Mario Andretti

We worked together on an ESPN campaign that Stacy Wall wrote.  Actually we improvised the stuff on the fly.  The concept was “Old School” and the various athletes would say whether they were old school or not.  I admired Andretti (and Phil Hill) as they were the only Americans to win Formula One World Championships in auto racing.

A story I was interested in was his victory at the 1970 Sebring Sports Car Race.  In those days sports car racing was equal to Formula One in international car racing, and Sebring was a major event.  Steve McQueen competed with Peter Revson driving a Porsche 908.  Much has been made of McQueen’s driving in that event and I was interested in Andretti’s version of the ‘truth’ because of my involvement with McQueen around that time.

Andretti’s Ferrari 512S blew up in the latter stages of the twelve-hour race while leading.  When he pulled into the pits he asked who was winning.  “McQueen.”  “I ain’t lettin’ no fuckin’ actor win this race,”  Andretti said.  He took over the remaining Ferrari and drove like a maniac, setting lap records and eventually winning the race.

I also remembered Andretti in the 1977 French Grand Prix. He followed John Watson’s Brabham with his Lotus for much of the race.  Watson’s car was faster but Andretti passed Watson on the last corner to win the race. Watson claimed that his car suffered from fuel starvation, allowing Andretti to pass but Andretti said that Watson was full of shit. Fuel starvation was just an excuse. Andretti knew that Watson could repass him if Andretti passed him in an earlier place on the course but Andretti passed him at the last possible moment after stalking him for most of the race. It was the most exciting race I have ever seen.

Great stuff.

Stacy got pissed because I spent most of Andretti’s time talking about racing. We only needed a line or two.

What was the problem?