The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD

Image by Andre/Motorsport Images

The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD

Insights & Analysis

The RACER.com Guest Mailbag with Mario Andretti, presented by HPD

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Q: You raced in a very dangerous era. Notwithstanding your own feelings, when an unfortunate death occurred, how was Dee Ann affected, and was it ever a topic that you and her spoke about? Also, how much grief did you get at home when you had your flying multiple 360 testing one of Michael’s team cars In 2003?

Mike DeQuardo

MA: A fatality affected everyone. There is no way I could really know how Dee Ann truly felt. We both grieved and we knew the risks. But it didn’t consume us. We didn’t dwell on death. That said, I could never know how she processed it internally. I’m sure she was very scared, especially to have me, Michael and Jeff all racing. And later in 2003 when my car flipped during a test at Indy, by the time I was able to call her, she already knew that I was OK. So watching it play over and over on TV was scary, but knowing that I walked away helped.

Q: Excluding family members, what driver from the modern era reminds you the most of yourself?

Ben Hansen

MA: Colton Herta

Q: It was obvious for a long time that Michael had a special talent for driving race cars. The most interesting thing about Michael to me is his business acumen.  I loved watching him race, but I’m amazed with what he’s done with Andretti Autosports. All his race teams are successful. His commitment to USA drivers and the Road To Indy is second to none. His Indy record is tremendous. He didn’t need to do this. My question to you is, when did you realize he’s was so talented from a business perspective? He’s the next generation’s Roger Penske.

Wally

Eden Prairie, MN

MA: Your comments about Michael are extremely kind. Very early on when we were teammates, Michael showed an interest in business. We spent a lot of time together and he was savvy and would discuss someday being a team owner and opportunities and risks. He had special insight and a desire to explore the business side of our sport. He always looked to the future and at stability and growth. There was a unique business quality about him.

Q: With the recent explosion in sim racing, have you given any thought to racing with the current drivers, or even with the legends like Emmo, on a simulator during all this? Surely there’s one close by. Fans who want to see you race again would get a big kick out of it. It’s a pretty popular idea at the moment, especially since you and Michael have some of the best/most classic racing games ever.

The Retro Rebel

MA: Never say never… but right now, the passion for sim racing hasn’t captured me. Maybe because it takes some serious commitment. I would have to be driven by pure desire before I would put the time into it. If I was a young driver trying to learn tracks, I would do it for sure.

Q: How would you feel about Formula 1 returning to Indianapolis or Watkins Glen?

Rob Peterson
Rochester, NY 

MA: I would love it.

Q: When Michael left IndyCar to try F1 for McLaren, did you have any suggestions for whom Paul and Carl should choose to take his place? Were any other drivers being seriously considered before Nigel entered the picture?

Steve in Redding, CA

MA: I had no input. It was Carl’s choice. And I didn’t question it. Carl had a deep commitment to our sport and to our team. He earned the respect and admiration of his competitors and all those who drove for him for being tenacious yet fair. In fielding teams he always sought the best equipment, the best drivers, and the best team personnel. For all those reasons, I stayed out of his business and did my job.

Andretti had no say in Nigel Mansell being signed as his teammate in 1993 – and that’s just how he liked it. Image by Motorsport Images

Q: There has been a lot of talk on the Andretti bad luck at Indy. Do you have any thoughts about the Bettenhausen bad luck at Indy?

James Turpin

MA: The Andretti bad luck cannot be compared to the tragedies that struck the Bettenhausen family. Tony Bettenhausen, the patriarch of that family was killed at Indy. Gary lost much of the use in his right arm to racing. Merle lost his entire arm at Michigan Speedway. And Tony Jr lost his life in a plane crash. The Andrettis are very, very lucky, and we have never agreed with any bad luck theory about our family.

Q: First off, thanks for doing this! What was your favorite race car to drive? And what race car scared the you-know-what out of you when you drove it?

Rick Smith
San Diego, CA

MA: I didn’t have any single favorite. I couldn’t name just one. Any car that won a race was my favorite. What scares the bejesus out of me isn’t a race car.

Q: My personal opinion is that the greatest drivers are those that drove the most variety of vehicles and were successful in everything they drove. For various reasons, drivers of today generally concentrate on a single series or car types, which likely will prevent them from demonstrating their skills in various series as drivers in your era did.

Using my criteria, my opinion is that the greatest drivers of all time are, in no particular order, yourself, Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gurney, Jim Clark, and Stirling Moss. Now, other drivers such as Senna or Schumacher may have had the talent to do so, but given their single-minded focus, any ability to drive many types of cars simply was not demonstrated during their careers. Are there other drivers you’d add to my list?

Alfred N
Northern California

MA: Fernando Alonso.

Q: What do you consider the greatest race car ever made?

David Luckert
Wisconsin 

MA: I think it depends on the era, the rules and regulations. If I had to choose today’s greatest car, I would choose the present Mercedes F1 car. But I would pick a different car depending on the era.

Q: Are you still flying your ultralight? Loved watching you fly it over your vineyard.

Cheers,
RL Featherly

MA: Yes, I still fly my ultralight almost every evening in the summer. I fly it in Pennsylvania, not California. I know the vineyard shots you’re referring to… those were shot with a drone, and I can’t take credit. I did take an IMAX camera up in my ultralight when we were filming “Super Speedway”. It was the biggest camera I’ve ever seen, like having a Volkswagen Beetle strapped in the seat next to me.

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