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: When I was a 13 year-old-kid hanging at the pit entry prior to the race at Langhorne, my father told you that I think that you are God and would love to meet you. You immediately walked out to the infield gate area to take a picture with me. That moment was never lost, and your kindness and respect for fan recognition is still the same today.

We discussed a moment when at Pocono prior to the race many fans were screaming for your autograph. I was very fortunate, due to my father and uncle (who used to always feed Andy G. sausage sandwiches at Trenton), to have been sitting on the pit wall next to you. You asked me if I would go get some books for you to sign, stating that if you went, it would be a bit crazy and you would miss the start. As I started towards the fans, you said ‘make sure you get all of the kids’. That was 1986, which turned out a pretty good day for you with a visit to victory lane.

These moments with you remain embedded in many a fan. After you and Michael changed career paths, we followed another great ambassador of the sport in T.K., and he did something very similar for my boys. While at Road Atlanta we asked him for a picture. He said he had a team meeting but maybe later. Thinking the opportunity was lost we continued on, and later in the morning walked the pit area again. Suddenly, we hear a voice yelling, ‘hey guys, I‘m ready for that photo now’, and apologizing for the delay. You two are related in spirit and are the best. We will be at Indy for T.K.’s second win (Were there in 201 )! 

Thank you both for being who you are and hope that your energy, love of the sport and fans is passed on to the young guns driving now.

Of all the drivers you raced against, who was the most talented that competed in  Formula 1 but never won the title? The names Dan Gurney, Ronnie Peterson and Gilles Villeneuve come to mind.

David Lind
Alexandria, Louisiana

MA: Thank you for your kind words and your memory. All three drivers you mentioned, plus Stirling Moss.

Q: Thanks for all you’ve done for motorsports over the years. I read once that Richard Petty said he’d love to have had a chance to drive in the Wood Brothers Mercury’s from back in the day to see what Petty Enterprises was up against. Has there ever been a competitors’ car or cars that you would like to have tested for that same reason? 

Jeff G
Indianapolis

MA: In 1979, the Williams F1 car.

Andretti in his Lotus 79 gives chase to Alan Jones’s Williams FW07 at the 1979 British GP. Image by Ercole Colombo/Motorsport Images

Q: I grew up about an hour from the Glen and became one of your many fans.  It’s a treat to send the following questions your way:

It must have been awesome driving so many different race cars over the course of a racing season in the ‘60s and ‘70s, competing against so many legends of the sport. Looking back, it’s like you, A.J., Parnelli, Dan Gurney, and a few others were hired guns to fend off the competition. Why do you think this practice stopped? Your versatility, from dirt cars, NASCAR, sports cars, to F1 and IndyCars was unmatched.

What was it like the first time you were tire testing at Indy with Firestone, and tried a set of slicks after running hard treaded tires for so long? Lastly, you drove a GT40 in 1966 at Le Mans with Holman Moody. What was that experience like, and the rivalry between Ford vs. Ferrari? What’s your opinion of the GT40 vs. other sports cars of that period?

David,
Pittsburgh 

MA: I don’t think there is a reason why – it’s just that times change and drivers now tend to specialize in just one series. When I was pursuing my career, I had the curiosity and pure desire to try everything, and I was seeing many top drivers doing it. It was like I couldn’t get enough. I was possessed!

What was that tire test like? More grip. Slick tires provide more grip. And the Le Mans 1966 experience, for me, was very special. It was my first international race, and my first time at Le Mans, and the first time back in Europe since immigrating to America from Italy in 1955. As far as my opinion on the car, the GT40 Mark II was definitely superior to the competition due to a very extensive and ambitious development program by Ford. The rivalry between Ford and Ferrari was very real, very herculean.

Q: What was the scariest race track you ever competed at, and why?
Also, what was the scariest race car you ever competed in?

D. Krueger
West Allis, WI

MA: Scariest track was Pikes Peak, because there were no guardrails and a small mistake could be fatal. After winning it, I decided not to push my luck and didn’t go back. As far as the scariest race car… I have yet to drive a race car that scared me.

Q: How does the two-seater IndyCar handle?  Can you feel the balance change with different sized passengers?  How much does the passenger seat affect the fuel capacity? What do you think is the typical lap time difference to a regular IndyCar? 

Reginald L

MA: The two-seater handles very well considering its weight and its length compared to a regular IndyCar. Its lap time is probably 85% of a regular race car. Yes, I can feel weight fluctuations of passengers, even by 20 pound increments. As far as fuel capacity, it’s very small because I have to refuel on average every 10 laps, depending on the track.

Q: I’m a long-time fan and had the pleasure of watching you win the 1969 Indianapolis 500. Can you explain why your winning Brawner Hawk had only a left-side front wing? Thanks. 

Mike J.
Vernon Hills, IL

MA: Thank you for your support. The left-side front wing was all that was necessary to balance what the rear downforce provided.

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