Mario Andretti, Motorsport Legend

Petersen Publishing Archives Bob D'Olivo

1967: "All Dixie Mourns Andretti's Win," reads a headline in an Atlanta newspaper after Andretti takes the Daytona 500.

September 1967: Andretti drives a Can-Am car sponsored by Paul Newman at Bridgehampton. It's a piece of junk. Andretti famously tells Newman, "Maybe you should drive the car and I'll put my name on it." Years later they would become close friends.

October 1968: In his first Formula 1 race and first time at Watkins Glen for the U.S. Grand Prix, Andretti sticks his Lotus 49 on the pole.

May 1969: Andretti wins the Indianapolis 500, and Andy Granatelli plants a big, sloppy kiss on his cheek. The tension of the month -- low-lighted by a practice crash -- had caused Andretti to lose sixteen pounds.

February 1970: Pissed off by a PA announcer screaming that Steve McQueen was about to win the 12 Hours of Sebring--when, in fact, co-driver Peter Revson was in the car and logging most of the laps -- Andretti does a "balls out" final stint in his Ferrari 512S and takes the checkered flag by 23.8 seconds.

March 1971: Andretti fulfills a boyhood ambition and joins the Ferrari F1 team.

1972: Andretti joins Al Unser and Joe Leonard to form the Vel's Parnelli Jones Super Team. But he has his biggest successes in a sports car, winning Sebring and Daytona with Jacky Ickx in a Ferrari 312PB.

1974: Where's Mario? Pretty much everywhere. Besides DNF'ing at Indy -- where the Andretti Curse is in full force -- Andretti wins the USAC dirt-track title, scores three wins in Formula 5000, and gives the VPJ F1 car its debut at Mosport.

1976: A chance meeting with Colin Chapman in a hotel restaurant leads to Andretti joining Team Lotus.

1977: Andretti enjoys a strong season in the Lotus 78 ground-effects car. Enzo Ferrari offers him a contract for the next year. When Andretti explains that he already has a contract with Lotus, Ferrari blithely tells him, "That's what lawyers are for."

1978: Andretti rolls to a convincing world championship in the Lotus 79. But in a tragic replay of the circumstances that befell the only other American champ, Phil Hill, Andretti clinches the title at Monza, the same race in which his friend and teammate, Ronnie Peterson, is killed.

1981: Mario wins his second Indy 500! Well, for about five months. Bobby Unser took the checkered flag on race day but was penalized for passing under a yellow flag. A USAC appeals board later votes 2-1 to reinstate Unser as the winner.

When I lived in Denver in the 60s, a friend went to the Indy 500 the first year Andretti raced there. He reported,"there is this hot young driver who will be a champion -- if he lives that long". Mario did and he is!

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