Establishing a Legacy
Questions like, what’s the difference between a winner and a champion? Or, the difference between a champion and a legend? Sure, there are lots of reasonable answers to these queries, but the rationale usually follows the same path: Winners excel, champions excel consistently, and legends excel to a level none or few other have been before. What’s the archetype for a winner? For a champion? For a legend? Andretti, Andretti, and Andretti. But why? And what becomes of a racing legend after he stops racing?
He won the Daytona 500 in 1967, the most prestigious stock car racing event on the planet; the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, the crown jewel of open-wheel racing; and the Formula One world drivers’ championship in 1978, considered by many to be the highest achievement for a racer. As he achieved this success, Andretti also became the poster boy for triumph in motorsports. This continued until 1994 when he retired from active competition. Then in 2000, the Associated Press bestowed possibly the greatest honor of all by naming him Driver of the Century.
Jack of All Trades
After hanging up his driving suit, Andretti took on a few different roles. In addition to starting a winery in Napa, California in 1996 and helping his grandson, Marco, break into pro racing in 2006, Andretti became a brand ambassador for automakers, aftermarket parts suppliers, and—to some degree—for auto racing as a whole. He’s worked with or promoted companies like Honda, Texaco/Havoline, Firestone tires, and MagnaFlow performance exhausts. This work has allowed Andretti to remain active in the automotive world and still regularly connect with the public—many of whom got to know about auto racing through following him.
“While he retired his racing shoes, he did not retire his passion for performance,” said Kathryn Reinhardt, the Marketing Manager at MagnaFlow Performance Exhaust. “Mario is a brand ambassador for the MagnaFlow team by attending autograph signings, creating commercial shoots, celebrity placements, and continuous product endorsements,” she continued.
Age, A Meaningless Number
Although he no longer competes in sanctioned races, Andretti gets behind the wheel now and again. More recently, Andretti has been the pilot of a two-seat Honda Indy Car that’s used to give fans hot laps around the race track on the morning before an Indy Car race. Andretti also still manages to buckle into race-ready single seats from time to time, though with varying results. On one occasion, in 2003, Andretti ran over a piece of debris in an Indy Car during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and went airborne. Although he was 63 years old at the time, Andretti walked away from the wreck with no serious injuries. Like we said, Driver of the Century.
Now 77, Andretti still embodies the traits—on and off the track—that define a legend. “Mario is an amazing man with a kind soul, a big heart, and a true passion for performance,” said Reinhardt. “He is a man who will sign every autograph, take every picture, and will simply go at top speed to give you the gift of performance. He is a family man and is truly amazing. He is a legend.” We couldn’t agree more.