"Mario, being the perfect ambassador, quickly understood why Pritzker was here so what was supposed to be one lap turned into three or four while Mario was telling him about Long Beach and what a great place it was," Pook said.
"When Pritzker got out of the car, he looked at Devers and said, 'If you have the guts to run a race here, I've got enough guts to build you a hotel.' "
The Hyatt became the first major structure in the rebuilding of Long Beach, the first hotel in the downtown area. Today, there is a string of hotels along Ocean Boulevard, where at one time there were only seedy bars and beer joints, a tattoo parlor, the Pussy Cat theater and a travel agency.
Shoreline Village, the Convention Center, the downtown marina and the Long Beach Plaza followed the Hyatt.
Andretti, who finished second to Reutemann in the 1978 race, went on to win his Formula One championship and Long Beach crowds continued to grow.
The euphoria of gaining Formula One acceptance soon wore off, however, as the exorbitant cost of bringing the international spectacle from Europe outweighed its promise.
Pook and the Grand Prix Assn. switched to Indy cars for the 1984 race.
"We owe a lot to Formula One, but there are two vital factors to remember," Pook said. "It costs about one-fourth as much to put on an Indy car race, and equally important is the rebirth of the Indy car series."
Attendance fell off, from 82,000 on an F1 race day to 56,000 for the first Indy car race.
Enter Mario Andretti again.
Back in the CART series, driving a Lola-Cosworth for Carl Haas and Paul Newman, Andretti won the pole and led all 112 laps to become the first two-time Long Beach champion and the first to win both in Formula One and CART.
The race became an Andretti parade--Mario winning again in 1985, his son Michael in 1986 and Mario again in 1987. With their victories came total acceptance, the attendance rebounding to 80,000 in 1987.
"I like to think that the Grand Prix helped Long Beach to pretty much change its image," said Mario Andretti. "I remember when we first came here it was not a place where you would want to settle down. When we wanted to go to a nice restaurant we had to go to Newport Beach or toward Los Angeles.
"The Queen Mary was where we had to stay. Now there are fine restaurants, great hotels and a marvelous atmosphere. I think Chris Pook deserves much of the credit for the renaissance of the city.
"Chris and Dan Gurney got the thing going. I just hopped on the bandwagon. I hope I had something to do with it. I truly enjoy the ambience today. Long Beach is the best. I tell everyone that.
"I'm sure my winning stirred up some interest, but Long Beach stirs up a lot of memories for the Andretti family. I won there four times and it's where Michael won his first Indy car race, so it becomes more meaningful.
"To win anywhere is good, but Long Beach happened to be where things happened for us."
Andretti and Gurney will be co-grand marshals of the 25th anniversary race.
Toyota Pro-Celebrity Race
Saturday, 2:15 p.m.
Kool Toyota Atlantic Race
Saturday, 4 p.m.
Indy Lights Race
Sunday, 10:20 a.m.
Long Beach Grand Prix
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Trans Am Race
Sunday, 3:45 p.m.
SUPPORT RACES: 6-7
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Mario Andretti at Long Beach
\o7 How Mario Andretti has fared in the Long Beach Grand Prix:\f7
CART INDY CARS