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An Icon: Mario Andretti

An Italian-American Racing driver and one of America's most successful drivers in history. He is known for his ability to adapt to a variety of racing series ranging from Formula One to NASCAR to IndyCar and maintaining a level of success within each series.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Grace Cunningham aspires to work within Formula 1 Marketing and Media focusing in connecting the sport with the fans. She runs her own blog at gracef1fanatic.blogspot.com and tweets at @GraceF1Fanatic.

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June 2012 (F1plus / Grace Cunningham) SKYF1 's coverage of the Canadian brought a few familiar famous names and their faces to our TV screens... despite looking slightly different than they used to everybody knew who they were and respected their opinions. Mario Andretti was one of those people and as he was recently announced as an official ambassador for the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) track to help promote the return of F1 to America I thought it would be the perfect time to enlighten you with his incredible track record across several forms of Motorsport.

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Mario Andretti is an Italian-American Racing driver and is one of America's most successful drivers in history. He is known for his ability to adapt to a variety of racing series ranging from Formula One to NASCAR to IndyCar and maintaining a level of success within each series.

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His first taste of racing came at 13 years of age when he entered the Formula Junior in Ancona, Italy, his first successes came in Stock Car racing when he won 21/46 across 1960 and 1961. In his career he went on to win races within the USAC (United States Automobile Club) stock car events and competed in the NASCAR Sprint Cup 14 times.

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In 1962 he won three 'midget' car races and by 1965 he won his first IndyCar race at the Hoosier Grand Prix and in the same year finished 3rd in the Indy 500 which allowed him to win the rookie of the year honours. But that was not all.. he also won his first Indy Car Championship aged just 25 becoming the youngest driver to win the title. He continued his Indy success in 1966 claiming another championship after winning 8 races and securing his first Indy500 pole position.

1967 and his passion for racing continued to produce success as he won the Daytona 500 stock car race, pole position at the Indy500, runner up in the IndyCar championship and won the 12 hours of Sebring race whilst claiming the driver of the year accolade for the first time. 1968 saw another eight race victories in the IndyCar Championship and his first taste of Formula One as secured pole in the U.S Grand Prix at Watkins Glen but was forced to retire due to a clutch issue in the race. Finally in 1969 a win came for Andretti in the Indianapolis 500, he went onto win his 3rd IndyCar title ending on 30 victories and 29 poles out of 111 Indy Car starts.

Andretti after his victory at the Daytone 500 in 1967.

His performance in endurance racing in 1972 was an incredible feat winning the 6 Hours of Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring, BAOC 1000km at Brands Hatch and the Watkin Glens 6 Hours.

In 1976 his attack on Formula One began after he joined the Lotus Team under Colin Chapman and won an incredible race in Japan in horrendous weather conditions which caused Niki Lauda to pull into the pits forfeiting his chance to win the world championship. However his first Formula One title came in 1978 still driving for Lotus making history as the first driver in history to win the Indy500 and Formula One title. He continued to compete in Formula One until 1982 with 18 poles and 12 victories out of the 128 Grand Prix's he entered.

Andretti in 1977.

In 1984 Andretti won his fourth Indy Car title which included 6 wins, eight poles and ten track records which earned him his third driver of the year title making him the only driver to earn the title in three different decades. After breaking records locking out the front row of the Indy Car alongside his son Michael came 1989 in which he became teammates with Michael to make the first father-son team in IndyCar history.

1990 came and in Milwaukee his two sons and nephew joined him on the IndyCar grid to make another 'first' record this time for a race containing four family members in the same race which was replicated in 1991 at the Indy500.

1992 was a huge year for Mario as he became the oldest IndyCar pole winner and he was also named driver of the quarter century and he carried on his record setting pattern into 1993 when he became the first driver to win IndyCar races in 4 different decades.

In 1994 Mario Andretti announced that it would be his last year racing and when he finished he had won the hearts of IndyCar fans across the decades and into the future decades.

He is still heavily involved within motor sport today including his role as ambassador for COTA and a voiceover in the Cars Pixar movie. He is also one of the most sought out members of the paddock for his unique insight into the world of motor sport and he also remains one of the most respected drivers in history.

Mario Andretti's story not only demonstrates how adaptable some drivers can be within their driving skills claiming success in several series but that passion for the racing is above all else in securing a drivers future. If the skills and passion are there then so will the drive.

Mario Andretti in the iconic Lotus 79 in the Italian GP of 1978.

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