March 20 in Motorsports History: Michael Andretti makes a big return


March 20, 1994 was an important date in American open-wheel racing.

The date marked the first race in CART’s 16th season as a sanctioning body. The Indy cars began their season on the streets of Surfers Paradise, Australia. 

It was an important weekend for the Andretti family. For Mario Andretti, Surfers was the first round of his 16-race ‘Arrivederci Tour’. After 29 seasons in open-wheel, the sports icon finally would hang up his helmet at the season’s end.

For Michael Andretti, the weekend marked a welcome return to familiar territory. Michael spent 1993 racing in Formula One for McLaren but was replaced by Mika Häkkinen with three races remaining after being plagued by a series of poor finishes.

Michael Andretti celebrates winning at Surfer’s Paradise on 20th March 1994. (Photo by Pascal Rondeau/Getty Images)

Andretti signed with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 1994 season and picked up where he left off in the season opener.

After the first two attempts to start the race were delayed because of weather and accidents, Andretti overtook race pole-sitter Nigel Mansell during the third attempt.

He went on to dominate, leading all 55 laps of the race, which was shortened by 10 laps due to darkness.

The victory was the first for Andretti in 17 months but was his second consecutive victory in CART competition as he had previously won the 1992 season finale at Laguna Seca.

Andretti’s victory was also the first for Ganassi and the Renyard as a chassis manufacturer.

“It’s great to be back. What can I say?” Andretti told ABC Sports following his victory. “I prayed hard for this, and it came true.”

Andretti won again in the 1994 CART season in July at Toronto. He finished fourth in the overall standings.

The second-generation driver returned to Newman/Haas Racing the following year and replaced his father in the team’s No. 6 Texaco-Havoline entry. 

Also on this date:

2005: Fernando Alonso won the Malaysian Grand Prix, one of seven victories in his first championship season.

2016: The No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM team of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ed Brown, and Pipo Derani won the 64th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Derani made the race-winning pass on Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Action Express entry in the final moments of the race. 

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IndyCar releases schedule for 2023 season

IndyCar schedule 2023
Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The NTT IndyCar Series’ 2023 schedule will feature the same number of races and tracks as this season with some minor reshuffling of dates.

IndyCar will open the 2023 season March 5 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida, and will conclude Sept. 10 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. The 107th Indy 500 will take place May 28 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The 17-race schedule will conclude with a stretch of eight races in the final nine weeks.

“The NTT IndyCar Series is on an impactful upward trajectory, making progress at a pace that befits our thrilling style of competition,” Penske Entertainment Corp. president and CEO Mark Miles said in a release. “The 2023 season provides an opportunity to further build on this trend, bringing our sport and its stars to more markets and households and reaching new consumers across the globe.”

There will be 15 events on NBC: 13 races (including six of the final seven) plus Indy 500 qualifying May 20-21. There also are three races on USA Network and the Toronto race exclusively on Peacock. All races on NBC and USA also will have live simulstreams on Peacock.

In partnership with NBC Sports, the 2022 IndyCar season was the most-watched in six years and the most-watched across NBC Sports on record. The 2022 season also was the most streamed season on record.

“We’re very excited for our 2023 NTT IndyCar Series schedule and to build on this past season’s viewership milestones,” NBC Sports vice president of programming Mike Perman said in a release. “In providing comprehensive coverage across NBC, Peacock and USA Network, NBC Sports is once again looking forward to telling the stories of these world-class drivers and this compelling series.”

Notable elements on the 2023 schedule:

–There will be the same balance of seven road course races, five street courses and five ovals.

–St. Pete will be the season opener for the 13th time.

–The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix will move from Belle Isle to the streets of downtown.

–The NASCAR doubleheader weekend at the IMS road course will shift to mid-August.

–The World Wide Technology Raceway event will move from Saturday to Sunday.

Start times for the 2023 events will be announced at a later date.

Here’s the 2023 IndyCar schedule:

Date Race/Track Network/Platform
Sun., March 5 Streets of St. Petersburg NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 2 Texas Motor Speedway NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 16 Streets of Long Beach NBC, Peacock
Sun., April 30 Barber Motorsports Park NBC, Peacock
Sat., May 13 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) NBC, Peacock
Sun., May 28 The 107th Indianapolis 500 NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 4 Streets of Detroit NBC, Peacock
Sun., June 18 Road America USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 2 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course USA Network, Peacock
Sun., July 16 Streets of Toronto Peacock
Sat., July 22 Iowa Speedway – Race 1 NBC, Peacock
Sun., July 23 Iowa Speedway – Race 2 NBC, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 6 Streets of Nashville NBC, Peacock
Sat., Aug. 12 Indianapolis Motor Speedway (Road Course) USA Network, Peacock
Sun., Aug. 27 World Wide Technology Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 3 Portland International Raceway NBC, Peacock
Sun., Sept. 10 WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca NBC, Peacock

*dates and networks/platforms are subject to change