Australia qualified second but started 12th. One by one, he picked off drivers ahead of him. He made passes on a course not easy to pass on, and also had just two pit stops instead of three. It all amounted to a 0.86-second victory over Simon Pagenaud.
“You know, this was a very sweet victory because I’ve been on pole here I think ’09, ’10 and ’11, and it just frustrated me that every year something would happen and I couldn’t win,” Power said. “I thought, ‘Oh, once again this weekend I’m starting 12th.’ I felt as though that’s impossible to win. ‘I’ve got another bad year at Long Beach.’” Power also won in Long Beach in 2008 in the Champ Car series finale ahead of it merging with IndyCar that year.
Takuma Sato entered with nary a win in major open-wheel racing. That’s counting parts of seven seasons in Formula One and three-plus years in IndyCar. He has one now, and he did it in very impressive fashion, beating second-place Graham Rahal across the finish line by 5.3 seconds in front of about 70,000. He led the final 50 laps of the 80-lap race.
Immediately after getting out of his car, Sato was about as thrilled as a driver can be. “Just fantastic,” he said. “The car was great, pits were perfect. It was just an incredible feeling.”
The deafening applause heard in Long Beach about 3:45 p.m. might have come from across the Pacific Ocean, as Sato became the first Japanese driver to win an IndyCar race.
Drivers don’t usually root for other drivers to make mistakes. However, had Ryan Hunter-Reay not pulled what he did, Mike Conway almost assuredly would not have crossed the finish line first.
But Hunter-Reay did try what seemed an ill-advised inside pass attempt on leader Josef Newgarden on Turn 4 on Lap 56, causing a five-car pileup that nearly blocked the track completely. Conway and Will Power were two of those who sneaked through the rubble and Conway eventually ended up winning the race just 0.9 seconds ahead of Power.
The Southern California jinx is broken.
Scott Dixon took over fifth place in Verizon IndyCar career victories when he finally won the 41st annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday afternoon. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing driver jumped to the lead on the first round of pit stops and pulled away for his 36th win in front of approximately 70,000 on a sunny Sunday afternoon. “I still can’t believe I have won here at Long Beach,” he said. “We’ve had some bad luck, so it’s nice to get the job done properly. It’s a race I’ve always wanted to win.”
Did he or didn’t he? Did Simon Pagenaud’s pit exit move violate IndyCar rules? The two right-side tires of the series points leader appeared to cut onto the track about a meter too early. Pagenaud eventually received just a warning and he inherited the lead, then held off hard-charging Scott Dixon to win the caution-free 80-lap race. “Another inch to the right and it changes the outcome of the race,” said Pagenaud.
James Hinchcliffe in May 2015 was nearly killed during practice for the Indianapolis 500. Sunday, he won his first race since then, taking a victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in front of about 70,000.
Hinchcliffe pumped his fist over and over again as the checkered flag came down. “It’s one that every driver wants to win,” he said. “The greats have all won here and for us … to get in the winner’s circle was huge.”
Alexander Rossi can remember growing up watching IndyCar races from his Northern California home, dreaming that one day he might be fortunate to compete against his heroes.
But not even his wildest dreams included winning what he envisions as the big three — the Indianapolis 500, Watkins Glen (New York) and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
The three-year Verizon IndyCar Series driver checked off Indy in 2016, Watkins Glen last season and completed the trifecta Sunday by dominating the 44th Long Beach Grand Prix.“Those are three pretty good ones, huh? I realized it when I was told that on the podium and that’s pretty spectacular,” said Rossi.
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