Mario Andretti, the greatest race car driver of the 20th Century, wins 100th Career Victory.

For the last four decades of the 20th century the Andretti appellation has been synonymous with excellence in auto racing in recognition of several members of the auto racing family that had its origins in Italy. Twins Mario (1940- ) and Aldo Andretti were born in 1940 in Montona, Italy, where the youngsters grew up during a time of upheaval in the war-torn country that forced the family to relocate them from their place of birth. The family lived in a couple of places in northern Italy where the twins dabbled with automobiles and became attracted to racing. In 1955 the Andretti family moved to Nazareth, Pennsylvania where they became involved in dirt track racing. While Aldo's career was short-lived owing to serious injuries in a crash, Mario's pursuit of excellence in auto racing was in its early and invaluable learning stages. Riding in a variety of tracks and circumstances provided Mario with valuable experience that he utilized successfully and that he coupled with such an enormous degree of self-confidence that he was said to intimidate competitors. In his heyday he became known, not only for his speed, but also for his style - a quality not easily put into words, but one that emanated his persona. As he explained, "No one can answer for sure where the style and speed come from. We Italians express ourselves in a flamboyant way." In the course of his racing career he traveled extensively frequently returning to Italy for which he retains a warm feeling.

The number of records that he set speaks for itself. Andretti won 100 races including prestige events like the USAC Championships in 1965, 1966, and 1969 and the Grand Prix of Endurance in 1970. He was the only racer to be named Driver of the Year in three different decades -1967, 1978 and 1984, the only one to win the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and Formula One title and the only four time Indy national championship. In addition he was one of only three drivers to win on ovals, road courses and dirt tracks in one season. In 1993 Mario set a world closed-course speed record of 234.275 mph. In 1993 when he won the Indy Car race in Phoenix, it marked his 100th career victory. Although now retired from professional auto car racing, his accomplishments in a career of more than 40 years rank him with the greatest auto racers of all time. Mario Andretti's achievements have brought him fame and fortune -he owns a winery, an auto dealership, a string of car washes, markets a brand of gasoline, and starred in an IMAX movie. He has also seen two of his sons, Jeff and Michael and his nephew John enter the field of professional racecar drivers. Perhaps the lasting tribute to his legacy was proffered in 2000 when racing peers and experts named Mario the greatest racecar driver of the 20th century.

An earlier native Italian who fared well in American racing was Ralph DePalma (1883-1956), who was the Indianapolis winner in 1915.

View Previous Entry     View Next Entry       Back to Timeline