April 1 in Motorsports History: Mario Andretti wins at Long Beach

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The 1984 Grand Prix of Long Beach might have marked a new era for the popular street race, but it still was won by a familiar face.

After being part of the Formula One schedule since 1976, the Grand Prix became part of the CART schedule on April 1, 1984 with a previous champion taking the checkered flag in its first incarnation as an IndyCar event.

Mario Andretti, who had won the F1 race there in 1977, started the race from the pole position and never looked back, leading all 112 laps en route to his second victory in the event. Andretti became the first (and only) driver to win the event under F1 and IndyCar sanction.

“The car was just perfect. I think today I felt I could really control the pace of anyone,” Andretti told NBC Sports in victory lane. “Once we got going at the beginning, we got an idea of who was going to be the contenders, and I felt like I could really handle it. From there on, I felt if the car stayed together we’d be alright and the car just ran absolutely perfect.”

Andretti would notch five more wins in 1984 and won his fourth and final IndyCar championship by 13 points over Tom Sneva. He also would win at Long Beach again in 1985 and ’87.

Also on April 1 in history:

1997: Alex Palou was born in Antoni de Vilamajor, Spain. Palou is an IndyCar rookie this season, having previously raced in the Super Formula series in Japan.

2000: Charlotte Motor Speedway hosted a one-off American Le Mans Series race on a 2.25-mile, 10-Turn layout that was a precursor to the Roval circuit it would unveil for NASCAR 18 years later. Ex-Formula One and IndyCar driver J.J. Lehto and Jorg Muller were victorious, with Muller pulling a double stint in their BMW V12 prototype to finish the win.

2007: Helio Castroneves won the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for the second consecutive season. The Brazillian won on the 14-turn street course a third time in 2012. 

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Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).