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April 14 in Motorsports History: Michael Andretti’s final win

In 1986, Michael Andretti’s first IndyCar victory came at Long Beach. Fittingly, his 42nd and final victory also came there 16 years later.

But while his first victory came after a close battle to the finish with Al Unser Jr., Andretti’s second victory came with the help of pit strategy.

0101687P GP of Long Beach

14 Apr 2002: Team Motorola driver Michael Andretti celebrates his victory at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, round 2 of the CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams) FedEx Championship Series in Long Beach, California.DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Getty Images

Andretti didn’t seem a major contender for the victory early in the race, having started 15th.

However, his team made a calculated gamble by having him stay on track when the majority of the lead pack pitted on Lap 33, putting him off-sequence from everyone else.

Andretti led until pitting on Lap 47 but regained first for good on Lap 62 as others made their final stops. He held off a hard-charging Jimmy Vasser yby 0.466 seconds to win for the final time in his illustrious career.

“It was big. You know, this place is so special,” a teary-eyed Andretti told Fox. “This is where I won my first race, and it felt so good doing it for Team Motorola.”

Following the 2002 CART season, Andretti purchased a majority share in the team and moved it to the Indy Racing Leauge. He retired from full-time competition following the 2003 Indianapolis 500, though he did make two final ‘one-off’ appearances at Indy in 2006 and ’07.

Other past races at Long Beach that took place on this date:

1991: Al Unser Jr clinched his fourth consecutive victory at Long Beach, winning by 3.892 seconds over Bobby Rahal. He would win at Long Beach two more times, in 1994 and ’95.

1996: Jimmy Vasser won at Long Beach for the first and only time in his career, taking the lead when Gil de Ferran, who led 100 of 105 laps, had mechanical problems with four laps remaining.

2019: Alexander Rossi led all but five laps in his dominant victory at Long Beach, his second in a row at the famed street course. Rossi’s winning margin of 20.236 seconds was the biggest since Al Unser Jr.'s 23-second romp in ’95. Andretti Autosport also earned its 200th win across all motorsports.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994