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Andrettis' Hope Father-Son Combo Will Lead to Indy Victory

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Indianapolis 500, Michael Andretti, Marco Andretti

Andrettis' Hope Father-Son Combo Will Lead to Indy Victory

David Byrd
Washington, D.C.
May 24, 2006

During the past 41 years, the name Andretti has become synonymous with auto racing at the Indianapolis 500. Mario Andretti has won the race once, and his son Michael has captured the title as an owner, but not as a driver. Michael is coming out of retirement to line up against his son Marco in this Sunday's race in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Michael Andretti has led the Indianapolis 500 for more laps than any other driver who has never won the race (426).

Andretti, 43, is part of a heart-breaking legacy at the track, Michael's father Mario won the race in 1969, but crashed at the start in 1982, then had engine trouble four years later and plowed into the wall.

Michael led for 160 of the 200 laps in 1992, but blew his engine and finished 13th.

Michael left the track in 2003 to become a co-owner of Andretti-Green racing and found success. His team's driver, Dan Wheldon, won the race last year and the team has won the Indy Racing League championship the past two seasons.

But last December, Michael announced he would come out of retirement to race again at the track known as "the Brickyard" in the midwest city of Indianapolis, Indiana. He says he is looking for redemption.

"I know how important it is to win, and I have not won it," he said. "And I hate being heard to be the – you know - having the most laps led for a non-winner. And I still have another shot left that maybe I do not have to do that," he said.

This year, Michael Andretti qualified 13th, with an average speed of more than 361 kilometers per hour on the four-kilometer track. While Michael will be looking to redeem the Andretti name, he will have to catch his son Marco, 19, who qualified ninth and is the top rookie in the field.

Marco says his family has been plagued by bad luck at Indianapolis, but he can only think about finishing well.

"My whole last name, to be honest, I have to block out every race," he said. "I need to go into it not thinking I want to do as good as my father or my grandfather. I need to do it as good as I want to do."

Michael says that racing against Marco was part of his motivation for coming out of retirement. He says that having raced against his father, Mario, is one thing, but taking on his son will be something different. Nevertheless, Michael acknowledges that racing against his son is easier than watching him.

"That is another reason why I wanted to do it," he explained. "To be in the racecar doing my own thing and distracting my mind so I do not have to be on the sidelines biting my nails [from nervousness]. It was another reason why I did it."

Michael and Marco Andretti are the fourth father-son team to race at Indianapolis. All four of those duos came either from the Andretti family or from one of their chief rivals, the Unsers.

Al Unser Junior will also be racing this week. Unlike Michael Andretti, Unser has won the Indy 500 twice. His father Al Unser won the race four times and his uncle Bobby Unser took the title twice.

The Andrettis hope they can become another family with multiple titles by taking the checkered flag in Sunday's 90th edition of the Indianapolis 500.

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