On this day in 1987, in the fastest race in Indy car racing at the time, 24-year-old Michael Andretti wins the Marlboro 500 at the Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan, with an average speed of 171.490 miles per hour.
Michael Andretti had made his debut on the Indy circuit three years earlier, and was a co-winner of the 1984 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award. In racing to his historic win in the 1987 Marlboro 500, Andretti benefited from the bad luck of his father, Mario Andretti, one of the most successful auto racing drivers of all time. The elder Andretti’s engine fell after he built a two-lap lead, and his son was able to overtake him. Michael Andretti then held off drivers Al Unser Sr. and Bobby Rahal over the last 94 laps to win. Unser finished 9.11 seconds after the winner, edging out Rahal for second place. Rahal held the previous speed record for an Indy race, having won the 1986 Indianapolis 500 with an average speed of 170.722 mph.
Michael won the Marlboro 500 again in 1989 and in 1991 captured the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) title. He also finished second in the CART points race five times (1986, 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1996) and became the winningest driver in CART history with 42 victories. Like his father, however, Michael had a more difficult time in American auto racing’s most prestigious event: the Indianapolis 500. Out of 44 combined Indy starts, father and son had only one win–Mario’s in 1969, in the fifth of his 29 Indys. Over the course of his career, Michael Andretti led for a total of 382 laps in the Indianapolis 500, 12th-most overall and the most by a driver not to win the race. He finished second in 1991 and had three other top-four finishes; in 1992, one of his best chances slipped away after he led during 160 laps but lost fuel pressure less than 27 miles from the finish.
Michael Andretti retired as a driver in 2003, at the age of 40, to concentrate on owning and running his racing business, Andretti Green Racing. His son Marco, born in 1987, represents the third generation of the Andretti racing dynasty. Driving for Andretti Green Racing, Marco made a smashing Indy debut in 2006, finishing second in his first Indianapolis 500 and winning Rookie of the Year honors.