Mario's Indianapolis 500 Winner

This is another great perspective piece from artist David Story. This outstanding sketch captures an image of Mario Andretti in his 1969 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race-winning Brawner Hawk racer. His victory that year is the stuff of the great lore of the historic race for several reasons. One, it is Mario's only triumph in the great race despite 30 starts. He is well known for tough luck at the Brickyard, but did finish in the top 10 on 11 occasions, including second-place finishes in 1981 and 1985. He dominated on occasions, most notably in 1987, only to be robbed of victory due to mechanical failure.
The second big reason his 1969 success was so rich with storylines is because the car he drove, the Brawner Hawk, was a "back-up" machine. The primary car, the Colin Chapman-designed Lotus 64 was fast as blazes in practice but the typically light-weight engineering of the marques proved fragile and a broken hub sent Andretti into the wall on the last day of practice before time trials destroying the machine in a massively spectacular explosion of energy. The more conventional Clint Brawner machine provided the dependability to final get Mario to victory lane.
Mario's travails at Indianapolis were undoubtedly the reason fan balloting scored him "only" seventh among the "Greatest 33" ranking of drivers ever to compete in the Indianapolis 500 as the rules were to only consider performances in that event. Looking at Andretti's broader career, any objective bench racer would have to agree he, more than anyone, demonstrated versatility. The Associated Press and RACER Magazine both named him "driver of the century."
An Italian immigrant in the wake of World War II, his parents located the family in rural Pennsylvania. Against the wishes of their father teenagers Mario and brother Aldo surrpetitiously launched a career in auto racing, especially dirt track sprint cars. While Aldo suffered severe injuries that he recovered from but stunted his career his twin brother quickly ascended up through the elite professional ranks. When he burst on the scene at Indianapolis in 1965 few Hoosier railbirds could pronounce his name but that did not last long. In one his most brilliant performances at the historic track he finished third to snare rookie of the year honors.
From there Mario went on to score 52 Indy car victories, second on the all-time list behind A.J. Foyt. A greater claim to fame came with his Formula One World Championship in 1978, a series in which he earned 12 wins during his career. Mario coveted Le Mans but fell one place short with a second overall in 1995 - but that was good enough for a class win. He did enjoy major victories in top level sports car racing with several wins including three at the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1972 Daytona 24. He was named driver of the year in three different decades, a clear demonstration of his longevity. He is, of course, a member of several auto racing halls of fame. In 2006 he received the Italian government's highest civilian award.

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