INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Mario Andretti is the 500, and the 500 made Mario.
“This is one race that can change your life for the better,” said the 1969 Indy 500 champion. ”It certainly did for me, and I guarantee every winner is saying the same thing.”
At an age when most people are enjoying retirement, 78-year-old Mario Andretti is still IndyCar’s greatest ambassador. He travels with the series driving the famed two-seater for celebrities and fans alike, cranking out speeds of close to 200 miles per hour.
“I love it, I’ve live on adrenaline for almost my entire adult life, and continue to do so, that’s my element. There’s no better pill than that one to feel great physically, mentally, and it gives me every incentive to stay in shape. You’d be surprised how good that is for me.”
Mario gets as much out of watching the reaction from his riders.
“I live to give fans like yourself and celebs a ride to get you a much better understanding what’s going on. It gives them perspective and a while new appreciation. There’s no better way to showcase the sport,” he said.
Andretti dreads the moment he has to step away, but when he’s not behind the wheel, he’s in the pits with son Michael’s powerful 6-car team. Michael also had a handful of chances to win the 500 as a driver, but fell short.
“As an owner, now he’s a 5-time winner including the 100th,” said Mario. “Now we’re waiting for Marco to give us one for the family. I can’t express how excited we are to be back every year.”
As for his remarkable life in racing? He’s one of a few drivers who’ve won the Formula One Championship, the Indy 500, and the Daytona 500, and he has never taken that for granted.
“It’s the ultimate satisfaction that I’ve experienced in my life," he said. "I don’t know if my life could be complete doing anything else on this planet.”