The Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD

Image by Andre/Motorsport Images

The Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD

Insights & Analysis

The Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD


Q: Of all the types of racing you’ve competed, were there any you feel you never quite mastered?

Brad Hagemann

MA: I don’t think I mastered any of the disciplines that I wasn’t doing full-time. Probably stock cars, as an example. Anything you aren’t doing week after week, you can’t say you mastered it.

Q: How important do you think it is for IndyCar to get a third engine supplier? What would be higher on Roger Penske’s list than that?

Dan Vukobrat
Oshawa, Canada

MA: I think having as many manufacturers as possible is best, because it expands the dimension of the series. As far as how Roger Penske prioritizes his list of important goals, it’s hard to know what’s on top and where finding another engine supplier would rank. Roger will skillfully juggle everything on his plate.

Q: When Kevin Cogan’s car took you and A.J. out at the start of the 1982 Indy 500, was it a half shaft on his car or driver error ?


MA: He claimed it was a half shaft, but we were never able to certify that.

Q: My first season watching IndyCar was your last season in 1994. What were your memories of the season? Particularly, what was it like as the season went on and the amount of races ticked away? Was there a growing amount of sadness towards the end, or were you just happy it was over?

Also, there was, and to this day has been, a lot of talk about your relationship with then teammate Nigel Mansell. Some have even rumored that he was the reason you retired. Looking back, what were your thoughts on having him as a teammate?

Thanks for reading,
Jamie Sullivan

MA: I had mixed emotions that entire season. I was happy and grateful and sad and reflective. I had a very heavy heart, because it was over and 36 years had gone by so fast. But I was happy that I had loved the sport for so long and had accomplished so much. And happy that I retired on my own terms; it was meaningful and fulfilling, and I walked away when I was ready. And it wasn’t my relationship with Nigel, it was my age (54) that determined my retirement.

Q: I remember many, many years ago you did a guest ride on someone’s 500 GP or MotoGP bike.  Do you still ride today? What bikes do you own?

Cleveland, Ohio

MA: My ride is a couple years old, a Honda CBR1000RR with Repsol livery. I might take it out this afternoon.

Q: If you could race a driver from the past one-on-one, both of you in your primes, who would be the other driver, what type of racing, and what course?

Brad Hagemann

MA: I would race Juan Manuel Fangio in the present F1 car at Road America.

Can you imagine Andretti and Fangio going head-to-head at Road America in a couple of these? Image by Motorsport Images

Q: What are your thoughts on the Lotus 88, and what was driving it like the very first time?

Thanks for your time,

MA: The design of that car did not conform with the existing regulations. As far as I know, the car was never raced. And I never drove the Lotus 88.

Q: I’m fascinated by the dynamic between you and your brother Aldo. Specifically, how have you been able to get past the difficult fact that Aldo had to stop racing, and the one time he was supposed to be in a Champ Car, it was taken from him at the last minute for your pursuit of the championship in ’68? This would make lesser men give up speaking to each other, twin brothers or not.  What’s the secret – how did you and Aldo stay close?  I mean no insult at all – I’m in awe of the lives you and he have led. It’s amazing how your paths had to differ. Thank you for your time!

Bill Bailey

MA: What you are claiming as fact never happened. I never put Aldo aside to pursue a championship for myself. In 1968 I owned my own team. Aldo had a potential ride with another team but the ride fell through. I had nothing to do with it, and Aldo would tell you the same thing. As far as the secret to how Aldo and I stay so close, it isn’t anything we have ever had to work at. There’s no secret. It’s just real. We love each other.

Q: I just finished reading Adrian Newey’s excellent book, and there are a few interesting stories about you in it. One of these is a story of a test session with you when he was a race engineer for Newman/Haas. He said that at that test, you came by the pits and the crew noticed your rear wing was about to fail. A few moments later they heard a big crash and all jumped in their rentals, only to arrive and find your race car scattered across the track and you standing beside the mess looking down at your wrist. Newey said he ran up to you and asked if you were OK. He said your reply was, “My goddamned watch stopped”.

After writing off one of the teams chassis and having a brush with what sounds to be a big one, how did you manage to be so calm that just moments after the crash, clearly not moved by the incident and looking at your watch? Why the hell were you looking at your watch?

Michael Mudjer
Chicago, IL

MA: Everyone was so emotional, shocked and trembling around me. There were pieces of the car all over. I said something – anything – just to let everyone know I was OK. I wasn’t trying to be funny. I was just trying to lighten the mood. And say something so that they knew I was OK. So I said “my watch stopped”.

Q: I’ve heard a few interviews in which you’ve mentioned the death of Jud Larson and Red Riegel at Reading. How did their deaths affect you at the time? How did that impact your racing, and did you ever consider getting out of racing?

Tim Falkiewicz

MA: Both died the same night in Reading. It was definitely the dark side of our sport, but I never considered getting out of racing. It wasn’t like I was immune to the shock or to the grief. It was devastating. And quitting and walking away from any business is an option when something terrible happens. But I never let setback be the final word. I tried to manage both good and bad. Not being too overconfident when things are going well. And not getting overcome by tragedy. I always tried to focus on what’s next. Success takes the appropriate response. Everything is manageable. Some stretches of our lives are just going to be more difficult than others.