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Indianapolis 500 Legend: Michael Andretti

Michael Andretti was born October 5, 1962 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. He is the son of racing legend Mario Andretti, and the father of current Izod IndyCar Series driver Marco Andretti. His brother, Jeff Andretti, had a successful racing career, making the Indianapolis 500 three times and winning the CART Rookie of the Year award in 1991, and his cousin, John Andretti, is still racing both stock cars and open-wheel cars.

Racing Career:

Started his career in 1980 racing Formula Vee go-karts, and made his CART debut three years later for the Kraco team. He finished seventh in the points championship in 1984, and won his first race in 1986 at Long Beach. Andretti switched to Newman Haas Racing in 1989.

After finishing as the runner-up in the points championship three times, Andretti finally won a title in 1991 by winning eight races, including all five road courses. In 1992 he left Newman/Haas for an opportunity to race in Formula One with the McClaren team. Things didn’t go as planned for Andretti in F1, as he failed to finish more than a lap in each of his first three starts. He only made one podium, a third place finish in Italy, and left McClaren in a mutual parting of the ways with three races left in the season.

He returned to IndyCar Racing the following year, and spent a year with Target Chip Ganassi Racing (finishing fourth) before returning to Newman Haas in 1995. Over the next six seasons Andretti never finished lower than eighth in the points, and had three Top-Five finishes. He then spent two years with Team Motorola.

In 2003, Andretti retired from full-time racing duty, and decided to buy into Team Green (which then became Andretti Green Racing). He raced in three more Indianapolis 500’s before retiring for good in 2007.

Indy Career:

Andretti made his debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1984, starting fourth and finishing fifth while being named the Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately for Andretti, it would prove to be one of his most successful trips to Speedway, Indiana in his career. Long plagued by the “Andretti Curse,” which dated back to his father, Michael never won in 16 attempts. He holds the inglorious record of leading the most laps without making it to Victory Circle in 500 history.

 

The heartbreaking thing wasn’t that continually came up short at Indy, it was the manner in which it happened. In 1991 he led Rick Mears by 15 seconds with 18 laps remaining when a yellow flag came out. Andretti pitted, but Mears didn’t, pushing Michael into second. After going high-side to pass Mears on the restart, Mears returned the favor several laps later and slowly pulled away from Andretti.

The next season, Andretti completely dominated from the very start, at one point holding a 30-second lead, but on Lap 84 his father, who started on the front row with him, crashed in turn four and had to be transported to nearby Methodist Hospital because of broken toes. Then on lap 110, Andretti’s brother Jeff crashed head-on into the wall, demolishing the car and severely injuring his lower legs.

After seeing two family members transported to the hospital, Andretti became even more determined to bring home a victory. He continued to throttle the competition, and found himself with a 28-second lead with 11 laps to go, well on his way to victory. In typical Andretti fashion though, his fuel pump gave out down the backstretch and his car coasted to a stop in the short chute. In the end he led 160 of 189 laps, but it was all for naught. He posted a couple of Top-3 finished in 2001 and 2006, but he would never get closer to victory than he did in ’92.

Post Racing Career:

Andretti teamed with Kim and Barry Green for several years before breaking away from the brothers and starting Andretti Autosports. Currently they field multiple drivers in the Izod IndyCar Series, along with an Indy Lights team. Andretti is the winningest owner in Indy Racing League history, compiling 34 wins and three series championships. Andretti finally made it to victory lane at Indianapolis in 2005 when Dan Wheldon won the race driving the Klein Tools/Jim Beam Andretti Green entry. Andretti Autosports is based in Indianapolis, Indiana, and Michael resides in downtown Indy with his wife Jodi.

Michael Andretti battles Rick Mears in 1991 Indy 500

 

Other Indianapolis Racing Legends:

Scott Dixon | Helio Castroneves | Dan Wheldon | Dario Franchitti | A.J. Foyt |

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