Mario Andretti’s Iconic Legend Lives On

[Joe Jennings Photo]
[Joe Jennings Photo]

By Joe Jennings

INDIANAPOLIS – For more than 50 years, the name Mario Andretti has been equated with speed, daring and fame. It all started with his thrilling victory in the Indianapolis 500 in 1969 and continues to this day.

This May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Andretti is grabbing as many headlines as today’s racers. The popular driver is on the cover of the Indianapolis 500 program and this is complemented by lots of souvenir goods. And NBC has produced an excellent piece entitled “Drive Like Andretti.”

And the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum has put together an excellent exhibit that depicts Andretti’s career and accomplishments, complete with some two dozen racing machines, starting with his first sprint car ride in 1961, the car dating back to the 1940s when it was campaigned by Ted Horn.

That is only the starting point as there are USAC dirt cars, a stock car, a Can-Am vehicle, a Formula 5000 car, the 1978 Lotus that he drove to the Formula 1 championship and a host of Indy Cars that he drove and won in.

Occupying center stage is a replica of the 1969 winning Brawner Hawk that led 116 of the 200 laps while scoring his only Indianapolis 500 victory. This car is on loan from the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

The wall displays are very well done and informative. One display depicts a four-month period in !967 where Andretti raced 24 times in four disciplines while covering 24,000 miles.

Jason Vansickle, curator of vehicles for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, supervised and oversaw the production of the exhibit. The curator said one objective was to showcase the accomplishments of the drivers being featured, such as the ones done previously on A. J. Foyt and the Unsers.

“Trying to find the cars is one thing and the artefacts is another, so we just try to make a well-rounded exhibit,” Vansickle said. “It takes quite a while to do that but we are pretty proud of what we have accomplished.” Work on this endeavor started in June, 2018, and it takes a team to perform the mission.

Andretti saw the completed product for the first time in early May when he arrived here. “Mario was truly honored and grateful for it,” noted Vansickle, who paid a huge compliment to Andretti’s management team without whom the production wouldn’t have been possible.

Fan reaction has been very positive and some have even returned for a second visit.

The Mario Andretti – ICON exhibit runs continuously until November 10.

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