Honor The Andretti Family Next May

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Next year will be a year of commemorating major milestones. 1969 saw the New York Jets upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, witnessed man’s first steps on the surface of the moon (which I will always consider the greatest accomplishment in my lifetime) and Woodstock were some of the events that all took place in 1969.

That year saw the TV debut of The Brady Bunch, Hee-Haw and The Benny Hill Show; as well as the final seasons for Gomer Pyle USMC, The Avengers and Star Trek. Suspicious Minds by Elvis Presley and Get Back by The Beatles topped the charts. The world learned the name of Charles Manson, and said goodbye to President Dwight Eisenhower and singer/actress Judy Garland.

1969 was also the year that saw Mario Andretti win the Indianapolis 500.

Given my ripe old age, I remember every single one of these events. But I was present when Mario won his first and only Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1969.

Next May will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Mario’s lone win at Indianapolis. If the last couple of years are any indication – that event will be commemorated with an impressive exhibition at the IMS Museum. I’ve not seen any announcement confirming this, but history tells us that it will happen.

From April of 2017 through October of that year, the IMS Museum had the Foyt Exhibit. It just so happened that it took place exactly fifty years after Foyt’s third win in 1967. This year, The Amazing Unser exhibit opened up last spring and will close later this month. While it has celebrated all of the Unsers, it opened exactly fifty years after Bobby Unser’s first of three wins in 1968.

Logic would tell us that fifty years after Mario Andretti’s win, that IMS would hold an Andretti exhibit of some kind next spring. If there are no plans for it, here is my public suggestion for them to do it.

I suppose they could choose to honor Roger Penske fifty years after he and Mark Donohue both showed up for the first time at Indianapolis, but I would think that 2022 might be a more appropriate year. That’s because that would be fifty years since Donohue won, giving Penske his first of seventeen Indianapolis 500 wins as a car-owner – his last one just five months ago with Will Power. They could fill half of the museum with just the winning cars, as well as other notable non-winners for Penske.

But getting back to a possible Andretti exhibit at the museum, there are several cars I’d like to see. First of all, it should encompass all of the racing Andrettis, much like the Unser Exhibit currently does. Not only should Mario’s career be highlighted, but I’d like to see his twin-brother Aldo, his nephew John, his sons Michael and Jeff, along with grandson Marco.

Would it be possible for the actual 1969 winning car to be included? What is normally presented in the museum is a replica to that car. The original is in The Smithsonian. I’m wondering if it could be loaned out for such an exhibit. I would also like to have his Brawner Hawk Rookie of the Year car from 1965, as well as his roadster he made his Champ car debut in. The 1967 Brawner Hawk that sat on the pole and the sister car of the Lotus 64 that Mario destroyed in practice in 1969, which led to the Brawner Hawk he ultimately won in, being pushed into service. There is an identical Lotus 64 sitting at the Barber Museum at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Perhaps they could loan that car out as well.

I’d like to see some of the Penske cars that Mario drove in his tenure with The Captain, and the Wildcat that was crowned the winner for five months in 1981. Perhaps we could see the John Player Special Lotus that carried Andretti to the 1978 Formula One World Title. If his first Lola for Newman/Haas in 1984 is still around, I’d like for that to be in the collection. Then of course, the 1994 Kmart/Texaco car he drove in his final season in IndyCar exactly twenty-five years after his Indianapolis 500 win.

I wonder if the March 84C that Michael Andretti drove for Maury Kraines in his rookie year at Indianapolis is still around. If so, I would love to see it as part of the exhibit along with the 1991 Lola that Michael drove to the CART championship that season. Is it possible that the 1993 McLaren that Michael drove is still around? He was teammates to Ayrton Senna that forgettable F1 partial season and I’ll bet Senna’s last McLaren still exists. What about the Target/Scotch Reynard that won its debut with Michael Andretti behind the wheel in 1994? It should also be included. The two Andretti cars from 2006, when Michael and Marco both led in the last ten laps at Indianapolis should be there too.

The car I’d like to see most from John Andretti would be his 1990 March/Porsche from the one year he teamed with Teo Fabi and drove for Porsche. It would be neat to see the Top-Fuel Dragster that John Andretti drove in NHRA when he was unemployed in 1993, but even if it could be tracked down, it sure would take up a lot of room.

Driving suits, famous helmets, trophies and all sorts of memorabilia could stuff the display cases at the IMS Museum. There are photos galore from the early days when Mario and Aldo would sneak off to race as teenagers, without their parents knowledge.

But what I want to see most are the cars. I don’t know if many of the cars I mentioned are still around, but I hope that at least some of them are. I don’t think there was a lot of demand for a 1994 Lola (it was a sled), so maybe Mario’s last ride was preserved. We know that many of Mario’s earlier cars are around, because I’ve seen them either on display or photos where they appear at car shows.

For the past two years, the IMS Museum has given fans who love nostalgia another reason to attend. The museum is no longer the bargain it once was. It wasn’t that long ago that three dollars would get you through the gates of the museum. Now it’s ten dollars. But they are giving us a lot more to see with these annual exhibits.

The Foyt and Unser exhibits for the past two years have been outstanding and were both worth the price of admission alone, plus we still get to pay our annual visits to the Marmon Wasp, the Boyle Maserati and Fuel Injection Special of Bill Vukovich along with other favorites – including Donald Davidson’s favorite, the Belond Special.

I’m sure the plans for whatever the IMS Museum will hold next spring have been in the works for months. Here’s hoping it’s a celebration of the Racing Andretti Family. Fifty years after Mario’s first Indianapolis win would certainly be timely.

George Phillips

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8 Responses to “Honor The Andretti Family Next May”

  1. BrandonWright77 Says:

    They just had a Penske display a few years ago so I doubt they’d have another one again. An Andretti display seems like a no-brainer. Here’s another car that would be cool to see in the exhibit, it’s not the exact one but the Gran Turismo team found a Hudson Hornet that was very similar to Mario and Aldo’s first ever race car and they restored it as a replica of that car.

    https://www.motorauthority.com/news/1089211_mario-andretti-reunites-with-his-first-racing-love-you-can-too-video

    • Back when “stock cars” were racing at the Milwaukee Mile by such drivers as Don White, Bay Darnell, and Norm Nelson, there was a driver named Marshall Teague who raced a Hudson Hornet there very successfully. It looked like a upside down bathtub.

  2. billytheskink Says:

    It would be amazing if they could get the 69 winner on loan from the Smithsonian. Is Mario’s Daytona 500 winner out there somewhere too?

    I’d also love to see the championship car he piloted to the top of Pikes Peak when he won the Hill Climb in 1969.

  3. Back when “stock cars’ were racing at the Milwaukee Mile by the likes of Norm Nelson, Don White, Bay Darnell and others, there was a driver named Marshall Teague who raced a Hudson Hornet there very successfully on dirt. It looked like a upside down bathtub.

  4. Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Mario’s win should be commemorated in the museum and a look back at his career would be fabulous if those cars could be loaned. I like your idea of bringing other Andretti family members into this exhibit. Sounds wonderful!

  5. if the IMS museum is a non-profit, then there’s a chance.
    if the IMS museum is NOT, then an Extremely Expensive chance.

  6. I remember when John drove the TF car. Did he comment on what it was like?

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