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.