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

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III