A day to remember for Andretti and Sullivan
The only father/son team to ever race to victory on the streets of Long Beach is now the first to be forever honored in the streets of Long Beach.
|Michael Andretti checks out his name in the sidewalk on Pine Ave. during the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame induction ceremony on April 15, 2010. The City of Long Beach and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach honored racing legends Danny Sullivan and Michael Andretti during the ceremony. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)|
Two-time Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach winner Michael Andretti, along with 1992 winner Danny Sullivan, was inducted Thursday into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on South Pine Avenue. Andretti joined his famous father Mario, a four-time Long Beach winner who was honored in 2008, with a 22-inch bronze medallion listing his accomplishments embedded in the concrete.
"Long Beach is very special, not only to me but my whole family," said Michael, who claimed the first (1986) and last (2002) victories of his career here. "This is a great honor and I will definitely cherish it."
Grand Prix Association of Long Beach CEO Jim Michaelian credited the Andretti family with giving the race respectability in the early years. Mario won in 1977-when Formula 1 still ran here-before Indy car victories in 1984, 1985 and 1987. Michael's victory in 1986 gave the Andretti family four consecutive Long Beach triumphs.
"The Andretti name helped solidify this event in terms of being an attraction," Michaelian said.
Michael Andretti recounted his 1986 Long Beach victory, the first of his Indy car career when he held off Al Unser Jr. over the final laps of the race. Unser, a 2009 Walk of Fame inductee, was also on hand for the ceremony.
"Al made it very interesting in the last 20 laps," Michael recalled. "I had to really work for the first one."
As a driver, Michael Andretti won a record 42 CART races and was the series champion in 1991. As a team owner, Andretti has 34 IRL victories-another series record-including the Indianapolis 500 in 2005 and 2007. Andretti teams won back-to-back IRL titles in 2004 and 2005.
Sullivan also had memories of racing Unser through the streets of Long Beach on his way to victory. In 1992, Unser was the four-time defending champion and a Galles-Kraco Racing teammate of Sullivan. They were in first and second place with three laps remaining when they collided in Turn 6, spinning Unser 180 degrees.
Sullivan managed to keep his car in the right direction and then held off Bobby Rahal over the final two laps for his only Long Beach victory.
|Danny Sullivan checks out his name in the sidewalk on Pine Ave. during the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame induction ceremony on April 15, 2010. The City of Long Beach and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach honored racing legends Danny Sullivan and Michael Andretti during the ceremony. Photo by Jeff Gritchen / Long Beach Press-Telegram (Jeff Gritchen/Press-Telegram)|
"Little Al, I'd really like to thank you for your help (in 1992)," Sullivan joked, bringing forth laughter from the crowd and from Unser himself.
"I'm honored to be in this group," Sullivan continued. "It's great to be in the crowd that's down here and I'm sure future recipients will feel the same way."
In his opening remarks, Sullivan made sure to thank veteran team owner Derrick Walker, a pivotal figure early in Sullivan's career who attended Thursday's ceremony.
"He was a great part of my success," Sullivan said.
Sullivan collected 17 Indy car victories in his career, including the 1985 Indy 500, and was the 1988 CART champion.
Several hundred media members and race fans gathered in front of the Long Beach Convention Center, including some lined up along the rails of the parking garage, to watch the fifth annual induction ceremony. Press Telegram