April 16 in Motorsports History: A controversial win at Long Beach

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While the Long Beach Grand Prix has been incredibly kind to the Andretti family, the 1989 edition of the race is one that Mario Andretti likely does not remember too fondly.

By the late 1980s, Andretti had won a Formula One race at the famed street course in 1977, and three of the first four CART-sanctioned events at Long Beach in 1984, ’85 and ’87. His son Michael won his first race there in ’86.

But on April 16, 1989, Mario’s bid for “King of the Beach” unofficially was snatched away by defending Long Beach winner Al Unser Jr.

Starting from the pole position, Unser dominated early and seemed on track for his second-consecutive victory in the event.

Meanwhile, Andretti qualified fifth and slowly worked his way to the front. While Unser clearly had the faster car, he had to slow his pace to save fuel. By then, Andretti had reached second, and with the help of a quick pit stop, he emerged from the pit cycle just ahead of Unser.

As they entered Turn 3 on Lap 84, they approached the lapped car of Tom Sneva. Unser drove under Andretti for the lead but made contact and caused Andretti to spin.

While Andretti’s day was done, Unser’s car continued to run without a front wing through the checkered flag. Unser’s victory was his second in a four-race win streak at Long Beach that dubbed him “King of the Beach.”

Andretti finished 18th and confronted Unser in victory lane.

“I find it very difficult to congratulate him of course,” Andretti told ABC Sports. “He blatantly just spun me out of the way. If that’s the way he wants to play, it’s pretty sorry. It’s a pretty sorry drive, really.”

Unser said he had ‘mixed emotions’ about the incident.

“I ain’t putting the blame on anybody,” Unser said. “It’s my fault because I did the hitting, but goddang it, they all stopped in front of me and couldn’t help it.”

Also on this date:

2000: Paul Tracy started Long Beach from 17th but worked his way to first place by Lap 62 to win the race for the second time in his career. Tracy would win twice more at Long Beach in 2003-04.

2016: A daring inside pass for the lead in the first corner was all Ricky Taylor needed to set the tone for IMSA’s Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach. He and his younger brother, Jordan, cruised to an overall win in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, leading all but two laps.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994

Andretti Autosport picks James Hinchcliffe for last 3 races of season

Andretti Autosport James Hinchcliffe
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James Hinchcliffe will finish the NTT IndyCar Series season for Andretti Autosport, replacing Zach Veach in the No. 26 Dallara-Honda.

The team made the announcement Friday afternoon that Hinchcliffe will return after racing for Andretti at Texas Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Indianapolis 500.

Hinchcliffe, who also has worked as an IndyCar on NBC analyst and pit reporter, will race in the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“It’s always unfortunate to have to change drivers this far into a season, but we have to look at finishing the year the best we can for the 26 team and start evaluating and looking at options for 2021,” team owner Michael Andretti said in a release. “James has an existing relationship with our team that we’d love to build on and it makes the most sense for him to step in for these last three races. We are looking forward to seeing what he can do.”

Hinchcliffe has a season-best finish of seventh in the Indy 500. He had been working on trying to put together a deal for next season after scrambling to secure a partial schedule this year when he lost his ride at Arrow McLaren SP after 2020 with a year left on his deal.

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“I know, probably better than most, what Zach is feeling right now, and I have to say that he has handled everything about as class act as you can,” Hinchcliffe said. “I’ve known Zach as a teammate, before that as a colleague and even before that as a friend, and he is a guy that I respect in every way. I know he is a fighter and will fight back to where he wants to be.

“For me now, my focus is 100% on racing the Harvest GP and getting the best possible results for Gainbridge, for Honda, for Michael and for the team. I obviously haven’t been on a road course in a while, but at least the last time I was, it was here at IMS! Hopefully that puts us in a good position to go out there and have a strong weekend.”