April 10 in Motorsports History: Mario Andretti’s 50th victory

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Nearly 1,700 officially sanctioned events have taken place over more than 100 years of American open-wheel racing, but fewer than 300 drivers have been lucky enough to win a race. Even fewer have been able to win more than once.

The 25-plus win club is even smaller, with only 16 drivers ever reaching that mark, and there are only two drivers who can say they’ve won more than 50 races in IndyCar (though Scott Dixon, who has 46 victories, might be able to join them someday).

A.J. Foyt was the first driver in history to win 50 IndyCar races, accomplishing this feat in the 1975 Rex Mays Classic at Milwaukee. He would retire with 67 total victories.

It would not be until nearly 13 years later that another driver would reach the 50-win mark — Mario Andretti on April 10, 1988.

Andretti entered the Checker 200 at Phoenix International Raceway having gone 21 years and 30 races since his last victory at the track.

But luck would be on Andretti’s side that Sunday afternoon. While others dominated early on in the race, Andretti inherited the lead on the 66th lap. He never looked back and led through the checkered flag to collect his milestone victory.

At one point, Andretti was in position to lap the field, but he slowed his pace in the closing laps, letting Roberto Guerrero and his son Michael Andretti inherit their laps back.

“Obviously, I tried not to overdo it,” Andretti said. “I tried to take care of the car as much as possible. When you have an advantage like that, you just don’t want to take chances.”

Andretti would win again in 1988 at Cleveland. Five years later, he would win his 52nd and final race, which also came at Phoenix.

Also on this date:

1999: Adrian Fernandez won the Firestone Firehawk 500k at Twin Ring Motegi, his second consecutive victory at the 1.549-mile oval roughly 85 miles north of Tokyo.

2010: Chip Ganassi Racing was victorious in Grand Am’s Porsche 250 Barber Motorsports Park with drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. The team would record seven more victories in 2010 and easily win the Daytona Prototype championship.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.