“If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.”
Mario Andretti came from humble beginnings to become one of the greatest names in racing. Andretti was born in 1940 in an Italian territory that is now Croatia. Following World War II, his family fled the country and spent the next seven years in a refugee camp. The family was able to immigrate to the United States in 1955, and settled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Not long after the move, Andretti and his twin brother Aldo discovered a dirt oval track just down the street. It was that track which would trigger Andretti’s passion for racing.
Andretti and his twin brother, Aldo, began racing on the dirt tracks of Pennsylvania in 1959 at the age of 19. They had built a 1948 Hudson Commodore using money they earned from working in their uncle’s garage, and would take turns behind the wheel. They initially kept their racing secret from their parents until Aldo was involved in a racing accident that prompted him to end his career. Despite this, Andretti continued to race and went on to win 21 modified stock car races 1960 and 46 in 1961. Andretti would join the professional ranks in 1964 when he became part of the USAC series. He would win the Champ Car National Championship the very next year.
Andretti entered his first Formula One race in 1968, earning the pole position and won his first F1 Grand Prix in 1971 driving for Ferrari. Andretti would later win an F1 World Championship in 1978 while driving for Lotus. A champion in Formula One, Champ Car, dirt tracks, and a winner at the Indy 500, Daytona 500, and 12 Hours of Sebring, few drivers can match Andretti’s success. In 5 decades of racing, Andretti competed in 879 races and had 111 wins with 109 pole positions. Andretti was named Driver of the Century by the Associated Press and in 2000, was named Driver of the Century by Racer magazine. Now retired, Mario Andretti continues to serve as one of racing’s greatest ambassadors.