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  • David Story

Mario Andretti 1969 Indy Win

Andretti adored Colin Chapman’s Lotus. It was very fast but Clint Brawner and Jim McGee — his co-chief mechanics — loathed it. They feared it would prove unreliable. Andretti dominated the speed charts in the Lotus during practice, then two days before the time trials, he suffered a horrific crash.


McGee questioned the running gear, Colin Chapman used Formula One hubs and uprights. 

A post-mortem showed an overall structural weakness in the hubs, so Chapman withdrew the Lotus cars he’d built for not only Andretti but Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill.  


Andretti and Company pivoted to the Hawk. Despite getting only a day-and-a-half of practice, Andretti qualified on the front row between pole-sitter A.J. Foyt and Bobby Unser.

Andretti suffered burns on his face from the crash. Embarrassed, Andretti enlisted the help of an impostor to fill in for him at the traditional front-row photo shoot — his twin brother, Aldo.

Andretti later said he didn't even think Foyt noticed.


Andretti's problem wasn't his pace. His problem was reliability. He had no idea whether the Hawk was going to survive 500 miles without overheating. Andretti shot into the lead, beating Foyt to the corner. Then he looked down and all the temperature gauges showed hot so he had to back off.

Slowing down dropped the temperatures into a more comfortable range but he was going to have to bide his time. Slowly Foyt and McCluskey dropped out due to mechanical problems.  Andretti's lone concern then became Lloyd Ruby. Ruby fell out on lap 105 and from there on, as long as the car didn't overheat, the race was Andretti's. Andretti put it on cruise control. The only thing he had left to fight was distraction and discomfort. The car was so hot inside the cockpit he got blisters on his back.  Andretti later said that because he was running 270-degree oil temperatures throughout the entire race his whole back was burned.


Slowing down-dropped the temperatures into a more comfortable range but he was going to have to bide his time. Slowly Foyt and McCluskey dropped out due to mechanical problems.  Andretti's lone concern then became Lloyd Ruby. Ruby fell out on lap 105 and from there on, as long as the car didn't overheat, the race was Andretti's. Andretti put it on cruise control. The only thing he had left to fight was distraction and discomfort. The car was so hot inside the cockpit he got blisters on his back.  Andretti later said that because he was running 270-degree oil temperatures throughout the entire race his whole back was burned.


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