MILLER: The 'Andretti Curse'

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MILLER: The 'Andretti Curse'

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MILLER: The 'Andretti Curse'


The Andretti Curse has its own page on Wikipedia, but nobody can say exactly when it became part of IndyCar’s lexicon or who started it or if it’s got some black magic attached to it.

“I always thought Tom Carnegie started it,” said Mario Andretti, asked about it a couple of days after grandson Marco captured the pole position for the 104th Indianapolis 500.

Broadcaster Carnegie did perfect the phrase, “Mario is slowing down!” heard through all the decades of disappointment for the ’69 winner; but the original story is that it was a product of an angry woman.

A special team – for a time: Granatelli, Mario and Brawner. Image via Robin Miller

Clint Brawner was Mario’s chief mechanic and guiding light from 1964-1969, and his Hawk chassis carried the legend to his lone Indy 500 win in 1969. Al Dean, the owner of the fabled Dean Van Lines Specials (who gave A.J. Foyt and Mario their big car starts) passed away in 1967, but the team stayed on track thanks to Firestone and then sponsorship from STP and Andy Granatelli.

Following Andretti’s Indy triumph (pictured, top), the team – technically owned by Mario – was sold to Granatelli. And the first thing he did was get rid of Brawner.

“I didn’t want to own a team and have that responsibility, but I didn’t want any changes either; I wanted to keep our team (Jim McGee, Brawner) together,” said Andretti. “But Andy wanted to do something different and get some fresh air. We’d all been together for so long.”

When the 1970 season dawned, Brawner was no longer with Andretti. McGee, Granatelli and, as the story goes, Brawner’s wife Kay, took it personally. Supposedly, she visited some kind of voodoo princess/soothsayer/fortune teller in the Arizona desert and requested a curse that nobody named Andretti would ever win the Indy 500 again.

“I’ve heard that story but I didn’t try to ace Brawner out of anything,” states the 1978 Formula 1 champion. “I’m not sure but Andy might have had an issue with Clint.”

Adds McGee: “I heard about a curse years later but I never paid much attention to it. Mario and Clint never got along that well but they certainly respected each other.”

The ‘Curse’ at its peak? In 1982, Mario qualified on the second row for the 500, but was taken out on the pace lap by a spinning Kevin Cogan. Motorsport Images

Whether you believe in curses or voodoo is irrelevant but it does give you pause when you look at the stats: Mario led 555 laps and scored one win; son Michael led 441 laps yet never made it to Victory Lane; and grandson Marco has been in front for 141 laps and is 0-for-14.

“I don’t think it (the curse) exists in August, so we are good,” said Marco with a chuckle earlier this week. “Results-wise, yeah, maybe there is something to it because, man, the three of us have been so dominant here.

“We don’t believe in it as a family,” Marco added. “This is a dangerous place and we are all healthy, so it’s hard to say we’re cursed.”

Michael’s Newman/Haas Lola led 160 laps in 1992 and had a huge lead when it broke just seven laps from the finish. Motorsport Images

The proud patriarch scoffs at the notion of the Andretti Curse: “Indy has always been a blessing for me and my family. I mean it. It’s a tough place and, sure, it’s been disappointing many times, but we love it.

“And I’ll never endorse that bulls–t about a curse.”