Mario Andretti came up with the 50th victory of his Indy-car career, and first at Phoenix International Raceway in 21 years, by taking Sunday's season-opening Checker 200.
The 48-year-old racing star last won on the one-mile Phoenix oval in a 200-mile race in November 1967."I have no explanation of why it took so long," Andretti said of the Phoenix dry spell. "We won poles and ran well here, but we never could get the setup to keep the car running up front all day."
Roberto Guerrero, who held off tenacious Michael Andretti, Mario's son, over the final 10 laps to take second place, actually fell a lap behind the winner when Mario took advantage of the last of several breaks in the race on lap 132.
A blown engine brought out the last of five caution flags in the 200-lap event, with Guerrero more than half a lap behind the leader.
Andretti found himself diving into the fourth turn when the yellow flag came out and immediately veered right onto pit road for his final stop.
Guerrero took longer to get to the pits and found himself a lap down when the green flag came back out on lap 137.
"I was in the fourth turn when I saw the (yellow) flag and it was just perfect timing for us," Andretti said.
Both Guerrero and the younger Andretti got back onto the lead lap late in the race.
"Obviously, I tried not to overdo it," Mario said. "I tried to take care of the car as much as possible. When you have an advantage like that, you just don't want to take chances."
Guerrero, coming back from head injuries suffered in a crash during tire testing at Indianapolis last September, said, "That's the first, and I hope the last, time I'll be happy finishing second. But I think everybody knows I'm back for real now, and that's important."
Nobody was able to stay with Andretti's Chevrolet-powered Lola. Even driving cautiously, the winner, second only to A.J. Foyt's 67 Indy-car victories, finished 14.03 seconds ahead of Guerrero, who was just .27 seconds ahead of Michael Andretti.