He typically runs near the front at the Indianapolis 500, but Marco Andretti will be even more noticeable racing around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval this year.
That’s according to his legendary grandfather, 1969 Indy 500 winner Mario Andretti, after getting his first look at Marco’s car livery for next month’s 103rd Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge when the car was unveiled Thursday to a national TV audience on “TODAY.” Mario, Marco and Michael Andretti – the latter Mario’s son and Marco’s dad and team owner – were on hand to reveal the car’s bright, day-glow red paint scheme that resembles that of Mario’s winning Brawner Hawk from 50 years ago.
“The car looks fabulous!” proud grandfather Mario said from New York between the “TODAY” appearance and a guest spot for the Andretti trio on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Come May, the No. 98 U.S. Concrete/Curb Honda will be highly visible wherever it is on track.
“It’s so beautiful. The color, just looking at it live, it projects even more,” added Mario, whose first look at the car came at the “TODAY” unveiling. “We’ll know where the car is, believe me. It’s spectacular.”
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Marco, who’ll be competing in the Indy 500 for the 15th time at age 32, agreed that the car’s look is something special.
“When you see it in photos, it definitely doesn’t do it justice,” he said. “When people actually see it rolling down pit lane, they’ll be even more surprised. They did a great job with the color match. It’s such a cool color.”
The crowning achievement of Mario Andretti’s 31-year Indy car career that included 52 wins was the 1969 Indianapolis 500 triumph. A number of initiatives for May to commemorate the achievement are planned, including: a Mario Andretti exhibit at the IMS Museum; a documentary titled “Drive Like Andretti” that traces his life and airs May 11 on NBC; bronze badges bearing Andretti’s likeness that fans may purchase for gate and Gasoline Alley admission for the month, except on race days; special merchandise and more.
“I cannot believe this is all happening,” Mario said. “It’s something that we’re making so much noise 50 years later.
“It’s really amazing. This just really completes the cycle for now – until we go in victory lane, hopefully. It’s amazing how flattering it is that Michael and the team decided to do it and Marco is willing to carry this. It’s almost like a tradition or something that brings back something that was extremely important to me.
“As a family, we pull together and this connects the dots pretty well. It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be fun. I can’t wait to get the action going at Indy.”
The car makes its on-track debut for a test open to most Indy 500 entrants on Wednesday. Official practice begins for the month on May 14. Marco is geared up to go.
“I always feel confident going into this place,” he said. “It’s one of those where you never know the actual car speed and stuff (until you get there). I don’t know, I feel like maybe one I’m going to win will just be one that maybe we didn’t dominate. We’ll get there some other way, right? The goal is to dominate but we’ll see how the month goes.”
In the five decades since Mario’s landmark Indy win, no Andretti has been able to duplicate the feat – though Mario’s sons Michael and Jeff, nephew John and grandson Marco have valiantly tried. Marco has come tantalizingly close on too many occasions, with nine top-10 finishes that include one runner-up, three third-place and one fourth-place result.
What would it mean to the Andrettis should Marco be able to win “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on such a key anniversary in the family’s racing legacy? It’s difficult to put into words.
“Can’t even imagine that,” Mario said. “It would spectacular for us, spectacular. Nothing short of that.”
And for Marco?
“Fifty years of close but no cigar,” he said, alluding to the infamous Andretti Curse at Indy. “If we were able to do it, it’d be huge. You’d see a grown man cry, that’s for sure.”
Tickets for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 are available at IMS.com. The race airs live on NBC at 11 a.m. ET Sunday, May 26.