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 drove for both Enzo Ferrari and Colin Chapman. What would they have thought about racing today, especially F1? Way more complicated and way more expensive than in their day.

Al Gordon

MA: I don’t know what they would have thought, but I feel that no matter what, they both would have excelled in any era.

Q: What was the best and worst car you ever raced on (1) dirt (2) paved oval (3) road course. I think many of us can guess a couple, but still would be great to hear your answers. Thanks for being a great face of our sport for so long! 

John Weaver
Camp Hill PA 

MA: Worst on dirt was the 1970 STP Kuzma Dodge owned by Andy Granatelli. The best car on dirt was the 1974 King Ford owned by Vels Parnelli. On paved oval, the best was the 1987 Newman/Haas Lola and the worst was the 1970 McNamara Ford owned by Granatelli. Road course worst was the Wildcat Mark 8B Cosworth in 1982 owned by Pat Patrick. Best on road course… they were all good. Not one stands out as the best.

Q: Who was your favorite teammate, other than Michael?  Langhorne or Trenton? Do you miss Damenti’s?

Jim Kupstas

MA: I had a few favorite teammates. Ronnie Peterson, for sure. Jacky Ickx was also a dream teammate. He and I were teammates in 11 grand prix races for Ferrari – six in 1971 and five in 1972. In the same timeframe, we ran nine endurance races, had six poles, four wins and one second place finish. We had a lot of success in our very brief time together, and we became friends very quickly. I’d pick Trenton over Langhorne. Yes, I miss Damenti’s (for anyone who doesn’t know, it was a restaurant in Pennsylvania that burned down).

Andretti and Ickx were only teammates for a short time, but they picked up a lot of silverware. Image by Rainer Schlegelmilch/Motorsport Images

Q: Why can’t we go back to lighter, normally-aspirated V12, V10 or V8 engines in F1? The sound gives one goosebumps. The current crop sound like glorified lawnmowers. Yes, they have broken lap records at many venues, but it took them over 10 years to do so.

Tony Perrella

MA: I agree with you about the sound, which is a big part of the excitement in racing, but they won’t go back because it’s no longer the leading edge of technology.

Q: Seeing Jeff Gordon, Ray Evernham and Mark Webber just being fans at the Knoxville Nationals in 2019 proved to me that most racers (even at the highest levels like NASCAR, IndyCar and F1) were fans of racing long before they made racing a career.  Any races on your bucket list to attend as a fan that you haven’t made it to?

Troy
Knoxville, IA

MA: I’d like to go to Singapore for the F1 race.

Q: Did your son get fair shake with Ron Dennis and Ayrton Senna? Did the drivers share info freely? Go Marco.

Refugee John
Lake George N Y

MA: Not from Ron Dennis, but Ayrton Senna was very good to Michael. As far as information sharing, you’d probably have to ask Michael.

Q: How do you rate your 1987 season? You took the risk with the Chevy engine and it gave you the fastest car on the circuit, and I imagine, an incredibly fun car to drive. You won two of the bigger races on the schedule in Long Beach and Road America, and lapped the field in all three 500 mile races but broke in each, including the heartbreak of Indy… plus got injured in a crash. How do you view it all together now?  

Chad Holmes
Weston, WI

MA: My 1987 season could have been a championship year but for engine reliability. It was the right engine choice at the wrong time. I don’t recall an injury in 1987.

Q: Of all past circuits IndyCar has raced under, during all eras, what venue do you think they should be putting the most effort into returning to? (Even if they had to get someone to rebuild it because it no longer exists).

FormulaFox

MA: Pocono

Q: I first saw you race at Mid-Ohio the summer of 1975 in the F5000 series. Seeing you race against Brian Redman, Jackie Oliver, David Hobbs, and many others was a fantastic experience for an 18-year-old, and one of the reasons I got hooked on auto racing. I loved the sound of the F5000 cars with their stock block engines. They were fast, and also one of the prettiest open-wheel cars I’ve seen. So I have always wondered, what did you think of the F5000 cars? Were they exciting to drive? And were they as good or better than the F1 cars you drove?

Rick Schneider,
Charlotte

MA: I loved driving F5000 cars as much as any Formula One cars. The second part of your question is tough. At the time, in the ‘70s, they were about equal performance. The top Formula 5000 cars were very much at par with F1 in performance.

Q: You have had the opportunity to drive many race and street cars over many different generations of rules and regulations. What is your all-time favorite race car and street car?

Peter Saarniit

MA: I don’t have a favorite race car. I drove 167 different race cars in my professional career. There isn’t one that stands out. My all-time favorite street car is usually the newest car I’m driving with the newest technology.

Q: When we can expect your biographical movie or book? Your history is very interesting for all of us, especially fans who are following every series around the world.

Jakub Dradrach
Wroclaw, Poland

MA: NBC did a one-hour documentary that aired May 2019. You can watch it on YouTube. It’s called “Drive Like Andretti”.

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