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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 3, 1977

Andretti Found Formula for Success in the U.S.

April 03, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Better than Indy, he called it.

When Mario Andretti slipped his black Lotus past South African Jody Scheckter's black-and-gold Wolf Ford seven miles from the finish line and stayed there, he earned what he later called his greatest victory.

He'd just become the first American to win a Formula One race in the United States, where F1 races had been run since 1959 at Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen and Long Beach.

"It was my most satisfying win, more than Indy, the 37-year-old Andretti said of his U.S. Grand Prix West victory at Long Beach, 22 years ago today.

"Formula One means so much to me, you can't believe it. This is just the greatest thrill I've ever had all these years."

Andretti, who averaged 87.876 mph for the 181- mile race, said his new Lotus Mk III had never turned a wheel before he drove it in 137 practice laps.

On the 77th lap in the race, Andretti drew close to Scheckter at the end of the long straightaway on Shoreline Drive and made a bold move.

"I drove right into the turn," he said.

"I couldn't have done it without great brakes. I slipped under him on the sharp right-hander and came out of the hairpin ahead.

"I'd spent so much time looking at his rear end, I was counting the nuts and bolts.

"I concentrated so hard I just squeezed everything I could out of the car, and it gave me all I needed."

Also on this date: In 1962, horse racing legend Eddie Arcaro, 46, who rode 549 stakes winners--54 of them at Santa Anita--retired after a 30-year career. . . . On the same day, boxer Benny "Kid" Paret died, 10 days after he was badly beaten by Emile Griffith at Madison Square Garden.

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