The story of Andretti’s 100th win

In 1993, Mario Andretti won his final CART race beating off his younger rivals who hit trouble during the race

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Thirty years ago, Mario Andretti took his final win as a driver winning the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix Raceway.

It ended a four-year winless drought and gave the Newman-Haas team plenty of confidence that their package for 1993 would dominate the season ahead.

Newman-Haas’ star signing Nigel Mansell wouldn’t take part in the race after a practice shunt; both Penskes of Paul Tracy and Emerson Fittipaldi hit trouble whilst Robby Gordon shined for AJ Foyt Racing.

So how did Andretti take victory?

Desire not to be an also run

By the early 1990s, Andretti was now entering the twilight of his career and was the last of the golden generation of American drivers to still race full-time in CART.

Nonetheless, Andretti was still competitive, finishing on the podium at least once a season.

“You’re at the end of your career at 53, and to be able to win at [53] and feel you’re still competitive” said Andretti to Total Motorsport.com. That’s what it’s all about,”  

“I was debating when is the [right] time, and I didn’t want to let go because I loved driving so much. I would still be driving today just for the love of it. 

“But you have to be realistic, and I didn’t want to end my career; being a total also run, I wanted to end my career with having some positive memories.” 

The Phoenix weekend

The major talking point heading into the 1993 season was the arrival of 1992 F1 world champion Mansell to CART following the end of his partnership with Williams.

With Michael Andretti heading the other way to McLaren, all eyes were on Mansell, and he truly showed his class with a dominant victory at Surfers Paradise.

A fortnight later, in Phoenix, Mansell would be brought back to earth with disastrous consequences as a practice crash injured his back, putting him out of the race.

With Mansell ruled out, Scott Goodyear took pole position from Andretti and Fittpaldi while Roberto Guerrero filled out the second row of the grid.

But the Canadian wouldn’t hold the lead for long as Andretti swooped by into turn one taking the lead and building a slight gap as the two Penske cars lost time behind Goodyear.

Penske hit trouble opening the door for Andretti

Tracy was undeterred and quickly closed up to Andretti, who lost time in traffic, with the young Canadian going around the outside and taking the lead.

At just under half distance, Tracy led Goodyear and Fittipaldi, with Andretti sixth three laps and behind Gordon.

Goodyear would be the first of the front runners to hit trouble suffering gearbox problems, with Gordon next out after slamming the wall at turn two, bringing the pace car out.

With less than 50 laps to go, Tracy held a two-lap lead, but when trying to lap Jimmy Vasser, the Canadian lost the rear of his car, hitting the barrier and promoting Fittipaldi into the lead.

By now, Andretti was back up to second, albeit a lap down on Fittipaldi, but just as the race restarted, the Brazilian produced a carbon copy of his teammate’s earlier spin, putting him out.

All of this left Andretti with a clear track in front of him, and he truly cruised to his final victory over Raul Boesel and Vasser, silencing his critics in the process.

“I love that I pushed the envelope as far as I possibly could and to still put a win in my column at age 53,” said Andretti.

“It sort of justified that I hung in there, and again, a win is always a win; that’s everything.”

Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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