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The Day in Sports | Countdown to 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: April 1, 1984

Switch to Indy Cars Pivotal for Grand Prix

April 01, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the early 1980s, most motor sports fans could agree on one thing:

Formula One road races were wonderful. Almost everyone loved the sleek, roaring European cars.

Except for one guy: promoter Chris Pook.

His Formula One races at Long Beach were drawing more than 80,000 people, but the overhead was brutal.

His problem: The cars had to be flown in from Europe to Long Beach. When his tab for this reached $2 million, he made the only possible solution.

He switched to Indy cars, which were already in this country.

The first Long Beach Toyota Grand Prix race featuring Indy cars happened 15 years ago today, before 55,000. The race, which celebrates its 25th anniversary on April 18, now routinely draws more than 100,000 people.

Mario Andretti won the first race with Indy cars in what turned out to be a leisurely drive for him around downtown Long Beach.

He won by almost a full lap on the 1.67-mile course, or by 63.2 seconds over Australian Geoff Brabham.

And even though the cars were very much American, the race still had an unmistakable international look. Six of the first seven finishers were foreign-born, including Andretti, 44, who is a naturalized American born in Italy.

Andretti and his red Lola were never challenged at any time during the race. He averaged 82.898 mph.

Also on this date: On the same day, at UCLA, Cheryl Miller and twins Pam and Paula McGee combined for 50 points and 23 rebounds to lead USC to a 72-61 win over Tennessee for the Trojans' second consecutive NCAA championship. . . . In 1958, before 18,000 at Los Angeles' Wrigley Field, Mexican boxer Pajarito Moreno--who had knocked out 29 of his 33 foes--was knocked out by featherweight champion Hogan "Kid" Bassey of Nigeria. . . . In 1914, Rube Waddell, one of baseball's best left-handed, turn-of-the-century pitchers, died at 38 of tuberculosis. His best year was 1905, when, with the Philadelphia A's, he was 26-11 with a 1.48 earned-run average. His highest major league salary: $3,000.

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