INDIANAPOLIS – This May will be the 50th anniversary of a special moment in Indianapolis 500 history. In 1969, Mario Andretti piloted his bright orange No. 2 STP Ford to victory for the first and only time his storied career at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Fast forward to the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 that will take place this May. It’s 50 years after the fact.
On Wednesday, IMS announced that they’ll honor Andretti for the entire month in celebration of his victory back in ’69.
Race fans around the world will join with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May 2019 in a variety of activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mario Andretti’s Indianapolis 500 victory, including a featured exhibit within the Speedway’s museum and a commemorative logo that was unveiled by Andretti on Jan. 9 in Indianapolis.
Andretti and IMS President J. Douglas Boles also revealed Jan. 9 some of the plans surrounding the 50th anniversary celebration during the Month of May:
•A 50th anniversary logo was designed to celebrate Andretti’s historic victory at Indianapolis. It features Andretti giving his famous wave next to the Borg-Warner Trophy moments after winning the 500-Mile Race. The logo was illustrated with the Speedway in mind, with the zero (in the 50) representing the oval of the track and the historic Yard of Bricks start-finish line. The base of the 50 is adorned with Mario’s signature, with the badge honoring the Andretti family crest.
•Andretti will be featured on the IMS Bronze Badges.
•The logo also will be featured on the cover of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 Official Program, with a special artist’s rendering of his unforgettable victory.
•Memorabilia and celebratory officially licensed Mario Andretti and IMS merchandise, including apparel, headwear, replicas, jewelry, wall décor, collectibles and other special items, will be available for purchase.
•As part of the 50th anniversary celebration, beginning May 1, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will unveil a specially curated exhibit dedicated to Andretti and his iconic career. The exhibit will feature historic Andretti cars, many making their first appearance at the Museum, video and audio recordings of Mario and the Andretti family, and personal memorabilia that highlights the prestigious accomplishments of “The Driver of Century.”
Andretti won the 53rd Indianapolis 500 on May 30, 1969, driving the No. 2 STP Oil Treatment Hawk III-Ford fielded by famed team owner Andy Granatelli. The victory was one of the most noteworthy achievements of Andretti’s incomparable career, which also included a Formula One World Championship, four IndyCar championships, a Daytona 500 victory and victories in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and 12 Hours of Sebring.
“Winning the Indy 500 changed my life,” Andretti said. “It opened so many doors, creating immense opportunities. It was career-changing. If only Andy Granatelli could be here today to see that we’re still celebrating 50 years later. Because what happened in 1969 was just as important to him.”
More details about the Andretti 50th anniversary celebration, including the availability of commemorative merchandise, will be available soon.
“Mario Andretti’s victory in the 1969 Indianapolis 500 was one of the iconic moments in the history of the world’s greatest auto race,” Boles said. “Mario’s position as one of the most popular drivers in the race’s history only has grown over time, and his accomplishments in every discipline of racing in which he has competed remain landmarks of our sport. We’re honored to join with Mario’s legions of fans around the world to celebrate his magical Month of May in 1969 and his remarkable career.”
Andretti, says that race changed his life.
“It’s a race that’s with you forever,” says Andretti. “There’s no question about it. But when you win it, it does change your life in so many ways, and all for the better, quite honestly. Career-wise, it opens doors that you could have only hoped for before, and your personal life changes dramatically.
“But again, Dee Ann used to say, well, after he won Indy, I kind of lost him. But I said, Dee Ann, you’re just going to be traveling a lot more with me, that’s all.”
Andretti, still recalls that day vividly. He spoke on how crazy that car was and that he had to deal with heat related issues from the drop of the green flag.
“To him (Andy Granatelli), the book says, the cars were listed by owner, but the bottom line is his innovative spirit with the Novis and then of course the jet cars,” Andretti said of the 1969 race. “He was always trying to think outside the box, and we came here in ’69 with a state-of-the-art, the four-wheel drive Lotus but not with the jet engine. We had the new Ford engine.
“And again, we were breaking records in practice, and I was really happy with the car, but soon we found out how fragile the car was, and I said, oh, boy, here we go again. I think the first weekend was rained out, so there was just — we were going on to the second weekend, and on the Thursday, a wheel snapped right off coming off of Turn 4, and I almost killed myself on that one. So destroyed the car, and then Colin Chapman decided to pull all three of the cars out of the race, so we had a spare car that we did not intend to race, the Brawner Hawk.
“The good thing about the Brawner Hawk is that the last race just before here, which was Hanford, we won. But there were some other issues with it. So the bottom line is we practiced, we put it on the front row, and okay, keep going, keep your chin up, buddy, keep going. We were really treading towards adversity on this one, and then in the race I had overheating like you can’t believe it.
“What was interesting was I had a — because it was really hot in the cockpit because we had to put an extra revvy in right behind my seat, and we didn’t qualify that way so we had so hide it. So Clint Brawner put a big bottle of Gatorade in the cockpit with me so I could suck it up, and about, I don’t know, 20 laps into the race I was already really hot.
“And all of a sudden I see this swirling in the cockpit, and I said, oh, no, I must have a radiator leak or something. But the engine was singing, was still going. We kept going and going, and the car, we were up in the front, and most of the race, we led more than half of it.
“And again, crossing that finish line was just the greatest moment of my life. It was just amazing, just like the 900-pound gorilla was lifted off my shoulders. I figure from here on, it’s going to be easy to put a half a dozen together.”