Part four of the 15-part feature series ‘How Roger Penske Changed The Indy 500,’ which celebrates the most successful entrant at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the 50th anniversary of his first which took place in 1969, features Mario Andretti.
Andretti, whose lone Indy 500 win came the same year as Penske’s introduction to Indy, drove for The Captain at the Speedway from 1976 to 1980. Pictured above: Andretti with his Penske McLaren M24-Cosworth in 1977.
Below are a few excerpts from the interview:
FROM SPORTS CAR ENTRANT TO THE 1969 INDY 500
“The one thing that I always knew [is] that he would show up, with all the bells and whistles. Roger had always done everything just absolutely first class, and it’s so easy to talk about him, because it’s all superlatives. The only thing that we were hoping is that he would be a little bit green, setups and all that, but nevertheless he was a force to be reckoned with right from the very beginning, no question about it.”
RESPECT AS A DRIVER, FIRST
“He was right there with top-level cars and at the forefront of everything. A good-looking dude on top of everything else, and so before I even got to meet him, I knew of his exploits. The biggest surprise to me was that he came out of the cockpit so early, and he just wanted to just have his own team and go in that direction, the business side. I know that all along, while he was in our sport, he was building his own empire as well. We all know what he’s done with that.
“But the thing that always amazes me about this man is he’s all-in, total racer. Here’s a man that’s a billionaire and he could just go out there on an island and just soak up the sunshine and enjoy life in that respect.”