Mario Gabriele Andretti (born February 28, 1940) is an American racing driver, arguably the most successful US citizen in auto racing. During his career, he has won four Champcar titles, and the 1978 Formula One World Championship. Andretti is the only person ever to win the Indy 500, the Daytona 500, and the Formula One World Championship.
He was born in the Italian town of Montona on the Istrian Peninsula (today Motovun, Croatia). After World War II, the Istrian Peninsula passed to Yugoslavia under the Communist regime of Tito. His family, like many other Istrians, fled in 1948 and spent the next seven years in a displaced persons camp. The Andretti family eventually resettled in Nazareth, Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley.
Andretti began racing cars in 1959, just after his family had moved to the United States. He made his debut in the USAC series in 1964, and won the championship the very next season. Andretti took part in many different categories of racing, and by 1969, he had won the Indy 500, the Daytona 500 and the 12 Hours of Sebring.
Formula One career
He also started taking part in Formula One, taking the pole for his first race at Watkins Glen in 1968, and winning his first race in 1971 for Ferrari. By the mid-1970s, Andretti started to focus on Formula One, driving for Colin Chapman's Lotus team. In 1977, at Long Beach, he became the only American to win the United States Grand Prix. With the revolutionary "ground effect" car, Andretti won 6 races in 1978, and took the title - a bittersweet victory in light of the death of teammate Ronnie Peterson. However, Andretti would find little success after 1978 in Formula One, failing to win another race in that series.
He returned to Champcars in the 1980s, and won his fourth title in 1984, the first series title for Champcar owner/sports car driver/actor Paul Newman. His last victory in that class came in 1993. Andretti kept racing to try to win the only important missing award - the 24 hours of Le Mans, but failed to do so (his current best finish is 2nd).
Many people, particularly Americans, still consider him to be the finest all-around driver ever, and in 2000, the Associated Press and RACER magazine named him "Driver of the Century." The same year, he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame.
Both of Mario Andretti's sons, Michael and Jeff, are also involved in auto racing, and Michael has won the Champcar title as well. As of 2003 he was Champcars' winningest driver. Mario's nephew John has had success in both Champcars and NASCAR, winning races in both series, and his grandson Marco has won a championship in Champcars' "Stars of Tomorrow" kart racing series.
Last updated: 07-30-2005 00:48:44